Dedicated to Understanding Grief

Howard Lunche, MSW, LCSW


Alcohol and drugs deserve special mention as risk factors during bereavement. Easy availability, common usage, and potential for temporary relief of emotional pain make alcohol and drugs tempting. Though they may provide relief in the moment, they undermine a healthy progression and outcome of grieving and mourning.

Generally, the use of alcohol and drugs to treat grief will prolong grieving. There is the added risk of developing or activating an addiction with all of the associated problems. Grieving can be extended for years or indefinitely as a result of using alcohol and drugs to treat grief.

For those who are in recovery, bereavement is a time to increase the use of your recovery support resources, and to add some kind of bereavement support. This may mean more 12-step meetings and contact with your sponsor, a grief support group, or individual grief support.

If you have not had addiction problems, and are using alcohol and drugs to treat your grief, it is time for extra precaution. The death of someone significant to you is a stressor of the highest degree. Limiting your alcohol and drug use, and instituting a routine of regular grief support and mourning is strongly advised.

Prescription medication can be problematic too. Work closely with your prescribing psychiatrist or physician, and a professional grief specialist to monitor and evaluate the benefit or detriment of any medication you are taking to address the emotional pain and disruption of grief. Antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and sleep medications can be helpful, and even necessary. They can also have annoying and harmful side-effects. Appropriately prescribed medication can help you manage the emotional overwhelm caused by serious loss and severe grief. When necessary, it should be used to assist you in the grieving and mourning processes, not as a substitute. Grief is not depression, and the primary prescription for grief is mourning.

Read more about Complications on the following pages.

Complications to Grief | Alcohol & Drugs | Conflicted Relationships | Multiple Losses | Risk of Harm | Stigmas and Traumas | More Reading