Nothing prepares you for the loss of another human soul. In the field of drug and alcohol counseling, it’s a constant rotating door – some are capable of saving themselves while others are devoured by the disease. There is always going to be loss in life, whether it’s a loved one, an acquaintance or a client. Drug and alcohol addiction is insidious and as a counselor, I look beyond a basic diagnosis and see the human being underneath. Knowing that death will always be a bottom for those suffering from addiction doesn’t ease the blow when you get the news – death still leaves you breathless.
I recently experienced the loss of a client. No amount of training or work in the field could have emotionally and mentally prepared me for this experience. I’ve always known that addiction will take many lives – some never find freedom. Despite that awareness, dealing with my first encounter with the death of a client knocked me down, left my stomach in knots, nauseous and even light headed. It doesn’t matter how long your relationship with another person lasted – when two people interact, regardless of the length of time, it changes you.
I don’t believe there’s a specific way to mourn the loss of another human being. Death still leaves a crack in your heart. This is my first time grieving the loss of a client, and in addition to that, I’m not even sure I know how I feel. I left work yesterday and collapsed on my bed. My body ached as I cried. Then, I slept. After I woke up, I cried some more. Maybe it’s the sadness that addiction took a life – someone with a pure heart and a sweet smile was lost at sea. Or perhaps it’s the self-doubt that drops a quick stab of fear. The route of the sadness doesn’t matter: it’s there regardless. I also know this won’t be the last time I encounter this reality. Maybe that’s the source of sadness. It could be a combination of everything. The human life is so fragile.
So what do you do, when you’re grieving a loss? I’m not sure, entirely. Self-care and paying tribute to the emotions that surface is a start. Never giving up on another person is another step. Taking it one day, one tear drop at a time is another, as is honoring recovery.