The year 2020 was tough. Many of us experienced some form of grief or loss. Missing those we lost can be especially challenging around the holidays. Remembering time spent with loved ones who have passed can cause significant emotional pain. The far-reaching effects of grief and loss can be especially detrimental to those struggling with addiction.
Often people relapse around the holidays. It’s important to be extra mindful and cautious of unprocessed grieving that may trigger a relapse.
The recovery community appreciates additional support during this time of year. Recovery Ways is a pivotal part of that support network. The team at Recovery Ways has been offering a seven-week course of community outreach and support groups via Zoom with specialized expert Recovery Ways facilitators. The fifth meeting, facilitated by therapist Kimberly Reade, LCMHC, focused on coping with grief and loss.
Unprocessed or unmanaged grief may cause feelings of anger, resentment, and depression. It is important to realize that grieving in and of itself is part of an ongoing healing process. Earlier this year, NPR’s Stephanie O’Neill described the process as being “with your grief: Tending to grief requires us to be with it, in all its misery and messiness.”
During the meeting, Kimberly Reade offered nine tips on coping with grief. The first was trusting that grief is part of healing, even during the holidays. Don’t try to reject feelings of grief (denial) but be mindful of them and recognize them for what they are.
- Trust that grief is part of the healing process.
- Understand it’s okay to set healthy boundaries.
- Focus on what you can control.
- Plan ahead; have an escape plan.
- Allow yourself to feel into the moments of grief.
- Create new rituals.
- Simplify your life.
- Allow yourself to focus on and integrate self-care.
- Allow yourself to validate other people’s feelings.
It’s okay to set healthy boundaries. It’s okay to choose which events you would like to be part of and which to avoid. Do not shy away from saying “no” if you feel your recovery is in jeopardy.
Reade’s third tip was to focus on what you can control and not get stressed about things you can’t. “I cannot control what’s going on, but I can control my response to what’s going on,” she said. It’s very much like the serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Number four is to plan ahead. If you do go to an event where an emotional challenge can be expected, be prepared. Prepare for the possibility of being unable to cope with a grief-based reaction and have an escape plan. Know in advance what you want to do and where you want to go. Create a safe zone. Don’t let triggers overwhelm you.
The fifth tip is to allow yourself to feel each moment whether it is full of joy and elation or sorrow and longing. Don’t deny your feelings but at the same time, “allow yourself not to respond,” said Reade. “Don’t judge your judgments.”
Create new rituals was Kimberly’s next tip. If the memories of old holiday customs are too painful, create a new ritual to commemorate your loved one(s). This can help you process your grief.
Simplify your life was the seventh tip. Don’t go shopping in certain stores if it triggers you. Don’t engage in activities that may trigger you. It doesn’t have to be complicated—keep it simple.
Reade’s eighth tip was to allow yourself to focus on and incorporate self-care. Your recovery is important. Take good care of yourself. Finally: allow yourself to validate others’ feelings. Empathy is an important component of grief recovery.
Reade finished by emphasizing once more that there is freedom in one releasing themselves from grief. Grieving is part of the healing process and needs to be expressed.
We hope you are staying healthy and emotionally balanced in the new year and beyond. If you, a family member, or a friend are struggling with addiction and/or mental health issues, Recovery Ways wants to help. We are dually licensed to treat mental health disorders and addiction. Don’t delay seeking treatment because of the holidays. Our admissions coordinators can recommend a plan of action, suggest an interventionist, or speak with your loved one. For more information, please call us at (888) 988-5217.