What is Grief Gambling?
Grief gambling is a compulsive and addictive form of gambling. It usually occurs among people, especially the elderly, who have had a lot of losses and who haven't learned healthy ways of dealing with their grief.
Rather than dealing with their feelings about their losses, people who engage in grief gambling use it as an escape to avoid emotions that are uncomfortable for them. Generally speaking, they don't go through the usual mourning process because they avoid feelings that are uncomfortable for them. Grief gambling can occur at any age, but it often occurs among the elderly because they've sustained the losses of so many people in their lives.
Unlike excessive drinking or drug abuse, where there are usually signs of impairment, grief gambling is easier to hide. People who engage in grief gambling can sit in front of their computers and gamble away thousands of dollars or, as in the case of Ms. O'Connor, more than a billion dollars, in less time than most people would imagine. They can maintain their secret life of gambling for a while--until, inevitably, they must face the consequences of their losses because these games are always stacked in favor of "the house" and the odds are against the person gambling.
|Overcoming Grief Gambling|
While it's true that people who engage in irresponsible or illegal activities must face the consequences of their behavior, I believe that, rather than judging people who are caught in the grip of addictive behavior, we need to have compassion for them. While it might be hard to understand how someone could get him or herself into a predicament where s/he gamble away a child's college fund or the family's life savings, it's important to not to be judgmental.
What Are the Consequences of Grief Gambling?
Getting Help: Psychotherapy to Deal with Grief
As I've mentioned in other blog posts, we're hard wired for attachment, not loss. Needless to say, losing someone you love or, worse still, multiple losses of loved ones, is very difficult. It's understandable that no one would want to go through the mourning process if he or she had a choice. But, unfortunately, loss is part of life, whether we like it or not or whether we feel we're ready to deal with it or not.
Aside from being at risk for addictive behavior, unresolved bereavement can put you at risk for other psychological problems, like depression or an anxiety disorder. Unresolved bereavement can also compromise your immune system, putting you at risk for medical problems.
When you work with a skilled psychotherapist, who has experience helping clients through their grief, you learn to mourn the loss of your loved one so that you can begin the healing process and you no longer feel overwhelmed by your grief. You'll learn to develop healthy coping skills, rather than turning to grief gambling or other unhealthy activities.
Mourning is a process, and the process is different for each person. In a society that tends not to discourage dealing with uncomfortable feelings, well-meaning people will often tell you to "just get over it." But no one can tell you how long it should take you to mourn your loss. With the help of a skilled therapist with whom you feel a rapport, you can get through this difficult time with the emotional support and new coping skills you'll learn in therapy.
Getting Help: Gamblers Anonymous http://gamblersanonymous.org
For people with gambling problems, I often recommend that they attend the 12 Step program, Gamblers Anonymous. At Gamblers Anonymous, people usually find supportive group members, many of them who have been successful at abstaining from gambling for many years. Other group members are at various stages in their recovery. The link to the G.A. website provides a list of meetings all over the U.S.
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist.
I work with individual adults and couples. I have helped many clients to heal from bereavement issues. I also have an expertise in working with addictions.
To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist
To set up a consultation, call me at (212) 726-1006.