Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it? “ – Henry David Thoreau

If we are going to talk about grief and addiction, the simple fact is that they are truly connected. In many cases, severe grief triggers addiction in us.

If the former one increases with time, the latter one will also become deep. Before we understand how grief can trigger addiction, we must understand how grief works on the human mind.

What is Grief

Grief is an emotional reaction expressed to a traumatic situation. Sudden death, loss, or trauma can hurt you in emotional, mental, social, physical, and spiritual aspects and cause severe grief. We can observe the definition given in Wikipedia – “Grief is a multifaceted response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed.

Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical dimensions. While the terms are often used interchangeably, bereavement refers to the state of loss, and grief is the reaction to that loss.

Grief is a natural response to loss. It is the suffering one feels when something or someone the individual loves is taken away. The grief associated with death is familiar to most people, but individuals grieve in connection with a variety of losses throughout their lives, such as unemployment, ill-health or the end of a relationship.

Loss can be categorized as either physical or abstract, the physical loss being related to something that the individual can touch or measure, such as losing a spouse through death, while other types of loss are abstract, and relate to aspects of a person’s social interactions.”

Severe grief can force a human being towards abusing substances and fuel addiction. On the other hand, due to addiction, we sometimes lose a loved one, which causes more grief.

What are the reasons for Grief

Multiple reasons make people grieve. Some of the reasons may include:

  • Demise of a close friend, or family.
  • Personal injury or illness
  • Divorce
  • Loss or change of job
  • Financial problems
  • Legal issues
  • Sexual disabilities
  • Major life changes like a job transfer, or job shifting, etc.
  • Pre-existing bad habits like gambling
  • Drinking and smoking

Now, how can you recognize that a person is in severe grief? There are a few expressions that you can notice.

What are the expressions of Grief

These are some of the common but significant expressions of grief you can notice in a person:

  • Keeping silence for a long time
  • Getting depressed frequently or being sad
  • Anger outbursts
  • Crying
  • Avoidance
  • self-harm
  • Insomnia
  • Discussing loss
  • Maintaining a diary about the loss
  • Listening to sad music
  • Overeating than usual
  • Getting confused in simple things
  • Always seems distracted
  • Getting confused most of the time
  • Working for long hours without resting
  • Feeling guilty of simple issues
  • Neglecting others
  • Suicidal tendency

What are the stages of Grief that can trigger addiction

Losing your close one whom you love is one of the most devastating incidents that you can experience in life. The pain of losing someone can lead to psychological issues like stress and depression. As a result, you might develop substance use disorders to bear grief.

It is quite normal that people who lose their family member or a close friend may encounter a range of emotions. Those emotions may fluctuate and in response, that person may begin to drink or do drugs to get relief from the pain.

People with a previous history of substance abuse carries a greater risk. Slowly, those people may use more and more drugs and alcohol to calm their emotions. That is how binge drinking and heavier periods of episodic drinking becomes a habit.

Due to grief, people may start taking drugs in a small amount initially. But soon, they become restless and need more heavy dosages to calm their emotions. This drinking and drug habit may then develop into a full-on addiction. Full-on alcohol addiction is popular as alcoholism.

People use substances like alcohol and drugs when nothing can lower the pain. Alcohol and drugs may seem like an easy cure to suppress Grief and other emotional difficulties. But it is ultimately preparing the path of self-destruction. Abusing alcohol and drugs only make your life miserable and invites more negative emotions.

A grieving person may feel all the emotions and go through some stages to control the mental pain with grieving. A study published in 2007 revealed that most people show some common symptoms grief and reach a particular level of acceptance soon after the death of their close one.

If we look closely on the records, America loses 115 people to drugs like Heroin, Oxycodone, and Methadone. In 2016, 17,087 people died due to opioid addiction.

So, if you have any family members or friends who have lost someone and going towards addiction, you can notice different stages of grief in them.

If grief doesn’t leave you easily, or if you find that you are constantly leaning towards the dark world of the addictive substance, it’s time for you to wake up! There are plenty of health professionals who can help you with compassion to deal with grief, addiction, or both.

The popular treatment options you can consider:

  1. a) Antidepressants
  2. b) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  3. c) Nutritional programs
  4. d) Grief counseling
  5. e) Medically supervised detox and rehab
  6. f) Complicated grief therapy

Carrying the emotional trauma of a loved one might be a difficult battle to win. But you should know that enough support is available in the market. You just have to trust yourself and try to fight against the situation with confidence.


Ralph Macey

Ralph Macey is associated with the SavantCare which is a mental health clinic, where his job is to look after those people who are suffering from chronic mental disorders. His motto is to focus on the integrated interventions to improve mental health conditions and the other alternative approaches to healing.

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