Individuals diagnosed with substance use disorder (SUD) have a greater risk of experiencing severe or complex grief during early recovery. Loss is often felt more acutely, and the stress of grief may worsen mental health symptoms. According to Frontiers in Psychology, “People with substance use disorder (SUD) are more vulnerable to complicated grieving symptoms following loss.” Exclusive Hawaii Rehab provides clients with emotional and therapeutic support during moments of grief and loss.

The Complex Relationships Between Addiction, Grief, and Loss

Everyone experiences loss at some point in their lives. Grieving for a loss is a natural part of the human experience. However, some people may not have the skills or support system to successfully manage the effects of loss, leading to the development of maladaptive coping mechanisms. According to Psychodynamic Psychiatry, “[P]athological-complicated grief and severe addictions share common risk factors.”

The potential connections between grief, loss, and addiction include the following:

  • People who abuse substances may experience loss and grief caused by their substance abuse
  • Grief and loss may cause some people to misuse substances as a way to cope with emotional distress
  • Substance abuse and grief may occur independently

The combination of grief and SUD increases the severity of symptoms and may lead to more complex or persistent mental health issues during early recovery. Clinicians tailor treatment plans to the needs of the client, ensuring they have the skills, tools, and resources to successfully manage grief, loss, and the symptoms of SUD.

Stages of Grief and Loss

American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed the Kübler-Ross Stages of Grief. The five stages of grief impact how people cope with loss. Each stage can take place in any order and exists along a spectrum. Although many individuals go through a standard series of stages, no two people have the same experience when struggling with grief and loss.

The five stages of grief are:

#1. Denial: A refusal to admit that something is true

#2. Anger: Placing blame and acting in anger toward individuals or situations related to the loss

#3. Bargaining: A way to distance oneself from emotional pain by attempting to postpone it

#4. Depression: Feeling helpless or hopeless due to loss of control

#5. Acceptance: Resignation and a return to emotional stability

Each stage has a significant impact on how people think and behave. If left unaddressed, complex grief has the potential to negatively affect a person’s quality of life and ability to function. Treatment provides people with the tools and resources they need to begin healing from loss and grief.

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Can Grief and Loss Trigger Substance Abuse?

Loss is highly stressful, and stress is one of the leading underlying causes of substance abuse. Any significant loss can trigger substance abuse in individuals with a higher risk of developing addictive behaviors. For example, individuals with a history of substance abuse or mental health disorders have a higher risk of using substances to cope with the side effects of grief. Professional mental health treatment provides people with the skills and insights they need to manage grief without experiencing substance abuse.

Treatments for Grief and Loss at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

Clients in treatment benefit from addressing grief, loss, and any co-occurring mental health disorders. According to Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience, “Clinicians have described numerous forms of treatment for bereavement-related distress, relying on different conceptualizations of the problem and different therapeutic techniques, including medications, supportive therapy, client-centered therapy, meaning-oriented therapy, brief dynamic therapy, cognitive therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), pastoral counseling, play therapy, logotherapy, writing therapy, Internet-administered therapy, virtual reality, and hypnosis.”

Clients in treatment for substance abuse or mental health disorders have access to the following:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Support groups
  • Prescription medications
  • Holistic therapies

Exclusive Hawaii Rehab uses a wide range of therapeutic modalities and alternative holistic therapies to help clients heal from the effects of grief and loss during recovery from substance abuse. Social support is critical during times of intense grief. Often, clients benefit from confiding in peers and sharing their loss during group therapy or support group meetings.

Healing, Growing, and Moving Forward

Every day is an opportunity for personal growth and healing. People in treatment have access to essential support resources, including skill development and a dedicated care team. Studies have shown that “Normal or common grief reactions may include components such as the following:

  • Numbness and disbelief.
  • Anxiety from the distress of separation.
  • A process of mourning often accompanied by symptoms of depression.
  • Eventual recovery.”

People must find ways to accept and manage these components of grief in order to heal and move forward. Everyone experiences loss in a unique way. Some individuals may need additional support and time to completely heal from the effects of complex grief.

Experience True Healing

Our deeply-caring staff and the surrounding natural beauty offer an unparalleled healing experience.

Avoiding Relapsing While Experiencing Grief and Loss

Individuals in early recovery may worry the stress of grief will trigger a relapse. Exclusive Hawaii Rehab provides clients with practical coping skills for managing unexpected stressors, including grief. Clients are encouraged to rely on their support system and take steps to avoid additional triggers as they heal.

Individuals reduce their risk of relapse after a loss by doing the following:

  • Practicing mindfulness
  • Using relaxation techniques
  • Practicing self-care
  • Using positive self-talk to counter negative thought patterns

Grief may complicate recovery for individuals with SUD. However, clients have a strong support system to help them navigate loss and grief without experiencing significant setbacks in treatment.