How Do Grief and Loss Affect Your Mental Health?

How Do Grief and Loss Affect Your Mental Health?

Many factors can affect recovering individuals’ mental health. Some of the most prevalent influences are grief and loss. Losing a loved one, a job, or any other thing of significance can be a traumatic experience. Between the trauma of the loss and dealing with the grief on top of it, many people must learn to work through the stages of grief without compromising their sobriety. The progressive stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Each of these phases can adversely affect your mental health in different ways.

What Do Grief and Loss Bring to Addiction Recovery?

Even after achieving recovery, life happens, and sometimes it’s hard. A sense of loss, whether from the passing of family or friends, the abrupt ending of a significant relationship, or the loss of financial stability, may put those in recovery at high risk for relapse. Strong waves of negative emotions can overwhelm some, triggering cravings or relapse. 

A sense of grief and loss is not entirely unfamiliar to people going through addiction recovery. Many people grieve the loss of rituals and social connections associated with substances. Their daily schedules can look completely different after getting sober. These changes may perpetuate a sense of loss over their previous lifestyle. When new sources of grief are added to these changes, some recovering individuals may find it hard to bear. 

How Do Grief and Loss Factor Into Addiction Recovery?

The stages above of the grief and loss model do not mean the grieving process will be linear for everyone. However, these are common emotional stages when processing major life changes. Choosing to give up substances may cause people to experience these difficult emotions. Adverse life events following this choice may layer additional emotional ripples on top of these experiences.

For example, if a recovering individual faces the sudden death of a loved one, she will have an intense grieving period. She may need more support on top of what she already has in place for recovery to cope with these new emotional challenges. If she or her support system ignores how this event impacts her emotional health, she may be at high risk for relapse. 

Coping Grief and Loss During Recovery

Depending on the source of grief, a recovering individual should first reach out to a therapist to discuss the impact of this event on their emotional state. In extreme cases, this therapist may administer assessments to determine whether they have PTSD. The individual may need intense psychotherapeutic intervention to help them cope with traumatic stress. 

Times of grief and loss reveal what matters most to people. Some are troubled by cognitive distortions driven by certain attachments. Experiencing additional loss during addiction recovery can become very confusing and debilitating. However, these are also opportunities for therapists to intervene and work with them. 

Individual Therapies

People experience many types of loss in life, including death, divorce, job loss, ill health, or financial loss. In the process of healing, many evidence-based therapy techniques can be effective in helping people cope with grief and loss. 

Take cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), for example. This method uses evidence that when one identifies and corrects negative thought patterns, one can experience healthier emotions. CBT is a highly action-oriented therapy technique. A therapist may use many tools to address harmful thoughts and behaviors. 

Another helpful technique for processing grief and loss is acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). Through the course of ACT, a therapist will coach their client through processing and accepting feelings of grief and loss. Recovering individuals are encouraged to distance themselves from these emotions to understand them better. This helps them develop a crucial sense of self-compassion.

Group Therapies

Used either in addition to or in place of individual therapy, group counseling or therapy can gather people with similar experiences so they can give voices to their complicated emotions. An experienced facilitator will create a brave and safe space for individuals to share and heal together. By hearing others express their emotions, participants can experience the power of empathy and unity.

Many non-verbal, creative therapies may also be used in group sessions as means of support. Take art therapy, for example. Art therapy uses creative activities such as art-making or music-making to help participants engage with their inner world non-verbally. Because grief is often a non-verbal process, art-making or music-making tools can help people regulate their emotions. 

Aftercare for Recovering Individuals Who Face Grief and Loss

Even people who have achieved long-term recovery may find themselves needing extra support when facing grief and loss later in life. This is why trauma-informed care is much needed in aftercare programs. For example, alumni programs might build feedback loops from members so that when one needs extra support, options are available to them. 

When you are in recovery, you must learn how to process grief and loss to build resilience against future adversity. You may need to work with a team of recovery experts to access therapies or master authentic self-care skills that prevent relapses. Laguna Shores Recovery helps you cope with grief and loss without compromising your recovery. Here, you will find that our experienced mental health professionals and compassionate staff know the value of positive support networks. Call us today at (866) 774-1532 to discover how the experienced mental health professionals at Laguna Shores Recovery can help you cope with grief and loss. We are here to support you through it all.