Death, Grief, and Seeking Comfort in Alcohol

Guy struggling with Suicide and substance abuse

Death and grief are extremely painful parts of life. Whether we are coming to terms with our own terminal illness or we have lost a loved one, the emotions that can come from this can be extremely difficult to process.

Grieving is basically an umbrella term for the range of emotions that are common when dealing with loss. People who are grieving may feel shocked, sad, or angry until reaching acceptance. This is why grief sometimes can feel like being on an emotional roller coaster.

Depending on the severity of the loss, this process can take a significant amount of time. If grief is not worked through, it can turn into unresolved grief. This means that the grieving process and emotional suffering doesn’t get worked through or may turn into depression.

This type of grief can turn into depression and place someone at higher risk of becoming dependent on alcohol [1]. Alcohol may be an attempt to deal with or numb out painful emotions. Unfortunately, no amount of alcohol will fix emotional pain. It will just temporarily numb it.

Grief, Alcohol, and Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Woman struggling with griefThis can create a cycle of needing to drink to avoid the pain. This dependence can turn into an addiction as all addictions have an emotional component [2]. Instead of relying on alcohol to deal with grief, here are some other suggestions:

Therapy: Getting help from a mental health professional during the grief process can be helpful for a few reasons. Whether you see a therapist individually or go to group therapy, it can help to have support from a non-judgmental listener.

This type of support can help someone navigate the emotional ups and downs of the grief process. A therapist can also monitor your emotional state. This type of accountability can help if someone’s grief turns into depression or leads to addiction.

Emotional expression: Being able to get your feelings out can be really helpful. Whether this is through journaling, making music, or creating an art piece expressing your emotions can help prevent them from being suppressed.

Learn about grief: Learning about the stages of grief can help you navigate the grief process and not become so overwhelmed by it. It can help to know what is going on or what type of reaction you can anticipate as the grieving process goes on. It can also help to identify if grief has turned into depression, which is a sign that you need more support.

No matter what, grief is a difficult process and can look different for everyone. Having support and taking care of yourself during this process can help prevent someone from developing unhealthy coping skills, like alcohol dependence.


[1] Pathways home and hospice. (n.d) Alcohol use during grief: How it affects the healing process.

[2] Maté, G. (2010) In the realm of hungry ghosts. North Atlantic Books.

About the Author:

Samantha Bothwell PhotoSamantha Bothwell, LMFT, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, writer, explorer, and lipstick aficionado. She became a therapist after doing her own healing work so she could become whole after spending many years living with her mind and body disconnected. She has focused her clinical work to support the healing process of survivors of sexual violence and eating disorders. She is passionate about guiding people in their return to their truest Self so they can live their most authentic, peaceful life.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on November 30, 2020
Reviewed by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on November 30, 2020
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Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.