Losing a family member to addiction feels like being robbed of time, love, and happiness. In some ways it is more difficult to accept than losing someone to age or an incurable disease because it feels as though the loss could have been prevented. It is often this feeling that the death of your loved one could have been avoided that can make reconciling feelings of grief seem impossibly difficult. If you have lost a loved one to addiction, know that it is okay to redefine what your new normal day-to-day life will look like, and that it is okay to let go of your guilt and regret and accept the reality of loss. Most importantly, know that there are people and resources available to help you cope.
Join a Support Group
Death leaves those left behind feeling alone. In reality, there are others around you learning to overcome similar loses. Sharing and discussing your grief with others who can empathize can be an essential part of the healing process. GRASP (Grief Recovery After a Substance Passing) is a national support group created by loved ones who have lost someone to addiction. Online support groups are also available for those who would be more comfortable speaking with others more privately. There are online support groups and forums specifically for people who’ve lost a loved one to addiction.
Speak with a Grief Counselor
A professional therapist or counselor can help you to manage your grief. Seek a therapist who specializes in grief counseling. He or she will know how to help you progress through the grieving process and can help you find peace in unresolved feelings in a safe, and non-judgmental environment, To find a counselor ask your physician for a recommendation or locate a grief counselor through a nearby hospice.
Take Comfort from Family and Friends
After loss there is comfort in speaking of your loved one with someone else who knew him well. Your friends and family members not only knew your loved one, but they know you, making them an important resource to help you cope with the significant changes and loss you are facing in your life. Approach someone you can trust and ask if you can discuss your grief with them, and then be sure to thank them for listening after your discussion.
Fight for the Cause.
Even after a devastating loss, working to raise awareness for the dangers and risks of substance abuse can offer powerful benefits. Not only does it provide an outlet for your energy and passion, it will encourage others to get help before their addiction carries them to a place where they cannot recover. Some national organizations that work to raise awareness about addiction include: Courage to Speak, Faces and Voices of Recovery, Hope for Addiction, and the National Association for Children of Alcoholics. In Western New York, you can get involved with organizations such as Save the Michaels of the World, Kids Escaping Drugs, and Horizon Health Services.
Take Care of Yourself.
Emotional grief can transform into physical pain. While it can seem safe and comforting to stay in bed, avoid work, ignore meals, and otherwise halt what was formerly your normal routine, taking care of your health will help your ability to recover mentally and physically. Be sure to take walks outside, listen to music, exercise, meditate, eat well-balanced meals, and get enough sleep. Taking care of yourself physically will help you to recovery emotionally.
Recovering from loss cannot be accomplished in a day. Understanding that recovery means accepting a “new normal” in your life will help you set fair expectations about your grief and recovery process. Obtaining support from professionals, loved ones, and friends who know you best will help you carry on in your loved one’s absence.