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Overwhelming Grief From Loss Of Child Can Cause Substance Abuse

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

When a child is born the lives of parents are changed forever. Their lives become centered around the safety, happiness and success of this new person. Plans are made for their future, and days are spent thinking about soccer practice carpools, piano recitals and college tuition payments.

But what happens when that future tragically disappears? Experts from Brookhaven Retreat, a multidisciplinary treatment facility that helps women overcome emotional trauma and addiction challenges, say that the death of a child is one of the darkest and most traumatic losses imaginable and can lead to substance abuse, particularly in women.

Grief, regardless of how it manifests itself, is a unique personal experience for everyone. Grieving over the loss of a loved one, especially a child, is a normal response. However, there are times when that grief causes a person to become physically or emotionally ill to the extent they are simply unable to cope with their pain, complete the simplest of tasks or heal in a healthy way.

"People experience a wide range of emotions after the loss of a child such as guilt, disbelief, or anger, which can manifest into the inability to eat or sleep," said Jacqueline Dawes, owner and founder of Brookhaven Retreat. "In women, these feelings can be so overwhelming they feel the need to turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain."

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Dawes founded Brookhaven Retreat after the sad loss of her 18-year-old daughter. Having struggled with the resulting grief and a subsequent divorce from her husband of 25 years, Dawes relocated to east Tennessee with her son. After fully recovering from the emotional breakage she had suffered, Dawes decided to set up a recovery center for other women who have numbed themselves emotionally to simply endure their deep-rooted pain.

Brookhaven Retreat specializes in individual treatment that links women with the appropriate support and healing needed to begin recovery. In treating women who have suffered the loss of a child, Brookhaven has found spiritual counseling to be particularly effective. It is not religious counseling, but has to do with the heart and spirit. This often neglected aspect of a healthy and balanced life is revealed, restored and respected at Brookhaven.

"After the loss of my daughter, I knew I had to create a place to help other strong young women cope with the challenges that they face in life," said Dawes. "Women with undiagnosed and untreated mental health needs are very vulnerable to prescription, drug and alcohol dependency."

Everyone grieves differently, and it is ok to feel the natural emotions that result from a traumatic loss. These emotions become dangerous, however, when they are ignored they can become debilitating. At this point, treatment should be sought.

"The important thing for a mother to remember is that her life will go on," said Dawes. "I learned to live in a way that focuses on celebrating the life of my daughter, not mourning her death."



My child loss issue isn't through death but through parental aleination syndrom. The Stepmother and my daughters father have poisoned my nine year old against me to the point that they had her call me and tell me she doesn't love me anymore and doesn't want me in her life. I have never done anything to hurt her and have only just recently because of going to court spent some "good times" with her but only from march through June until they cut me off again. Before this it had been 2 years since I had seen her. They had her telling outright lies to me about our time together and she was yelling the whole time. When I asked her why she was doing this, she said because I involved the courts. I explained to her if I hadn't then I never would have seen her. She said she didn't want to see me anyway and to stop seding her things through the mail...presents and cards. She broke my heart that night but I know that it's her father programming her what to say. Sad part is that the two of them have been working on her to the point that she truly believes what she is saying. Her father is really a sick person for doing this and I am worried about what the future holds for my daughters emotional health. I have struggled with this issue for 5 years and feel that if this is what she feels she wants then sadly I must release her. I have gone through intense pain dealing with this situation and just don't know what else to do. They say If you love something set it free and if it comes back to you it iis yours....if it doesn't it never was. Her father thinks she is his posession and is to be used to hurt me with. No good can come of it for him. What you sow you shall reap. For now I am reaping the tears of the loss but I need to go on.
Please see my website and read about The Prayer Registry. This free website service is dedicated to all of the families who have lost children, whatever age that child was when they passed. This site registers the anniversary day of our children's crossing. The members of this online community,the Prayer Team, have the opportunity to honor their child's legacy, connect with other bereaved parents, and participate in world-wide group prayer for every registered loved one on the anniversary day of their passing. There is no charge for this service; it is my sincere hope that every bereaved parent who registers a child will join the Prayer Team and be a source of prayer for all of the children on the other side. Each time another child is registered, the Prayer Team grows larger and stronger. Please email Sheri at [email protected] to register your loved one on The Prayer Registry. By registering, you will have a forum to connect to other bereaved parents and you will be able to upload comments, photographs, biographies, or any other information you want to share about your child with our community of bereaved parents. Once registered, you will be a member of the Prayer Team and will receive Prayer Registry reminders one day before the anniversary day of one of our kids. Please feel free to email any questions, concerns or feelings that you would like to share. My door is always open. I hope that this site provides some small measure of balm for the wounds of loss. From one bereaved parent to another, I welcome you to my site and offer my support. This is one club that none of us would join by choice, but since we find ourselves in this unthinkable place, we stand stronger when we stand side by side.