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Grief is a powerful experience with the potential to affect your physical, mental, and emotional health. There are many circumstances that can cause you to feel grief. It can be a healthy response to impactful events in a person’s life. However, understanding the signs and risks of prolonged grief can help you or a loved one avoid deeper mental health concerns.

What Is Grief?

Grief is often associated with death or loss. Grief is the emotion that occurs after experiencing the significant loss of someone or something that is important to you. Grief can also appear in response to a traumatic event, such as a disaster or something that is otherwise emotionally triggering. 

Although there is no right or wrong reason for a person to experience grief, some of the main sources of a person’s grief would be: 

  • Death of a loved one
  • Surviving a natural disaster
  • Living through war or other forms of repeated exposure to violence 
  • Job loss, struggling financially, living in poverty 
  • Losing friends
  • Moving to a new place 

Grief can often accompany major life changes and experiences. It can be a normal and healthy part of your emotional healing process. Knowing the symptoms of grief can help you or a loved one identify your experience for a better sense of how to manage the thoughts and feelings that may arise. 

How to Tell if Someone Is Grieving

The symptoms of grief include:

  • Sadness, especially if it is prolonged or seemingly unexplained 
  • Feeling shocked or numb
  • Feeling restless or anxious 
  • Losing sleep and appetite 

Grief can feel heavy, particularly if you are trying to manage it on your own. Finding and utilizing helpful tools and resources to help you overcome the weight of grief can make it more manageable. It is especially helpful to lean into loving and supportive connections to help you process and overcome any of the daily challenges you may have. 

Although there isn’t one definitive model of what grief looks like, the most popular model would be the five stages of grief, which are:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining 
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Although there is no time limit on someone’s experience of grief, learning how to manage it in a healthy way is an important part of maintaining strong mental and emotional health. However, when grief is left untreated, or when a person tries to manage grief with little to no support, there is a greater risk of making harmful choices to cope. 

What Is the Connection Between Grief and Addiction?

Grief and addiction have an interesting relationship. It is possible for grief to lead someone to pick up addictive behaviors. It is also possible for addiction to trigger feelings of grief if there are other challenging circumstances present. 

Feeling alone or ashamed of your feelings can trigger dangerous coping mechanisms for grief. Addiction to alcohol and other substances can occur if you choose to self-medicate your grief. It can seem daunting to manage the emotional and mental stress that can come with a major loss.

It can be very hard to see the other side of something as impactful and persistent as grief can be. Knowing your options for healthier coping mechanisms can help you feel less restricted in your ability to deal with your grief. 

With time, you will find what works for you and gently pull you through your experience. 

How Can I Manage Grief Without Substances?

Grief can often be a heavy experience. There are some ways to manage your mental and emotional health so that it is easier to manage your feelings of grief. 

Stay Connected

Isolation can be a dangerous response to grief. Isolating yourself through the grief process can trigger depression, suicidal thoughts, and substance abuse. Staying connected to loved ones or branching out to make new, supportive connections can make it easier not to feel alone. 

Reach Out to Your Support System

Knowing that you have someone safe to process your experience with will help you begin to overcome your feelings of grief. Talking to a trusted friend, mentor or therapist can help you gain new insight while offering a safe space for you to express yourself. Joining a group or community activities can help you focus on other things while nurturing a sense of connection with your peers. 

Mindful Practices

Turning inward offers you a chance to reflect on and sit with the thoughts, memories, and feelings that may be presenting themselves through your grief. Journaling, deep breathing, and other mindfulness exercises can help you process your feelings. Addressing these underlying thoughts and feelings can support you in moving through grief so that you can move forward with your life. 

Managing grief takes time and great care from loved ones and friends. Although it can seem hard, moving through the stages of grief will help you get to the other side of the event that may have triggered it. 

Seek Professional Help

Life comes with many painful and unexpected events, along with many beautiful and fulfilling events as well. Learning how to navigate life’s ups and downs will make it a much more exciting and empowering process. As you move through whatever life throws at you, you will always be able to find a way to make it to the other side. 

However, if you’re unable to make strides toward healing without relying on substances, seeking help from a treatment center can be a vital step in your recovery journey. There is no harm in asking for help.

Dealing with grief is inevitable as it is one of many emotional experiences that comes with human nature. Learning how to identify grief—regardless of its cause—is the first step to managing your grief, along with the thoughts and feelings that accompany it. Managing grief is done best with the support of a caring team. Our team at West Coast Recovery Centers offers unique tools and support tailored to you and your needs. We take great pride in collaborating with our clients to come up with the best treatment plan for them. Our team members are available at (760) 492-6509 to help you overcome any of life’s challenges that you may be facing.