Grief is a feeling like no other. Often characterized by a heart that seems to physically ache, stomach knots, and general feelings of anxiety and deep sadness, grief can occur at any time, to anyone. Grief is defined as the response to a loss, particularly of someone or something to which you were bonded that has died or is gone. When not properly processed, grief can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and sometimes, substance abuse problems.
Grief is caused by different events and feels different for each person who experiences it. And although there are several often-referenced stages of grief, the process of grief is complex. For many years therapists and others focused solely on the emotional aspect of a loss or grief. Today, research indicates that grief impacts more than just one’s emotional well-being but also encompasses cognitive, behavioral, spiritual, physical, philosophical, social, and cultural components.
Usually, when someone speaks of grief it is associated with the death of a person; friend, colleague, family member, or loved one generally evokes the most grief. However, loss of pets, homes, jobs, a relationship, and even stopping using a substance one is dependent on can result in grief.
Grief is a normal and healthy response to loss. The deep sadness, numbness, and other associated feelings can last for weeks or months. Processing through the different stages of grief can be different from one person to the next. For some, processing grief can take years.
Signs Someone is Experiencing Grief
- Changes in eating habits; loss of appetite or overeating
- Difficulty sleeping
- Feelings of detachment and isolation
- Questioning of beliefs; spiritual and other
These are just some of the most common signs that someone is grieving. However, many people hide their grief. For many of these individuals, not processing grief in healthy ways can result in extended grieving and even other more serious problems.
Depression, PTSD, and substance abuse or alcohol abuse can often result from grief that hasn’t been processed. In fact, the sudden and tragic death of a loved one is associated with increased rates of both depression and PTSD. PTSD is linked to addiction to both substances and alcohol.
It’s essential if you feel you or someone you love is turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs or alcohol to deal with grief you seek help. The sooner both the grief and possible addiction are addressed the better. Futures Recovery Healthcare understands how loss and grief can impact addiction. With a focus on treating co-occurring disorders, such as addiction and PTSD or addiction and depression, Futures specialized treatment programs treat both issues to increase the chances of long-lasting recovery.
Understanding the Stages of Grief
While there are varying models of the stages of grief, the most popular is the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief Model.
Stage One: Denial
This first stage of grief often helps you to deal with the initial shock of the loss. In this stage you often are living apart from the reality of what has happened. This denial helps you to pace yourself in dealing with the loss and subsequent grief.
Stage Two: Anger
After some of the denial wears off, you may begin to feel angry. Thoughts of ‘life isn’t fair’ or ‘why me’ often occur in this stage. You may become angry at friends for no reason, and if you believe in God, question that belief. According to experts, this anger stage is essential to the healthy processing of grief. When these often uncomfortable feelings of anger surface, it’s important to accept them and work through them in safe and healthy ways.
Stage Three: Bargaining
During this stage, you’ll often ask God to ‘make a deal’ to bring your loved one back, repair the lost relationship, or restore your job. Guilt often accompanies this stage of grief. If not processed properly, this stage can result in asking ‘what if’ questions sometimes for years and living in false hope.
Stage Four: Depression
This stage of grief is one of the most commonly associated with grief and loss. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, numbness, and isolation occur. It’s critical if you or someone you love is experiencing grief, you are aware of how long this stage lasts. Ongoing depression is a sign to seek professional help.
During this stage, particularly if it tends to last for many months or years, some people may turn to alcohol or another substance to help them cope. This initial ‘crutch’ can turn into a dependence that can lead to addiction.
Stage Five: Acceptance
This final stage of this model of grief stages is when feelings and emotions begin to stabilize. There is acceptance of what has occurred as well as the feeling that you will be okay. This stage shows good days and bad days. You may be in acceptance then revert to the anger or depression stage for a day or two.
Grief is a very personal experience. The progression through these stages is not always linear. There can be back and forth, it can last for months or years until it is fully processed. It is a good idea for anyone who has suffered a loss to seek professional help if they feel it is too much to handle alone. Additionally, if you or a loved one are turning to alcohol or another substance for coping, an addiction treatment center with programs to help with grief and loss can provide the support and healing needed to navigate this part of life.
Grief, Depression, and Substance Abusers
Dealing with grief is difficult. Some fall into a depression that lasts far too long. And, many turn to alcohol or another substance to find comfort from the pain and sadness. When the depression stays and addiction develops there is a co-occurring disorder. Co-occurring disorders aren’t limited to depression and addiction but can be any combination of mental health issues.
It’s vital to get help for both of these mental health issues; addiction and depression, anxiety, or whatever else you or a loved one may be experiencing. Research shows that when both co-occurring disorders are treated together with evidence-based therapies, there is a greater chance of long-term recovery and decreased chance of relapse.
If you or someone you love is dealing with loss and grief hang in there. While progressing through the stages of grief may seem never-ending, there is an end in sight. If you feel that you are not progressing in a healthy manner or have become dependent on alcohol or another substance, seek help. There are many people who have found themselves in your place and found help and hope.
Futures treats co-occurring disorders including numerous addictions, depression, anxiety, PTSD, and more. Find out more about how Futures can help with these issues. Contact us confidentially online or by phone at 866-804-2098.