Losing someone you love can be one of the most challenging and excruciating things we have to go through in our lifetime. Mourning is a natural part of grief and a necessary phase for true healing, but it’s one that can be exacerbated for someone struggling with a substance use disorder.

Grief and addiction often go hand in hand. Grief can sometimes lead to addiction, and when you’re already in recovery, the unexpected difficulty of losing someone you love can sometimes derail your progress.

When you’re recovering from a substance order, many people naturally experience some form and some level of mourning — harmful decisions or actions they engaged in, people they may have hurt or a former life they must now release.

The death of a loved one can be overwhelming in the face of addiction.

Whether you’ve already experienced a setback in your recovery due to grieving or are worried about this happening to you, we’re here to help you get back on track.

Today we’re going to take a look at the five most common stages of grief, what exactly they are, and how they can affect someone battling a substance use disorder.

Definition of grief

Grief is the natural reaction to loss. 

It can manifest immediately or over time, hit all at once or in waves, be represented in similar or dissimilar ways, or show up on certain days but not others. Grief is experienced and handled differently by everyone, but it is something we all encounter at some point in our lives.

The stages of grief

In order of how they are, most commonly, but not always, experienced, the five common stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

These stages are our way of trying to understand and process what has happened, as well as help us adjust to our new reality, but moving through grief and addiction can be challenging.

The first stage, denial, is where someone is unable to comprehend or fully accept the new change in their lives. Since there is a certain level of dissociation from reality in this stage, there are commonly two ways this affects someone in recovery.  Either bad habits do not arise, as the person “does not have any reason to grieve,” or they start subconsciously gravitating back to old habits, as deep down, they are aware of the loss.

In the second stage, anger, those in recovery may encounter an internal battle, as anger has no limits and it will affect not only you, but those around you, your medical providers, and your mindset. This stage can sometimes bring up hostile emotions towards recovery (emotions that were, perhaps, never fully addressed), and some people might find themselves wanting to reject sobriety in a fit of rage.

Bargaining is the third stage of grief. This stage is full of “if only” and “what if” and “should or could have” thoughts and emotions. Guilt, self-blame, and regret can be prominent, which can cause someone who is already struggling to maintain sobriety to slip off into the deep end.

The fourth stage, depression, is where many people become stuck. It’s finally sunk in that their loved one is gone, they’re exhausted from being angry, and they’ve realized no amount of wishing, bargaining, or contemplating the past can do anything to change that. When you’re in recovery, the state of your mind can be fragile; staying too long in the depression stage can derail much of the mental progress you’ve made.

The final stage of grief is acceptance. While many people assume this stage comes with finally being “okay,” it’s often the most painful of all the stages, due to the person finally giving themselves permission to feel everything in order to heal. Depending on the individual, this stage can serve both as a temptation to indulge past substance behaviors as well as the greatest motivation to maintain sobriety.

Reach out for personal support

If you or someone you love is struggling with a substance use disorder or in the midst of grieving, send us a message.

We’re here for you through addiction and grief. Our passionate team at Real Recovery is dedicated to serving and supporting you in whatever way we can during this challenging time.

In addition to grief and addiction, Real Recovery offers both mental health and recovery programs composed of resources and methodology that have proven to be effective for long-term success. We customize every treatment plan for each client to ensure they receive the highest quality of care.

This isn’t something you have to go through alone.

To learn more about how we can help you, give us a call at 855-363-7325.