Experiencing grief is a natural part of life that everyone will encounter at some point. After a year filled with uncertainty, loss, and transforming how you live, grief might feel endless. When you manage a substance use disorder (SUD), your feelings of grief can become deeply unsettling and interfere with your progress. Despite the pain that grief can cause, it is a necessary part of processing loss and ultimately adapting to a new life in front of you.
Additionally, it is just as important to understand that you are never alone in the process. Maintaining healthy habits while ensuring access to professional support is essential in embracing new, positive coping methods that are designed to help you continue your journey to recovery. Let’s take a look at some strategies you can use to help cope with grief and find grace.
When you experience grief after a loss or a triggering situation that might stir up memories, the onslaught of emotions can seem relentless. It can be challenging if you are used to a numbed response brought on by addiction and harmful coping methods. Further, it is essential to remember that these feelings are typical for the grieving and healing process. The grieving process is your brain’s way of untangling to accept the loss. However, sitting with these emotions, whether sad, mad, or afraid, and allowing them to happen will help your brain and body process the loss in a more fluid manner instead of resisting or suppressing your feelings.
If you reach a place where your feelings make you feel unsafe or think about relapse, then act to reach out to a professional for help. Therapies such as CBT or EMDR effectively help you manage and cope with feelings of grief that might be attached to traumatic events or a developing trauma. Going through this process while being guided by a professional can help protect and maintain your recovery.
Mindfulness can further help you feel and sit with your emotions. However, mindfulness as a practice can help you go beyond your feelings and help you understand why you are experiencing what you are. Mindfulness functions to help you become present and connect your mind with a sense of peace and calm. There are also many areas where you can incorporate mindfulness, such as:
The relationship and faith in a higher power discovered through prayer or the practice of being present and letting go can be constructive during the grieving process. You can also practice mindfulness in a group setting with others, such as at a recovery meeting, yoga sessions, or a prayer circle. Such environments can provide additional support and focus.
A key component to sustaining recovery is learning to identify your triggers. When you understand your triggers, you will also understand the situations or encounters that typically intensify feelings of grief. For example, going through a lost loved one’s belongings, photos, or texts, or passing holidays can trigger a wave of grief that can happen at any point during recovery.
You might also discover that hearing the news might stir up all of the grief connected to the pandemic, and this might make you sad or angry. When you understand that the news brings about negative feelings, you might not watch it, or you might instead read your news from now on.
Preparing for these triggers might entail talking to a trusted friend, family member, peer, or counselor so you can verbally process your feelings. You might also compose a plan that you can use to help guide you through a period of grief. These are things that help distract you in a constructive way, such as exercise, socializing, or writing. Preparing for triggers enables you to avoid isolation and instead act to help reduce your risk of relapse and strengthen your movement through the grieving process.
Give Yourself Grace
Recovery is a lifelong process; therefore, it is unavoidable that you will experience grief at some point, but you have to remember to allow yourself grace. Take a step back and remember not to be self-critical or decide that self-medicating will help you through. Grace is about understanding that you will never know how, when, or where grief might occur; it is also about accepting and allowing yourself the permission, space, and time to grieve.
How you experience grief is personal to you, and therefore, when you allow yourself grace to do so, you should not feel judged by others or worry that you have not overcome your grief as quickly as others.
Grace in the Grey Area
There is grace in the grey area. I have been pondering the idea of the soul process and the silly judgments I place on my experience as I move through trials. Is this God’s will or mine? What I found is, at my core, there is no difference. My will, in the purest form, IS God’s will. We somehow have this idea that we are separate from divinity. I have found that this is just another way for my ego to “protect” me from vulnerability. If I am already unworthy and separate from God then I don’t have to be who I really am. I get to stay isolated and afraid. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, I believe the lie – It is either black or white; me or God.
Sitting in the grey area, not judging and not trying to “figure” everything out is the essence of surrender. A dear friend reminded me that I forget: even my worst mistakes have brought me to this moment.
I think confusion is part of God saying: “Hey, it’s ok not to know, maybe just go deeper in the discomfort and invite me there.” And as the big book reminds: “pause when agitated or doubtful and ask for the right action”.
Creating and allowing space for God is the most spiritual thing I can do. In Taoism, there is a simple practice of putting out an empty bowl as a symbol of not knowing and allowing space to be filled. Empty the space so that God can do what God does best.
Who am I to judge my process? It is my job to show up with my empty bowl and allow. Allow for God to fill it up and be grateful that I (again) get to learn how to love more and fear less. I have never shamed myself into a better me; it has always been through surrender and humility.
Mistakes are those detours that show us what is important. Our hearts are screaming for us to pay attention and in that humility, a space develops for God to do work. So, I sit here now with my heart cracked open and instead of judging my process I am just allowing space. This is not easy but it’s more honest than believing I am separate from all of creation.
“For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.” -Cynthia Occelli
Learning how to experience and cope with grief is an integral part of recovery and life. If you feel like the waves of grief are pulling you under, understand that you are not alone, and the time to seek help is now. At Renaissance Ranch, we help men navigate grief and develop practices to strengthen coping strategies. Our principles for lasting recovery motivate through utilizing conventional, alternative, and faith-based treatments so that men can nurture personal growth and heal during any point in their recovery. Seeking help at Renaissance Ranch is an inspiring and transformative experience that can bring you closer to your truest self and who you strive to be. If you seek the compassionate care and guidance you need to maintain your recovery and move through the grieving process, we are here for you. To find out more, contact our 24/7 admissions by calling Renaissance Ranch today at (801) 308-8898.