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How to Cope with Grief in Sobriety

Dealing with grief while in recovery is an incredibly high-risk period for recovering addicts. Here are some tips for coping with grief healthily and holistically.

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Grief While in Sobriety

The loss of a loved one is one of the most painful experiences that a person can go through. Grief can push even the most resilient of people to the edge. The feelings of guilt, denial, sadness, and despair often overwhelm a person’s ability to cope. It is an incredibly high-risk period for those in addiction recovery, and even for those who have been sober for years.

Grief can compromise a person’s ability to think clearly. This can be particularly dangerous for a recovering addict, who might be tempted to turn to drugs and alcohol to numb the pain. Relapse isn’t inevitable, however, and it certainly isn’t the answer. There are things that recovering addicts can do to help deal with the overwhelming feelings that come with grief while staying sober.

Those that are in recovery are some of the strongest people and have undoubtedly learned coping skills for their addiction on their journey. Luckily, this means that they have the skills to apply coping mechanisms to grief that will help keep them sober. The following tips can help recovering addicts remember how strong they really are and how they can prevent relapse while they grapple with the emotions of losing a loved one.

The Five Stages of Grief

Most addicts will learn about Dr. Elizabeth Kubler Ross’s Five Stages of Grief in their recovery program, and it’s important to keep the stages in mind when dealing with a loss of a loved one. 
By understanding and acknowledging the five stages of grief, no matter what order they appear in, recovering addicts will know what to expect and understand why they are feeling the particular emotions associated with each stage.

Denial: This is a natural defense mechanism when we aren’t ready to accept that someone is dying or has already passed away. This is a familiar feeling associated with grief, and while it can’t go on for too long, it does give us the time to process the experience and begin healing.

Anger: Denial will gradually turn into anger. The grieving person could end up lashing out at close friends and family that are not at fault. This anger is genuine and should be acknowledged. It’s important not to suppress these feelings but to rather work through them and talk to someone about the anger.

Bargaining: Then comes bargaining: Trying everything you can to get the person that you love back. This could be bargaining with God, family, and friends. It often comes with guilt and self-blame. Recovering addicts have to understand that there is nothing that they could have done differently that would have changed the outcome.

Depression: Overwhelming sadness is completely natural during grief. Depression could be present throughout the other stages or simply hit a person suddenly. This is a particularly difficult period to get through. It’s important that recovering addicts have support and can reach out to a therapist or counselor.

Acceptance: Sadness, regret, and anger will probably still pop up every now and then, but acceptance is the final stage in the grieving process. This is when recovering addicts are able to acknowledge that their loved one is gone, and they will have to move on with everyday life. It’s essential that they know that there will be good days and bad days, even after many years of acceptance.

Tips for Coping with Grief in Sobriety

Understanding the five stages of grief is a good starting point, but it is essential that addicts are equipped with the necessary coping skills in order to make it through each stage without relapsing. Here are just some of the things that can help to cope with grief during sobriety:

Remember and Celebrate

Remembering the loved one that has passed away can be a bittersweet experience. Many people can bottle up their emotions – refusing to talk about their loved one or recalling memories that could be painful. But an important part of healing during grief is remembering and talking about the loved one that has passed away.

It’s essential to talk about and reminisce on happy memories with family and friends. It’s a way to honor your loved one and celebrate the happiness that they brought to the world.

Acknowledge Your Feelings

The feelings that come with grief are often so painful that they are overwhelming. Sometimes it’s easier to suppress the feelings in order to spare yourself from the pain. However, avoidance doesn’t work when it comes to grief. The pain will always wait for you until you face and experience it.

It’s important that you acknowledge and express these emotions, as it’s the healthiest way to process them. Talk about your feelings to friends and family, and it won’t just help you on your journey, it will probably help them too.

Emotions are bound to vary and can change rapidly during the grieving process – it’s completely normal. You may feel anything from guilt and anger to sadness and remorse. You could also feel relief, particularly if your loved one was suffering. 

Attend to Your Self-Care

Grief can be so overwhelming that it is easy to forget about yourself for a while. The healing process during grief and self-care go hand-in-hand. It’s important that you look after yourself in the way that you know best. This is a completely individual experience, and it could mean long baths and slowing down, or it could mean spending more time with friends and family.

At this moment, it’s completely okay to put boundaries around yourself. Say no to extra responsibilities and obligations. It’s essential that you protect your energy during a time that is extremely exhausting. Don’t think of self-care as selfish or greedy, it’s a way of honoring your own health and wellness in order to cope with a major loss.

Keep a Healthy Diet

Eating well is an integral part of self-care. During periods of grief, it’s common to lose your appetite, but it’s so important to feed your body with healthy food at this time. A healthy balance of vitamins and minerals is an essential part of handling grief, as it keeps your mind and body in good shape. Try and eat small, regular meals if you have lost your appetite and keep drinking water throughout the day.


Exercising is an excellent coping mechanism to help with grief. Exercise gives your body and mind a natural boost. Not only does it make your body feel better, but the endorphins help create a feeling of well-being in your mind too. Try and find something that you enjoy, whether that’s cycling, running, yoga, or simply slow walks in the outdoors. There is no wrong way to do it. Try to make exercise a part of your daily routine.

Expect the Unexpected

When it comes to grief, nothing is predictable. This is an essential aspect to keep in mind when it comes to the grieving process. We often talk about the stages of grief like they are a linear process, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. There is absolutely no timeline for healing from the loss of a loved one. You might find that you are completely fine a couple of months down the line, and then you are uncontrollably angry or sobbing. This is something that is going to happen and it’s important to understand that it is completely natural.

Trust and Be Patient with Yourself

It’s common during the grieving process to wonder if you are ever going to feel okay again. In these moments, it’s important that you sit with your feelings, acknowledge them, work through them, and trust yourself to heal. Healing will happen, but it takes time. Be gentle with yourself as you heal and understand that everyone heals at different speeds.

Far too often, we are harder on ourselves than we are on others and it’s important to change this narrative. Try and think about how you would treat someone else who is grieving and apply the same kind of treatment to yourself. Treat yourself and your body with compassion and love.

Help Others Dealing with Loss

Try to join a support group or find other people who are also grieving a loss. Discussing shared experiences and pain in a safe environment is very therapeutic. This can be through an official support group or online forums. 

Seek Support

Getting the support that you need during a time of grief is absolutely essential. Reach out to family and friends, support groups, or counselors. Many community centers, churches, and even hospitals offer grief support groups for people going through a hard time.

The most important step is reaching out and asking for the support that you need. Grief can be overwhelming, and it can be difficult to ask for help, but remember that people might not know that you need support if you don’t ask for it. Let others know that you are struggling, and you will receive the support that you need.

The process of grief doesn’t have to be compounded by loneliness and you don’t have to go through it alone. If you’re struggling with grief in sobriety, don’t wait to get help. Reach out to Addiction Rehab Treatment to connect with compassionate medical professionals that will support you in your time of need.

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