How Does Untreated Grief and Loss Impact Mental Health?
Many events may trigger grief. People often associate grief with the death of a loved one. However, grief occurs whenever something important is lost. Divorce, the loss of a job, or having to give up a life-long dream can affect people dramatically. Even smaller events trigger less intense feelings of grief. Grief is a healthy part of coping with any form of loss. Most people move through the grieving process and achieve a resolution naturally.
Unaddressed grief affects mental health by doing the following:
- Increasing stress levels and worsening mental health symptoms
- Reducing feelings of safety
- Increasing self-isolating behaviors and feelings of loneliness
- Causing emotional destabilization
In some cases, the grieving process is interrupted. Sometimes, people cannot grieve due to family, personal, or professional demands. For example, someone dealing with the loss of a parent may be forced to focus more on practical matters, such as arranging care for the other parent or wrapping up other end-of-life issues. Grieving gets put on the back burner while more immediate needs are met.
Grief Affects Physical Health
People going through a loss often experience psychosomatic symptoms of their grief. Studies have shown that “Reactions to loss are called grief reactions and vary from person to person and within the same person over time. Grief reactions lead to complex somatic and psychological symptoms.” Therapy and other forms of psychological support reduce the symptoms of acute or complicated grief.
Some common somatic and psychological effects of grief include:
- Tightness, discomfort, or pain in the chest
- Difficulty taking full breathes
- Nausea, vomiting, or other forms of abdominal distress
- Unusual exhaustion or lethargy
- Muscle weakness
- Numbness or tingling of extremities
Physical reactions to loss vary significantly depending on whether a person has effective coping skills or not. Some people experience profound physical reactions to grief, while others may notice only mild discomfort. Every person reacts differently to loss and emotional distress. The care team at Avery Lane uses trauma-informed care and therapy to help clients come to terms with their grief.
Common Forms of Grief and Loss People Struggle to Process
Women recovering from substance misuse have a higher risk of experiencing the loss of friends and loved ones due to the effects of substance misuse.
Some of the most common forms of loss people experience during recovery include:
- Death of loved ones, friends, or acquaintances
- Loss of a job or financial stability
- Divorce or romantic separation from a partner
- Death of a beloved pet
- Experiencing a natural disaster (e.g., losing a home to a tornado)
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Grief is the normal response of sorrow, heartache, and confusion that comes from losing someone or something important to you.” In addition, “Grief can . . . be a common human response after a disaster or other traumatic event.” Women in treatment use therapy and other support services to process grief in a healthy way.
How Avery Lane Helps Women Thrive in Recovery After Loss
There is no right or wrong way to grieve. However, grief may increase the risk of relapse for some people in recovery. Treatment should simultaneously address the impact of loss and symptoms of SUD to reduce the risk of relapse. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), “With time, most people find they are able to come to terms with their loss.”
Avery Lane offers the following treatment services to women in recovery:
- Energy psychology
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and other forms of psychotherapy
- Psychiatric support
- Prescription medications to manage severe symptoms, including anxiety and depression
- Case management
The care team takes into consideration all factors affecting a client’s recovery, including changes in their personal life leading to loss or grief. Clients who have experienced a loss can heal using the evidence-based and alternative therapies provided at Avery Lane.
Moving Forward After Experiencing Grief and Loss
Finding ways to move forward in recovery after experiencing a significant loss is easier with the support of peers and a compassionate care team. Some people need time to mourn what they have lost, while others choose to focus all their energy on recovering from SUD and building a healthier life. The care team works with each person where they are today and ensures all clients have access to the resources and support they need to move forward in their recovery journey.
Grief and loss have a profound effect on a person’s ability to cope with everyday stressors during early recovery. Symptoms of SUD may also increase the impact of loss and cause some people to experience more severe grief. The care team collaborates with clients to create a truly personalized care plan that takes into consideration all factors affecting a person’s ability to heal.
The treatment programs at Avery Lane provide women in recovery with compassion and support during moments of loss. Clinicians guide women through the process of building healthy support systems and coping skills. To learn more about our programs and services, call our office today at (800) 270-2406.