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Grief Counseling

Grief Overview

Although a natural response to loss, grief brings forward emotional suffering connected to losing something or someone of extreme value. Grief is associated with death; but is also a response to all transitions which alter the course of our lives:  the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief. Even subtle losses can affect us.  See if any of the following transitions have happened in your life.

  • Divorce/break up
  • Health crisis
  • Loss of job or financial security
  • Retirement
  • Death of a family member or animal
  • Loss of a friendship, a dream or hope
  • Loss of safety or a trauma
  • Sale of a home, car or business

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.”
― José N. Harris

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Grief Counseling in Los Angeles, CA

Processing loss isn’t easy.

No matter how prepared you might be to lose something or someone important to you, when it actually happens you find your life turned upside down. A ship lost at sea in the midst of a storm, rudderless and out of control, without an anchor to keep you in place. Worse yet, even if you had an anchor, there’s seemingly no safe place to drop it; your entire world has become the storm, with no end in sight.

Grief tears a hole in the continuity of our lives, putting everything else on hold and on the back burner until you’ve managed to come to terms with the loss itself.

Before discussing how it relates to addiction, it’s important to put a working definition to grief, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains it this way; “grief is a reaction to a major loss of someone or something. It is most often an unhappy and painful emotion”.

Fairly straightforward.

It’s amazing how much misery a 21-word definition can unleash on a person.

Although a thoroughly natural response to loss, it brings forth emotional suffering in the extreme. Grief is most commonly associated with death – either of a family member, friend or animal – which comes as a truly seismic shift in anyone’s life, but it’s also a response to many of the tragic transitions which can alter the course of our lives.

There are a great many things that can bring on grief and what causes it for one person may be water under the bridge for another, that’s the nature of being human.

Besides death, any of the following (and more) can cause grief:

  • Divorce, separation or breakup
  • Health crisis, either your own or that of a family member or friend
  • Loss of your job or financial security
  • Retirement
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of a dream or hope
  • Loss of safety 
  • Traumatic events or disasters
  • Violence
  • Imprisonment
  • Pregnancy or loss of pregnancy
  • Moving to a new city
  • Sale of a home, car or business

As you can see, grief is a highly individualized experience. Given that, it’s important not to judge a loved one for their grief just because you may not understand it or it doesn’t move you in the same way. Similarly, if you yourself are grieving, try to avoid adding salt to the wound by wondering if it’s justified.

While it’s true that the more significant the loss, the more intense the grief; even subtle losses can affect us in colossal ways. And that’s ok.

How you deal with grief is what matters and that’s where addiction can come into play.

The intensity of emotion – the sorrow, confusion, anxiety, anger, distress, shock, disbelief, denial and heartache – and the seemingly never-ending onslaught of it all can become downright unbearable for some. Without a light at the end of the tunnel, you start to think you’re no longer in a tunnel; that grief is the building in which you now live, your new status quo.

“Tears shed for another person are not a sign of weakness. They are a sign of a pure heart.”
~José N. Harris

In order to deal with the profoundly overwhelming nature of it all, the mental claustrophobia grief can create, people turn to substances as a coping mechanism. To appease the monster for a moment.

The road to acceptance is no doubt an exceedingly tough one, as the NIH notes, “one way to describe grief is in 5 stages”:

  1. Denial, disbelief, numbness
  2. Anger, blaming others
  3. Bargaining (for instance, “If I am cured of this cancer, I will never smoke again.”)
  4. Depressed mood, sadness, and crying
  5. Acceptance, coming to terms

It’s in this process that addiction can creep in.

What starts as a way to feel better during this period of processing – which, by the way, doesn’t honor any set timeline – may quickly spiral out of your grasp. As you take more drugs or drink more alcohol, your body builds a tolerance and you start to need more and more to mask the pain of grief.

It’s an endless cycle until you begin to treat both the grief and the addiction, together.

This is what’s known as dual diagnosis treatment; grief and loss treatment centers like ours have decades of experience in aiding people in coming to terms with their loss, whatever it may be, and simultaneously work through the substance use disorder that’s taken just as strong of a hold.

Through individual and group sessions with a licensed therapist, utilizing evidence-based treatment methods, we help you through the profoundly challenging time in your life. Our program is designed to deliver the clarity and guidance you need to successfully leave substances behind and reduce your pain in the process.

Grief and addiction don’t have to own you, reach out to us at Inneractions and let’s work on getting your life back.

Come allow us to help you through a challenging time in your life where you will receive the clarity and guidance you need, to successfully leave substances behind and reduce your pain.

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