Dealing with grief to prevent drug abuse and misuse

No matter your age, the death of a loved one can trigger intense emotions of loss and grief. Grief and loss can even trigger drug abuse and misuse. Learn why dealing with grief is important and evaluate 5 coping skills for grief here.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

About the author
Nurse N Recovery has been an RN for 16 years. Most of those years were spent in Critical Care. 4 years ago, she became addicted to narcotics. She is now in drug addiction recovery and has developed a website to help others suffering from addiction.


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  1. When a loved one dies, and the bulk of the grief subsides a little I always think “I want to go where you have gone” and that seems to instill some inner peace and an understanding of death which works for me.

  2. funny that its the grief of losing those you care about most that can really send you over the edge. i totally agree. if you have someone to help you cope with loss the chances of substance abuse can greatly decrease. we can use self pity as a great excuse to come close to killing ourselves. be smart and try and find at least one person you know will listen.


  3. I get peace from a belief that death is not the end of life, but a part of life. It helps me a lot to think that we come and go from the world, but that energy is never lost, it just changes form. We are here just waiting to connect with the essence of life – G-D.

  4. Thanks for your article. I found that my faith, facing my feelings, and time were the best ways for me to overcome the loss of a parent.

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