Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:2
Life is unpredictable, our future is secure in Christ, but this doesn’t exclude Christians from the pain of a tragedy like losing a loved one. Grieving is a normal and healthy response to the death of someone close to you, but the pain that comes with it may feel like a severe and irreparable emotional blow. For mourners in addiction recovery, the trauma that comes with this kind of tragedy has the potential to trigger a relapse. However, it’s possible to deal with unexpectedly losing a loved one during addiction recovery without relapsing. It’s challenging, but it is possible. Here are a few guidelines that can prevent Christians in recovery from relapsing during the five stages of grief.
The Five Stages of Grief
The five stages of grief, also referred to as the Kubler-Ross model, was first introduced into the psychology community in 1969. The model was created by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, the famed psychiatrist who co-wrote On Death and Dying with David Kessler. The stages of grief described in this book are listed as denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. There are a few aspects of the five stages of grief that you should keep in mind when grieving a loss:
- You won’t necessarily experience the stages in the order shown above
- It’s not unusual to switch between two stages before progressing to another
- There is no set timeframe for the grieving process— accepting loss takes time
Strategies for Grieving Without Relapsing
With the death of a loved one, you are now faced with two completely different but equally important tasks: grieving the loss and staying sober while doing it. Mourning and the five stages of grief are a rollercoaster of overwhelming emotions, all of which can easily trigger a relapse if you aren’t prepared. So, you can avoid relapse by utilizing the coping methods listed below.
Allow Yourself to Feel
Mourning is a natural process, so you shouldn’t try to stop yourself from feeling the things you need to feel. Your sadness, anger, and heartbreak are all understandable. So, let your grief run its course, and don’t berate yourself if your mourning period lasts a while. If you need more time and some space, then take it.
Avoid Isolating Yourself
Many people in mourning respond to the loss by isolating themselves, especially during the depressive stage of grief. While it’s okay to need space, you shouldn’t completely separate yourself from your friends and family. Making a habit of detaching from social interaction, even if it is to mourn a loved one, may be detrimental to your emotional health in the long run. You’ll feel much better if you have others to grieve with you. In fact, sharing your grief and allowing others to mourn the loss with you can be very cathartic.
Ask For Help When You Need It
While it’s important not to isolate yourself, you shouldn’t feel as though you need to hide your struggles either. Admitting that you need support in your recovery while you mourn the loss of a loved one is nothing to be ashamed of, so don’t feel embarrassed. It’s to be expected. Your cravings will most likely get stronger as you pass through the most sensitive stages of grief— especially anger, bargaining, and depression. So, ask for help. Remember, your friends, family, and your peers in addiction recovery are there to support you.
Be Mindful of Your Other Triggers
Losing a loved one is a heartbreaking experience that will probably leave you feeling very vulnerable. This is why it’s important to keep your guard up throughout the stages of grief. If you don’t, you may find yourself in a situation that threatens your sobriety. So, be mindful of your triggers, and stay away from people or places that might tempt a relapse.
Continue Your Treatment Program
Although you may want to isolate yourself, keeping up with your recovery meetings is one of the best things you can do while you mourn the loss of your loved one. Doing this will not only help you stay sober, but it will give you something else to focus on during this troubling time. Additionally, the same coping strategies that helped you through detox and the early stages of sobriety can help you through the five stages of grief. These include:
- Not letting the experience (loss or addiction) define you as a person
- Maintaining or expanding your favorite hobbies and activities
- Turning to your support system for emotional support
- Remembering that every day has its ups and downs
- Helping others and finding joy and fulfillment in it
- Showing gratitude for the things you have
- Talking to a counselor or therapist
- Finding comfort in your faith
If the Tragedy Trigger Caused You to Relapse, Get Help from Road to Recovery
They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it. Death cannot kill what never dies. — William Penn
It’s important to understand that grieving isn’t an action you perform, but instead, a reaction to a loss that you experience. So, people grieve in different ways. If you do relapse during the grieving process, it does not mean your recovery has failed. It means that you need to reinvest time in the therapies and treatments that helped you get sober— with some adjustments in your relapse prevention plan, of course.
If you are coping with a loss during your addiction recovery, Road to Freedom is here to help. We understand how difficult can be to deal with the loss of a loved one, and our team of counselors and addiction treatment professionals can help you overcome the obstacles you may face during the five stages of grief. Please call us at 844-402-3605 for more information about our programs.