Grieving Someone in Active Addiction

“She’s still alive. I mean thank God for that. But I still feel like I’ve lost her, and no one understands my grief.” Several years ago, a therapy client came to me with this about her adult daughter.

                If you have ever had a friend or loved one in the throes of addiction, the above quote probably resonates with you. You feel bereft and sad, missing the person you once knew and fearful they may never return. Make no mistake about it; you are grieving.

                Addiction takes our loved ones from us.

                The grief of addiction is a complicated one. When a loved one is lost in addiction, we grieve, while simultaneously hoping they will recover, come back to us, return to their sober state. We also simultaneously fear that they will be gone forever; one overdose, one accident, irreversible bodily damage. This is not a “clean” grief. Our loved one still exists, and the experience of grieving for a living person can feel confusing and alienating.

                We don’t wish them to be dead, but when someone dies, it’s final. There is an end point, and grieving commences based on that finality.

                When a loved one is gone in addiction, your every day is a mix of grief, hope and fear. For some, this complex state of emotions continues for years.

                Grief is never linear, but this sort of grief is particularly convoluted.

                No one is showing up with casseroles or sending flowers to acknowledge your pain.

                I wish I had a solution or some steps you could take to ease the pain of this particular grief. I don’t. But I think that recognizing your loved one’s “disappearance” to addiction as something to be grieved can help. For the same reasons, this is a really good time to talk with a grief counselor or therapist or join a support group like Nar-Anon or Al-Anon.

                If you feel the need to be better understood by people close to you, share this post with them so they can get a glimpse of what you are experiencing. Sometimes having someone who “gets it” is the best comfort there is.

Published by Angela Dora Dobrzynski

My name is Angela Dora Dobrzynski. I'm a professional counselor, and am passionate for all things personal development and human behavior. I specialize in grief and life transitions, with a special interest in health and stress psychology, emotional resilience and utilizing strengths as the basis of personal development. I am a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) in the state of Pennsylvania. I have a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from Rosemont College and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Stockton University. Additionally, I hold a certificate in Holistic Health Coaching from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and was granted a certificate in NonProfit Leadership From Arcadia University’s School of Continuing Education as well as a certificate in Nonprofit Executive Leadership from Bryn Mawr School of Social Work. My professional experience includes work in the hospice of a major local healthcare system, Women's Resource Center, The Renfrew Center, Manor College and Children’s Crisis Treatment Center. I am a member of Psi Chi, the International Honor Society in Psychology. In my personal life I spend time kayaking, writing, gardening and connecting with my loved ones.

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