Grief Therapy

Deep Emotional Pain, Addiction and Recovery
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Grief Therapy

What Is Grief Therapy?

Grief can arise when a loved one dies; a serious relationship ends, you lose your job, chronic illness strikes, you move to a new home, you give up an addiction, or after other major life changes. Simply put, grief therapy lets the patient process their grief and sadness with a professional therapist. Your grief therapist is indispensable in helping you explore your emotions, manage your grief and learn grief coping skills.

Giving Up Addiction Is a Type of Grief

Knowing that giving up substance abuse is good, does not prevent addicts from mourning the loss of drugs or alcohol. To an addict, abstinence is like losing a friend, a way to cope with difficult situations. As with a death or other major loss, you must go through the grieving process, and the best way to navigate this is with grief help from a trained, highly skilled therapist like the ones at Buena Vista Recovery.

Acknowledging your emotions and feelings upon giving up drugs or alcohol helps you deal with them in a healthy way, which helps to prevent a relapse. Only when you’ve worked through your feelings and shed your relationship with drugs or alcohol can you begin your new, sober life.

To heal feelings of loss, we typically go through five stages, not always in the same order or in the same amount of time, and not everyone goes through all the stages, but trust that you will move through these phases in your own way. Staying sober while you travel through the loss of your addiction is very important. How do the five stages of grief relate to giving up an addiction?

  1. Denial. You may deny your addiction, the fact that you need to go through recovery, or that you are depressed or feeling deep emotions about sobriety.
  2. Anger. There is no getting around the fact that beginning recovery and abstention causes anger and rage at your situation.
  3. Bargaining. Most addicts are accustomed to bargaining with a higher power to control their drinking or drug use, and they continue to seek a safe way to imbibe that.
  4. Depression. You feel sadness and despair as you break up with your addiction. A professional therapist will help you understand that these feelings are normal.
  5. Acceptance. You accept that you are an addict and that you will never be able to drink or take drugs again. You move forward, learning to live without drugs or alcohol because you know this is the right road for you.

Can Grief Lead to Addiction or Relapse?

Yes, unfortunately, it can. When an individual is suffering under the weight of extreme emotional pain, they may turn to drugs or alcohol to try to lighten the burden. For example, the urge for relief can be strong after losing a close family member—like a parent, spouse, or child. 

In this way, grief and substance abuse can go hand in hand. 

It’s normal to experience periods of sorrow, anger, or guilt after a significant loss. But for most people, these feelings gradually ease and allow for the possibility of acceptance and moving forward. But what about grief that feels unending?

Unfortunately, some people experience feelings of loss that are so debilitating, their grief symptoms don’t ease or improve. Known as complicated grief or persistent complex bereavement disorder, patients experience painful emotions so intense that they have difficulty recovering and moving forward. 

Some of the symptoms of complicated grief include:

  • Intense sorrow over the loss
  • Difficulty accepting the death or other form of loss
  • Focus on little else and difficulty carrying out day-to-day routines
  • Detachment, numbness, or bitterness
  • Inability to enjoy life or think about the positive experiences had with the lost loved one

As you might expect, complicated grief sufferers may have a higher risk of turning to drugs and alcohol to ease their pain. But hiding or suppressing grief does not make it go away. If we don’t deal with the emotions unleashed by our grief, then we may be tempted to turn to drugs and alcohol in an effort to forget or ignore our grief. While substance abuse can numb our feelings for a while and provide a momentary replacement for our loss, it often makes us feel worse. 

Substance abuse arouses negative feelings and thoughts—including depression, anxiety, guilt, and shame—that can create room for a dangerous relationship with drugs and alcohol to develop or recur. Furthermore, unresolved grief coupled with other negative feelings surrounding addiction can impact substance abuse treatment outcomes and a patient’s risk of relapse.


Commitment to grief counseling for addiction can yield many benefits, including:

  • The ability to process, come to terms with, and recover from grief and loss
  • A safe place to openly explore and express all emotions
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Help managing grief
  • The ability to learn valuable grief coping skills

Grief Therapy at Buena Vista

The professional grief therapists at Buena Vista Recovery are trained to help recovering addicts deal with the intense feelings and emotions that arise when giving up an addiction. We understand what you are going through and, via grief counseling, are available to help you deal with any roadblocks along your way to sobriety.

Unsure if your insurer will provide coverage for grief therapy? We can help. Buena Vista Recovery works with most insurers, including Aetna, Humana, Cigna, Magellan, and Blue Cross Blue Shield. And, if we are not included in your insurer’s network, we’ll assist you in finding a treatment that is.

Ready to regain control of your life? Take the first step on your journey to addiction recovery today. Just fill out the form on our Contact Us page, or give us a call to discuss your options and create a personalized treatment plan. 

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