Experiencing acute grief after losing a loved one is normal. Most people grieve in several stages that include emotions such as sorrow, numbness, guilt, and anger. While grieving, the bereaved may cry often, spend a lot of time alone, and struggle to sleep or eat on a regular schedule.
As time passes, however, the negative emotions and behaviors associated with grief begin to ease and fade into the background. Eventually, the bereaved are able to accept their loss and return to normal daily life.
For some people, however, the symptoms of grief do not subside with time. When a person’s grief stalls, his condition is referred to as complicated grief, which is severe and long-lasting. Complicated grief often becomes debilitating, causing the idea of resuming normal life to seem impossible. Complicated grief requires professional treatment from a counselor or other psychological professional.
Complicated Grief and Substance Abuse
Those suffering from complicated grief may turn to substance abuse for comfort. A drug induced fog may help a bereaved person achieve a state of emotional numbness that allows him to avoid painful memories. However, although substance abuse may offer temporary, short-term relief from grief, it only exacerbates the grieving process. Substance abuse can prolong the symptoms of complicated grief and lead to problems such as financial ruin and social isolation.
Treatment for Complicated Grief and Substance Abuse Problems
Treatment for substance abuse typically begins with medically supervised detoxification, which cleanses the body of the toxins that accumulated as a result of drug use. Treatment for co-occurring complicated grief and substance abuse may include motivational interviewing and other forms of counseling, as well as holistic therapies such as yoga, acupuncture, or equine therapy.
Treatment helps patients learn how to cope with their grief without the help of drug use. Continued support after rehab, offered through outpatient services, provides patients with ongoing help and comfort as they continue to maintain sobriety and navigate life after their loss.