by Kevie Simon on Wednesday, May 4th, 2016
>When someone says the word “grief” I suspect most of us think of a time when we have lost someone. Our minds automatically assume that grieving involves the death of a loved one. But in reality, grieving is much more than that. Grief defined by dictionary.com is “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss; sharp sorrow; painful regret.” Grieving involves so much more than physical death: it can occur over the ending of a relationship, the loss of a dream, the realization of the consequences of our actions, etc. When you are an addict or a partner of an addict, a major part of the process of recovery involves grieving.
For someone who is an addict, the process of grief begins by accepting the reality of what the addiction destroyed in their life. While you are acting out, the life you dreamed of living is a fantasy. Your actions, or non-actions, have caused great strife in your life and the lives of those closest to you. There will be guilt and shame that will enter into your process of grieving. When you further step into recovery, you begin to discover aspects of your past that have prevented you from connecting closely to others, giving way to your addiction. Grieving these events and their loss is essential to moving past them. This process is not easy, and initially involves stepping into pain before relieving it. Emotions cannot be resolved by avoiding them; you must walk through them in order to move past them.
If you are a partner of an addict, grieving will be a part of your recovery journey as well. Grieving for you will begin by realizing just how broken your relationship with your partner is and has been. You takeoff the blindfold of denial and realize this is not the relationship of which you dreamed. Stepping into this grief will bring to the surface a plethora of emotions: rage, sadness, jealousy, suspicion, shame, guilt, etc. These emotions are not ones to run from, but to lean into. Only through acknowledging and experiencing emotion can we ever move forward, resolving them. When I begin my personal grieving process as a partner, I just wanted to feel better. I wanted to be rid of all of the painful emotions that were plaguing my every day life. I learned quickly that recovery required me to step deeper into these emotions, to understand what they were trying to tell me. I found that the painful emotions became stronger at first, but they lost their power and strength after I had taken the time and effort to process them.
If you are the family member of either an addict or a partner, you have a grieving process too! There is a sadness for your loved one that is in this situation that needs to be acknowledged and experienced. You may have been lied to, stolen from, or just left out of the reality of what was going on in your family member’s life. When you step in to help them, it is messy and hard to know what is the right thing to do. There may be days when you want to yell, cry, give up, and the like. Your process is not to be overlooked. In the midst of helping your loved one, find a place where you are safe to walk through your grieving process as well. Don’t forget that in order to help those we love, we must have our outlets to remain healthy.
In my journey of grieving, there were many well-meaning people along the way who made statements that really hurt. I would hear things like, “It was meant to be” or “Good thing you found out about these things now” or “You will find someone better.” Although these statements were meant to be encouraging, they hurt me deeply. If you are trying to help someone who is entering grief, understand that your presence is the most important thing you can offer. You don’t need to make it better. The best thing you can do is meet them in their sadness and just be there. Be a shoulder to cry on, or cry right alongside them. If you are the one grieving today, realize that this is a process that will take time. No saying or verse or quote will take away your pain. Through time, hard work, and close relationships, this grief will begin to lift.
Beginning the process of grieving is difficult no matter who you are. Grieving requires you to step out of denial and into the reality of your situation. You must lean into your shame and regret in order to accept the consequences of what you have done, or have failed to do. Grieving is painful, but it does not last forever. Accepting the reality of brokenness is the first step in the many steps that lead to true, lifelong recovery. I hope you learn from this blog that grief is necessary, but it is not the only part of recovery. Out of the grief comes joy and hope that you have the ability to change your actions and life’s circumstances. In order to get to this place, we all must first enter into the darkest part of ourselves. If your experience in recovery is anything like mine, you will want to race through grief as fast as possible so that you get to the time when you feel good again. I say this not to scare you, but to encourage you not to race forward. This road is a precious journey that you will be thankful for, and if you give yourself permission to imperfectly walk down the road of grieving, your life will change for the better.