Imagine you are the driver taking a group of folks—family, coworkers, friends, whomever—on a long car ride. You have been traveling for a couple of hours, but you have many more hours to go before you reach your destination. Maybe you are starting to get a little restless, so you shift in your seat, change the radio station, and take a mental inventory of the snacks you brought with you to munch along the way. You take a deep breath and keep on driving.
The Dreaded Questions
And then it happens. Someone—a child, an adult, whomever—asks one or more of the dreaded questions:
“How much longer?”
“Are we there yet?”
“How far to a bathroom?”
These kinds of questions put everyone on edge. Suddenly all of your efforts to avoid thinking about how much further you have to travel are swept away. You are forced to acknowledge that you still have a long way to go, and the combined impatience and restlessness in the vehicle are likely to increase rather than decrease. Sure, you are getting closer all of the time, but any pleasure you have been taking in the trip is likely replaced with an antsy feeling as you contemplate just how much longer you will all have to be in this car.
The Experience of Grief
Something similar happens when we experience grief in our lives. In the aftermath of a loss or severe disappointment, we want to get to the end of the negative feelings as quickly as possible. But grief—like recovery from a substance use disorder—is a journey, and as a rule, there are not any shortcuts.
Let’s take a closer look at grief and some ways you might manage it while continuing your recovery journey.
Stick to Your Healthy Routines and Strategies to Help Manage Grief
Grief can feel absolutely overwhelming, and you may be struggling to identify strategies that might help you manage the pain and loss you are feeling. But if you are in recovery for a substance use disorder, you are already familiar with a range of practices that can help make it easier (though not necessarily easy) to manage the intense emotions you are experiencing.
Those practices include getting enough quality rest, eating a healthful diet, exercising regularly, and participating in activities you enjoy. They also include trusting your support network to lift you up when times are tough and finding ways to give back—perhaps by contributing to or volunteering for a cause or organization that was important to the loved one you lost.
Share What You Are Feeling so that You Feel Less Alone
Working through challenges like cravings or negative emotions often involves communicating about those difficulties in one way or another. You might talk about how you are feeling in a 12-Step (or other recovery program) meeting. You might talk with your sponsor or with a mental health therapist. And you might keep a journal in which you are able to process your feelings on your own so that you can find some clarity for moving forward.
All of these forms of communication and connection can be helpful when you are struggling with grief as well. Talking with close friends and those who have experienced a similar loss can be a comfort. A mental health professional can help you select and employ strategies that might make your grief more manageable. And journaling can be a wonderful way to record not only your feelings but your memories of the person or happier past for which you are currently grieving.
You Can Honor the Past by Staying Present
Mindfulness is another practice that can be helpful both for a person in recovery and a person who is experiencing grief. Mindfulness practice encourages us to remain grounded in the present moment rather than ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. While you don’t want to forget the person or moments you have lost, a conscious decision to be mindful can help you appreciate the experiences you are having now. This is not only good for you (and your recovery), but is also another way to honor and grow from a loss.
Resources abound for getting a mindfulness practice started. Whether you look for classes in your community, turn to an online app, or learn about the practice through books, you may find that mindfulness can be a powerful component of both substance use disorder recovery and healing from grief.
We Can Help You Start Your Recovery Journey
At French Creek Recovery Center, we understand that the recovery journey is a long one. We also understand how important it is to get off to a good start. We will help you regain your sobriety via our medically supervised detox program. And then we will help you maintain that sobriety—even in the face of challenges like intense grief—by providing knowledge, strategies, and support via our rehabilitation and continuum of care programs. Let us help you get your recovery journey underway.