When You Lose Someone You Love While in Recovery

It’s never easy to hear of losing a loved one while you’re working on your own mental, physical and spiritual health in addiction recovery. Perhaps that person is the one who got you into treatment, who was always there by your side, or maybe there are simply some fond memories that you have of them. Either way, it’s devastating to learn of this news, especially while you’re trying to put the pieces of your life back together. 

When it comes to addiction recovery, there’s always going to be guaranteed ups and downs. It’s incredibly hard to talk about death, however, especially if we have such special memories tied to a person and we didn’t get to say goodbye, or if we hurt them in the past, and we wish we could take it back.

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Defining Grief

Grief is a natural process that is defined as “deep sorrow, especially caused by someone’s death.” When we lose someone we love, it’s debilitating, and it can send us into a spiral of depression if we’re not cautious. There are so many emotions that we tend to go through when we discover the death of someone we love: 

  • Regret – because perhaps we were unable to say goodbye
  • Feeling angry at ourselves for addiction and putting this stress on them
  • Guilt – as a person replays in their mind the “what ifs” and “should haves”
  • Shame – especially if we feel like we contributed to their early death
  • Isolation and loneliness – if that person meant the world to us, we may pull away
  • Relief – especially if we knew that our loved one wasn’t happy in their waking life
  • Frustration – especially at ourselves if we feel we could’ve done something better
  • Blaming oneself for not having done or said something different
  • Fear and anxiety – especially because the future may feel quite unknown without their loved one in it

Addiction recovery is already filled with a rollercoaster of experiences, as we try to figure ourselves, and life, out. But losing a loved one can throw a whopping surprise into our plans, and now we have to figure out how to deal with such a loss. For years, psychologists have explored the process that people go through when they grieve, and you can take comfort in knowing that however you’re feeling is completely normal:

Stage 1: Denial – in helping us survive the loss, denial may cause us to feel numb. Denial helps us to pace what it is we’re feeling inside. 

Stage 2: Anger – as we start to explore the reality of losing our loved one, we may become very angry. It’s quite possible that we may begin to blame a Higher Power or God, or we may blame ourselves. 

Stage 3: Bargaining – by this stage, we’re willing to do just about anything to bring our loved one back. We may try to reconcile with God, or another Higher Power, that we’ll never drink again, that we’ll never return to using substances, only if they can return our loved one back to us.

Stage 4: Depression – we may start to surface back to the present reality, and this is when true sorrow sinks in. Everything feels confusing because we don’t know what to make of life anymore.

Stage 5: Acceptance – this stage doesn’t mean that we’re happy about the outcome of our loved one, but it does mean that we’re starting to understand that we can’t change what happened in light of the death of our loved one.

Healing in Recovery

Mourning the loss of a loved one is incredibly difficult. Suddenly, a person whom we came to love over the course of our lives has disappeared forever, and the reality of this situation can be unsettling to come to terms with. Provide yourself the time, space and patience needed to work through whatever it is that needs it. Continue to surround yourself with social support, especially through 12-Step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Rely on healthy coping mechanisms to get you through this, and have the patience to understand that it’s going to take some time.

Take some space from those who try to tell you how to grieve during this time but lean in close to those who support your sobriety. When losing someone you love, this could be a prime time for relapse and you want to continue working towards your sobriety goals in order to make the most of your life now. Remind yourself of why you wanted to become sober in the first place, and make that your main focus as you process all of the thoughts and feelings that come with losing a loved one. 

If you’re ready to seek help, speak with a professional from Renewal Lodge today. You’re never alone, and there’s an entire team of people here to support you.

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, a quality treatment program can provide you with strategies for maintaining long-term sobriety. At Renewal Lodge by Burning Tree, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals ready to coach each client through the 12-Steps and beyond. By structuring treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders, Burning Tree facilitates an environment of healing and holistic wellness. Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives through high accountability and life skills that foster lasting sobriety. We specialize in treatment for the chronic relapser and believe that with the right tools, you can put an end to the cycle of addiction.

Find Healing At Renewal Lodge

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

While we train counselors and therapists throughout the United States and abroad, I personally have chosen to work directly with the amazing team and clients at Renewal Lodge to develop the model MIR 12-step program for the nation. I choose Renewal Lodge because of the vision of its mission and the dedication of its team. Renewal Lodge is an extremely rare environment in which the staff embodies the very mindfulness and 12-step practices and skills they offer their clients. The results have been beyond my expectations. It is an honor to be here and I treasure my personal time with every client I meet.

With Gratitude,

John Bruna
John Bruna
Director of Mindfulness
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