How Do I Deal With My Grief?

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Grief is a natural part of life. At some point in our lives, all of us will have cause to grieve. It is healthy to experience grief at certain times. Yet, we often do not talk about unpleasant things, even when it might be helpful to discuss them — so here we are. Grief will wash over us all eventually, and we should not run from it when it does. The act of grieving is a necessary part of the healing process. All people grieve in their own ways, though there are common stages we all pass through. For some, grieving and healing take longer than others, but it can be helpful to understand grief so we can stop the emotions that come with it from overtaking us or overstaying their welcome.

I Feel Good Now, So Why Worry About Grief?

You shouldn’t worry, just like you don’t worry if the sun will rise tomorrow morning. Everyone experiences grief, loss, and heartache. Many alcoholics and addicts are especially emotional people or are at least more susceptible to having their lives largely disrupted by unpleasant emotions. If we don’t stay active in our 12-Step program and community, we run the risk of being swept up by surprise emotions that can damage our recovery. 

It’s wonderful that you feel good now. Being happy is a big part of recovery. By no means should you live in fear of painful emotions. But let’s not set ourselves up by being naive — nobody feels good all the time. Sometimes we lose people or situations that we love, and then we will feel grief. It would be disrespectful to our living experience and dishonor the good thing we lost to deny or avoid our suffering. Part of letting go, part of learning and growing, and part of real healing is grieving. Don’t live in fear of grief. Be as happy as you can be all the time. But when natural, healthy emotions come up, give yourself a safe space to feel them by staying current and active with your 12-Steps and your recovery community.

I’ve Been Feeling Like This Forever. Isn’t Grief and Sorrow Just How I Feel?

It’s possible, but it doesn’t sound much more realistic than feeling intensely happy all the time. In recovery, we are gently encouraged to seek a healthy balance in all areas of our lives. We certainly don’t recover and then aim to remain as miserable as we were in our disease. But of course, life can have rough patches. Ideally, those rough patches won’t last our whole lives. If we find ourselves in a dark place that simply won’t end, it may be incredibly helpful to rededicate ourselves to our 12-Step work and our recovery community. Getting involved in the business of healing and freedom with people who love us can do wonders to lift our spirits. If this is not enough, it might be time to seek additional professional help from therapists, psychiatrists, and/or psychologists. There is no shame in seeking health and healing. Life was not meant to be endured but embraced and experienced. Though sadness has its proper season, happiness and balance are parts of a healthy life.

I Lost Someone or Something I Loved. How Can I Manage My Grief?

Grief is a complex and complicated mixture of emotions that can be overwhelming at times. That’s why it’s a good idea to stay healthy before trouble comes, by staying active and engaged in your 12-Step work and your recovery community no matter how you feel. That way, when hard times come, you’ll be bolstered. If grief is upon you, it’s still a good idea to take what you’re experiencing through the 12-Step process and share it with your community. They will likely have helpful advice, experience, and insights. Grief, like anything else, is not something we have to face entirely alone.

Though grief is more personal than most “negative” emotions, we must allow ourselves to feel and experience those private elements of grief that help us to let go, to understand, and to heal. Grief is a part of life — it means we lost something beautiful and important, and we owe it a proper and healthy memorial. Acknowledging grief is a way of doing just that. Otherwise, it can sneak up on us later or lay low and begin to cause other problems that aren’t as clear-cut as grief is. It may be scary, but facing it now is our best bet. Try to remember that grief is only caused by things we cared deeply for, meaning there is some cause for gratitude in the loss. As Dr. Seuss said, “Do not cry because it is over, smile because it happened.” 

Although in reality, you absolutely should cry — it’s healthy to cry. But after you’ve cried, don’t forget to smile because it happened. As alcoholics and addicts who were once trapped in a living hell, how fortunate we are now to have experienced something so beautiful that we are sober and alive to grieve its loss. Perspective is helpful in working through our grief. 

What Steps Should I Follow as I Grieve?

The most helpful ways to deal with grief are simple enough. First, we need to accept it — that’s harder than it sounds and may take some additional work on our part. That work can have many forms, whether it’s taking what we’re grieving through the 12-Step process, to our sponsors and friends, etc. We may need to begin seeing a therapist or counselor to work through the grief and actively accept it. We may also be well-served by rededicating ourselves to a daily prayer and meditation practice. Additionally, we must try to avoid isolation, continue going to meetings, and live our lives as best we can, while also making sure that we are taking time to ourselves to feel our feelings.

Seeking guidance from trusted friends who’ve experienced something similar and made it through sober is always a good idea. Seeking guidance from professionals who can help us process and talk ourselves through our grief is also a great idea. There are parts of grief we must go through with just us and our higher power, and other parts where we need people around us. Either way, when dealing with grief, we never have to go through it alone. Call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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