I’ve lost in my lifetime. Whether it is a human or animal life, or a dream, I know the pain that overwhelms you in the moment and invades your joy periodically for months or years to come. It is the grief we all experience. There are internal emotions that arise due to loss. We manage it by remembering our cherished moments, allowing ourselves to experience the feelings and hold those memories a while longer.
I know anticipatory grief- the insight to understanding it is the beginning of the end. The suffering in silence and less vocal tension about what is to come. We are not grieving the loss and love that was, but the life we know is living toward the end. Comforted by holding a hand bedside or listening to stories of long ago, we still feel an emotional loss. Anticipatory grief has a process all its own. Like every other grief, it takes time. We think of death before it happens. Often, we regret those thoughts and feel shame. There is no need because it is a natural response to knowing what is to come.
We cycle through denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance in grief. This can include anticipatory grief.
Then, we have living grief. It is the awkward space of anticipatory grief (when you know the end is near) and longing for life to return. Here we meet our darkest thoughts and our deepest hope, and it is in the black undercurrent of life they collide.
Living grief has no specific known outcome, and they may live or die. Running through your day like a bad soap opera are the realms of shame and guilt. All while convincing yourself to not feel shame or guilt. You find yourself marking mental tombstones with words like- success, boundaries, joy, peace, calm, and care. Every decision you made was guided by the disrespect, manipulation, deceit, and abandonment you faced from a loved one. Yet, you feel like the villain in your victimization of you.
Living grief cycles through anger. There are even moments of blind rage. You scream words of truth and feel the razor edge of pain deep in your heart. Your anguish opens the door to denial, a place many parents stay. However, this denial may be of their addiction or the self-induced possibility of their death. Fear will carry you back and forth between these two realities. Make no mistake, living grief is a place between two dimensions.
As we bargain with our loved ones to choose this and do that, we face the inevitable wall of addiction. You speak to deaf ears, no longer able to penetrate their heart. Every move their mind makes revolves around their substance of choice- not themselves, you, their husband, children, or other family members. We watch everything they worked for fade into the dark abyss. We experience their loss of family, homes, cars, and even the care that could help, as more grief in our lives. As they let it all go, we know we are part of the floating debris of their life.
The days are shadowed with inescapable thoughts. The nights keep us awake with terror. The trauma begins to maneuver itself into a place of stay. One blink and we are in despair. We live in depression, and it kills our motivation and drive. While they are getting high, we fall lower and lower into the pit Satan digs. We doubt every decision we make, fear every word as ‘their’ trigger, and take everything said and done personally.
Differences with Living Grief
Here is where the similarities end. Most people grieving will begin to find a way forward at this point. You will seek counseling, medication, and support and slowly pick yourself up. You will never be the same. You slowly heal and embrace the new life you built without your loved one. And we do this in living grief, as well. However, we will cycle back through time and again. Why? Because addiction is active loss. It is a loss that never ends until it does. You can’t correctly grieve something that still lives.
The future may hold recovery, jail, prison, or death. When we never know when or how we cannot plan. The heart of a parent living in this grief lives in a state of constant upheaval. The rise and fall of hope eventually lead to numbness. Our addicted loved one knows numbness well; we will, too, through their lives.
For parents who live outside of substance use, we have no life raft of drugs to get us through the hard times. We have our faith, which can be hard to press into when you feel this shame. We have prayer that may include three words, “I still believe.” We have support networks of strangers. Those who know our story tire of the reruns. Those living the same story can understand and empathize.
Parents of children in addiction are tough while feeling weak. They forge ahead while being held back by a tragedy they can’t control. Grieving their former life and their former child, they hide from people who knew both. There is mourning of happy holidays and family events, and there is fear of special days in living grief because they are usually ruined.
Living grief experiences cycles that never conclude. As long as addiction controls their loved ones, they will live in this tunnel of despair.
If you are hurting through family addiction, I encourage you to reach out. Follow our Facebook page, and check back often for updates.
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