Among the many causes that lead to addiction, bereavement and grief are not the most common, but they certainly are worth knowing about. Grief is a natural response to the pain caused by bereavement. Because grief tends to linger, people who are grieving might be tempted to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. If you are or a loved one is dealing with bereavement and have found consolation in substance use, it is best to get help early before that way of coping worsens into addiction.
The Unpredictable Timetable of Grief
Everyone will likely lose a loved one at some point in their life. Grief is to be expected when we suffer a tragic loss. Both the body and the mind need to process grief before real-life adjustments can be made. People who go through bereavement usually take a long time to heal. A grieving individual often feels emotionally numb and detached from daily life, and some describe their inner world as “frozen in mourning.”
There is no fixed timetable for healing. For some people, this process may take months. Others can feel stuck in grief for years or decades. Every day can feel like a fog, and it might feel like things do not get better. Sometimes extreme sadness can make the easiest tasks such as getting out of bed unbearable. When the sadness and pain get too overwhelming, one may even lose the will to live.
Everyone reacts to loss and grief in different ways. Some experience anger and frustration, while others sink into despair and disappointment. Over time, many who are unable to recover from grief may develop depressive disorders and other behavioral issues. This can cause people to turn to drugs or alcohol to soothe the pain. Research shows that bereavement increases the risk of hazardous alcohol consumption. Those who suffer from the sudden or complicated loss of a loved one are even more vulnerable to developing addictions.
What Happens to Someone in Grief and Addiction
Addiction can only complicate your condition caused by bereavement and grief. Drugs and alcohol may numb your senses but cannot do anything to help you work through the emotions caused by your loss. In fact, it can even worsen the way you feel. This forms a vicious cycle that tends to create a range of physiological, mental, and behavioral issues. When you turn to substance use for comfort, addiction can shape your grief into a complicated and multi-faceted issue. It is a complex illness with a neurological problem at the center because the area of the brain that is associated with grief is the same area that creates a longing for drugs and alcohol. So, memories of loved ones can directly trigger a craving for the substance. This makes the person unable to move past acute grief.
Grief and addiction can form co-occurring disorders and can lead to serious damage to the body and the mind. To break this cycle, one needs specialized care designed to address the full scope of symptoms and root causes. The overall goal of healing from grief-induced addiction is never to minimize the loss of the loved one but to engage in ways of expressing and channeling that grief and emotions in a positive way so that healing can happen naturally at a steady pace.
Coping with Bereavement in a Healthy Way
The enigma of death itself may lead to some stress. Pain from remembering a loved one who is no longer around can be a difficult burden to bear. There are healthy ways to deal with grief if one can adopt a positive outlook by reshaping their view of death and loss as a normal part of life. This is not to normalize suffering or pain but to divert attention by celebrating the deceased’s life and enjoying memories of their time on earth.
If you are struggling with the pain of loss due to the passing of a loved one, there are programs designed to support you. Consider joining a support group to find ways to express your grief. Try journaling your memories and your current struggles as a way to honor your love for someone you’ve lost. You might also try some kind of artistic endeavor that allows you to work through your grief and create something that reminds you of your loved one.
If you are struggling with both grief and substance abuse, you can join a full package treatment program that helps the body, the mind, and the spirit to heal. These include cognitive behavioral therapy, medications, residential detox treatment, 12-step programs, art therapy, and mindfulness practices.
Are you or a loved one using drugs and alcohol to cope with bereavement? You can find alternatives to coping with grief without substances. Bereavement and grief may lead to intense sadness, stress, and depression that increase the risk of substance use. Once grief meets addiction, the vicious cycle may seem hard to break, but there is still hope. Medical professionals have designed ways to help you achieve meaningful recovery. At Laguna Shores Recovery, you will experience the benefits of innovative, holistic, and individualized treatment for people suffering from bereavement and co-occurring substance abuse. Schedule an appointment with a licensed mental healthcare professional or therapist at Laguna Shores Recovery. We are here to listen, coach, and walk alongside you. We are a complete medical and residential facility offering a range of treatments, including diagnosis, behavioral therapies, 12-step programs, and treatment plans. Call us at (866) 229-9923; we are prepared to help you cope.