Dealing with grief to prevent drug abuse and misuse
Ways to cope with the loss of a parent
The death of a parent is one of the most devastating things that can happen to you. No matter what your age is, when your mother or father dies, you are still that parents child. Everything your mother or father represented in terms of security and protection is gone. You have to cope with the loss of that unique parental love and attention only afforded to you. You come to the realization that no-one knows you in the same way as your mother or father and no-one will ever know you as your parent did. Another major loss is that many people depended on their parent for advise and moral support and now they have to get by without that resource.
Coping with death can help prevent substance abuse
One of the hardest lessons in life is learning how to deal with emotional loss in healthy ways. Some people use good coping skills, while others use coping strategies that just make the loss worse. That unhealthy coping strategy is substance abuse.
Many people who become addicted use substances as a coping mechanism. To use an exmaple from my own life, narcotic addiction started when my mom was dying of cancer. I kept everything bottled up and turned to substances to numb the pain. What’s interresting is that the substances aren’t the problem. It’s the lack of coping skills that’s the root of the problem. That lack of coping skills is a significant contributer to addiction.
A list of coping skills for grief
1. Turn to friends and family members for help
After a loss, you need to lean on the people who care about you. Even if you pride yourself in being strong and able to handle what life throws at you. Don’t avoid your loved ones. Accept their offer to help you.
2. Draw comfort for loss from your faith
Use spiritual activities, such as praying, meditating or going to church. Many people question their faith during and after the loss of a loved one. It happened to me. I lost my faith in God for months. I blamed him for the loss of my mom. It wasn’t until I opened up to my minister and my church family that I regained my faith. Your faith can get you through many trials in life.
3. Join a support group for grief counseling
Grief can be very lonely. Even with loved ones around, you still feel lonely. It helps when you can share your feelings with others who have experienced similar losses. There are many bereavement support groups. To find one near you, contact your local hospital, hospice or counseling center.
4. Face your feelings about grief and loss
You can try to suppress your grief, but you can’t avoid it forever. You have to acknowledge your pain to begin to heal. If you avoid your feelings of loss and sadness, you only prolong the grieving process. Unresolved grief can lead to complications such as depression, health problems and substance abuse.
5. Express your grief through art therapy
Expressing your feelings in a creative way, such as journaling or even learning how to write a eulogy, helps the grieving process. Write about your loss in a journal. Keeping a journal can be very comforting. Some people say writing a letter in your journal is a way to feel connected to the loved one you lost. You can also say things you never got to say in that letter. Or you might use other types of art therapies to help you process your thoughts, feelings and move through the stages of grief.
The sadness from loss will end
Losing a loved one is devastating. Sometimes you feel like the sadness will never let up. Make sure you are using healthy coping skills. Don’t turn to substances to numb the pain. Grief that is expressed and experienced has the potential for healing that can strengthen and enrich your life. Please leave your questions about grief, or comments below. We want to hear from you!
Photo credit: James Jordan