When a Loved One Uses Drugs to Deal With Grief

Glenna writes in: How do I help my partner with the loss of his dad? This happened back in January, and now my partner needs drugs to help with the pain.  Someone, please help!

Pamela Gabbay, M.A., FT, responds: Dear Glenna, I’m sorry to hear about the loss of your partner’s dad.  When a parent dies, it is so painful, and the range of emotions that one experiences can be overwhelming.  January wasn’t that long ago and it’s no surprise that your partner is feeling a lot of pain.  For many grievers, the intense pain doesn’t subside during the first year or even the second, although it does ebb and flow.  The grief journey is very different for everyone, as well as the range and intensity of emotions felt when someone dies.

You mention that your partner is using drugs to help cope with the pain. Taking drugs or medication of any kind can often prolong the grieving process because the drugs stop us from feeling emotions like sadness and anger that one would normally be experiencing after someone dies. When a grieving person is using drugs to cope, they often experience intensified feelings of grief when they stop using the drugs.

I recommend that your partner consider individual counseling to help him cope with his grief and drug use.  Your partner might also want to consider attending a grief support group.  Often, it is so difficult for the grieving person to reach out to others.  I suggest that you assist him with find counseling and other resources that will help him to cope without the use of drugs.

You can also help by listening to him when he’s hurting and by understanding that grief takes as long as grief takes.  Having a good support system is crucial after someone we love dies and it sounds like he has that with you.

Sincerely, Pamela Gabbay

Pamela Gabbay, M.A., FT
Program Director
The Mourning Star Center for Grieving Children
Camp Director – Camp Erin
(760) 836-0360
www.mourningstar.org

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