Dealing with Grief as a Recovering Addict During the Holidays

Hopexchange is pleased to welcome guest blogger Kailey Fitzgerald. Kailey is a young writer in the recovery community. She has found peace through recovering from substance abuse and trauma. Her life’s passion is to help others do the same.


Christmas was always something I looked forward to. Spending time with my family and getting to see everyone happy and in one place meant everything to me. The Christmas gathering after my grandfather’s passing was a strange, painful, and emotionally numbing experience. Christmas went from one of my favorite times of the year to a day that I dreaded. I explained to my sponsor how I was feeling and she explained to me that being sad and even feeling numb is normal, it is a part of the grieving process. From that moment on, I realized that it was okay to accept my feelings and recognize them as valid.

My realization led me to another; I realized that my grandfather would want us to enjoy Christmas, make new memories, and reminisce on the good times when we began to miss him. But, doing this is easier said than done. My grief still creeps up, so for the times that it does I have developed an array of tools to comfort myself.

Talk to someone you trust when you are struggling.

When you are in recovery, it is vital to remain open and honest about your feelings so they do not cause you to spiral towards a relapse. The reason most addicts use is to cover up any uncomfortable emotions or unwanted memories. In recovery, you learn to reach out to others foremotional support and guidance.

If you are at a holiday dinner and you begin to feel upset, make sure not to ignore your feelings or attempt to stuff them. This will put a stop to your grieving process, making it harder for you to cope in the long run. Reach out to a loved one or sober support and express your feelings. No one will mind, in fact, they may be feeling the same way as you.

Take time out for yourself.

One of the best ways to calm your nerves and clear your head during the holiday season is to make sure that you plan self-care activities. The holidays can get busy and hectic, so scheduling self-care activities that don’t take much time would be perfect. For example, taking a hot bath and using essential oils or bath bombs could give you the time and space you need to clear your head.

Plan ahead for instances where you may feel overwhelmed.

Trying to have fun and cheery holiday celebrations while dealing with the grief of a loved one passing away can be difficult. It is inevitable that at some point you will feel sad, angry or overwhelmed about your loved one’s absence. Being prepared for these emotions will help you deal with them promptly, rather than allowing them to fester and ruin your whole day. You never know what could trigger you to remember your loved one, causing you to become sad and reminiscent. These memories can become overwhelming, so knowing how to deal with them in a healthy manner is a must.

In order to prepare, think about what you may say in order to excuse yourself from the table if things become too much. You will also want to plan where you will go to calm yourself down andwho you may seek advice or comfort from. Putting these plans in place is like investing in an emotional safety-net. If you stick to the plan, you will still feel your emotions but in a healthy manner, rather than allowing your feelings to encompass your whole mind.

Talk about your loved one and reminisce about the good times.

Sometimes it can feel wrong or awkward to bring up a loved one after they have passed away. However, it is actually healthy to have conversations about them in order to accept the fact that they are gone. Reminding yourself that they lived a happy and full life can also be extremely helpful when you begin to feel upset.

When you talk about your loved one to your other family members and friends, be sure to mention the good times in order to avoid triggering others. Reminisce about the good times. For example, tell a story about something funny that they used to do or even reflect on how they used to celebrate the holidays. If everyone present is comfortable, do something in their honor during your holiday celebration. This can help grant yourself and others closure in regards to your loved one’s passing.

Remember that it is okay to NOT be okay.

Everyone has a different grieving process and each person will heal in a different frame of time. If you notice that your other family members seem to be doing better than you, do not beat yourself up. They could be just as hurt as you are and just handle their emotions in a different manner. It is perfectly normal to feel any of the emotions you may be feeling, grief has a way of bringing up unexpected feelings. Being angry, sad, disappointed, resentful, or even numb is common among people going through the grieving process.

Remember that just because the holidays are meant to be “cheery and light”, that does not give you the obligation to pretend to be okay. It is important to feel your feelings and allow them to run their course. If you don’t allow yourself to feel your emotions, you could end up accidentally lashing out or snapping on someone you love. Plus, your loved ones will not fault you for being upset or needing support. Make your feelings a priority and you will be able to have a successfulholiday.