Substance Abuse and Addiction Driven by Grief

If you are struggling with suicidal feelings, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at

800-273-TALK (800-273-8255) to reach a trained counselor.

Many people experience normal grief when losing a loved one. They can experience a period of sadness, numbness, guilt, and anger. Although these feelings can be overwhelming, they gradually lessen making it possible to accept the loss and move forward. Some people affected by the loss of a loved one encounter feelings of grief that are debilitating and do not improve with time. That can cause a person to reach for drugs or alcohol as a way to cope.

Complicated grief

This is known as complicated grief and is sometimes referred to as persistent complex bereavement disorder. According to the Mayo Clinic, “In complicated grief, painful emotions are so long lasting and severe that you have trouble recovering from the loss and resuming your own life.” Complicated grief keeps you in a constant, heightened state of mourning and makes healing difficult.

Complicated grief affects all aspects of a person’s life. Even though complicated grief is not recognized as a mental health disorder, some people meet the criteria for major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and general anxiety disorder. Mental health disorders often co-occur with substance abuse and addiction. This happens when a person turns to drugs or alcohol as a way to cope with the symptoms of the mental health condition.

Four-step grieving process

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, every person who experiences a death or loss must complete a four-step grieving process:

  1. Accept the loss
  2. Work through and feel the physical and emotional pain of grief
  3. Adjust to living in a world without the person or item lost
  4. Move on with life. The grieving process is over only when a person completes the four steps

“Bereaved individuals who have experienced an unexpected or violent death of a loved one may be at greater risk for suffering from major depression, PTSD, or complicated grief,” according to an article by Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD for MedicineNet. People who suffer from mental health disorders may turn to substances as a way to cope with a loss. Using drugs or alcohol to cope can develop into substance abuse disorder or addiction.

Treatment for addiction and mental health

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health condition and a substance use disorder or addiction, get help now. Mental health and substance use disorders often co-occur and need to be treated simultaneously as a dual diagnosis for the best outcome in recovery. Get help today and take the first step toward restored health, a renewed spirit, and a fulfilling and enjoyable sober lifestyle.


Daylight Recovery Services takes a holistic approach to substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to address the physical, psychological, and spiritual facets of addiction and recovery. We ensure clients emerge from our facility with the proper tools and confidence in their ability to lead a healthy, enjoyable life. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact one of our recovery experts today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.