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Coping With Grief in Recovery

Coping With Grief in Recovery, Anticipatory grief, Unresolved or complex grief, three general types of grief, Grief Vs. Mourning, Grief Vs. Bereavement,

Grief, mourning, and bereavement are difficult under any circumstance, but they can be especially challenging for someone suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD)–and they can lead to an SUD when a person does not have other ways to cope.  

Grief is the emotion associated with loss–of a loved one, a beloved home, a relationship, a stable job, and more. Grief can trigger a range of emotions, including rage, denial, numbness, cynicism, bitterness, or debilitating sadness. These emotions can surface at any time, even at times that would seem inappropriate or ill-suited. There are three general types of grief:

  • Anticipatory grief: when grief begins before an anticipated loss. This often happens during hospice, prolonged chronic illnesses, or cancer cases. 
  • Common grief: directly follows both the unexpected or expected loss. It can involve periods of intense emotions, feelings of normalcy, and erratic shifts in mood, thoughts, beliefs, or behaviors. 
  • Unresolved or complex grief: long-standing grief that doesn’t seem to ease with time or may even worsen with time. This can involve feeling suicidal, being unable to stop thinking of the loss or experiencing prolonged emotional numbness. This type of grief can evolve into a debilitating state that may eventually require medical attention

Often, death or loss triggers easily recognizable grief symptoms along with symptoms that may seem bizarre or out of place. This means that any of the following can occur while grieving:

  • Weight loss, weight gain, and digestive issues 
  • Sleeping issues 
  • Inflammation, general aches and pains, headaches, migraines, and chest pain
  • Forgetfulness, confusion, and extreme social awkwardness 

In cases of complex grief, which affects a relatively small portion of the population, individuals are more likely to develop addiction or SUD, along with heart disease and mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. 

When you choose to enter recovery treatment for addiction with us in Middleton or Waukesha, we make sure that we address any grief that plays a role in your mental health. We do this using a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), individual motivational therapy, recreational therapy and, sometimes, medication. You can contact us to find out more about our comprehensive programs.  

Grief Vs. Mourning 

Think of mourning as the social aspect of grief: it’s how you display your grief in public and how you connect with others who are experiencing the loss as well—other friends, family members, and acquaintances. In the case of death, mourning is often informed by someone’s culture, ethnicity, or religion. Mourning provides a framework for how to mark the loss, allowing space for people to bring their grief forward in a socially acceptable environment (funerals and funeral receptions, burials, cremations, and other death ceremonies are examples). 

Many people feel overwhelmed while mourning and may resort to taking prescribed medications or sedatives. They may also be tempted to misuse alcohol or other substances to cope with the pain and shock of the loss. 

Grief Vs. Bereavement

Bereavement is the period of time that you spend grieving and mourning. This period is different for everyone. Sometimes your job will provide you bereavement pay when you lose a spouse or child. Some cultures and religions also dictate the length of bereavement for families or widowed people before they can engage in certain activities or begin to date or marry again after the loss of a partner. 

It’s not uncommon for people to develop poor habits with alcohol or drugs during bereavement. They often do so to stave off incredibly painful emotions or memories until they’re better equipped to integrate loss into their daily life.  

How Miramont Behavioral in Wisconsin Can Help You Cope With Grief

At Miramont, we often work with people who adopt unhealthy coping strategies to deal with grief, including:

  • Avoiding most if not all social contact with friends and family
  • Engaging in self-criticism, self-blame for the loss, or the active blaming of others for the loss 
  • Suicidal ideation or suicide attempts
  • Binge eating, shopping, gambling, or pornographic consumption
  • Binging or abusing alcohol, other substances, or prescription medications
  • Avoiding any and all conflict that may exist around the death for an indefinite time

Fortunately, we can offer some much healthier coping strategies that help our clients process the loss and move forward. We recommend the following: 

  • Acknowledge any feelings of shame or guilt around the loss, and share them with someone trusted or with a designated grief counselor
  • Stay hydrated
  • Try to rest as much and as well as possible 
  • Try to eat a balanced diet and move or walk for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Talk or visit with people or animals
  • Try to get daily sunlight or be in nature when you’re able
  • Call your therapist, healthcare professional, or a crisis line like 988 if you feel that you’re unable to cope without suicidal ideation or abusing substances. 

Remember: Miramont Behavioral Health is here for you. If you or someone you love is struggling to cope with a loss while they battle addiction, we have the resources and treatment options that you’re looking for.

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