Grief and Loss in Addiction and Recovery

Grief and Loss in Addiction and Recovery

(presentation date April 19, 2016)


The culture of addiction is rife with experiences of grief and loss for the person with addiction and for family and friends. Unresolved grief and loss frequently accompany people throughout the process of moving from addiction to recovery, and this process also generates new losses. The nature of these experiences combined with the stigma, shame and general lack of understanding of addiction can make grief and loss associated with addiction exceptionally lonely and difficult to heal from. It is helpful for clinicians to be aware of grief and loss commonly experienced by people with addiction and their families in order to support grief recovery work. This CE program will review theories of grief and grief recovery, describe losses that chemically dependent individuals and their families experience throughout the addiction and recovery processes, and discuss methods that can help individuals cope with and heal from grief and loss. It will include a personal account of addiction-related grief, loss and recovery from a mother who lost her son to addiction-related causes.


The goal of this program is to provide participants with an overview of how grief and loss are experienced and processed by people with alcohol/other drug addiction and their families.


After completing this program the participant will be able to:

  • Describe two or more elements of each of two or more theories of grief/grief recovery.
  • State five or more examples of grief and loss commonly experienced by people with addiction and/or their families.
  • State four or more interventions or actions that recovering individuals and/or families of people with addictions may find helpful for grief recovery.


Janice Firn, LMSW; Clinical Social in the Department of Social Work at the University of Michigan Medical Center; and Barb Smith.

PictureJaniceFirn-210x300Janice Firn is a doctoral student in the Palliative Care Program at Lancaster University in the UK. She earned a Master’s of Social Work from the University of Michigan in 2004 and a Bachelor of Science in Family Community Services from Michigan State University in 2001. She completed her graduate school internship at Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan and worked as an outpatient social worker in Radiation Oncology at the Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit, Michigan for several years before moving to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor to work in the acute care setting with hematology-oncology patients and their families. Currently, she is a Clinical Social Worker on the Adult Palliative Care Consult Team, supporting patient and families with decisions about goals of care and end of life. Her interest areas include human growth and development across the lifespan, continuing education, substance abuse and recovery, end-of-life care issues, and bereavement.

medium_BRENT122707Barb Smith, author of “Brent’s World,” shares her personal experiences with grief, loss and recovery. Learn more about Barb at

Number of CE hours offered

1.5 CEH, approved by MCBAP and NAADAC (specific.) A passing grade of 80% on the final exam is required for CE hours to be awarded.

Course Content