First, there is no right or wrong way to process grieving. Grieving is one of the most personal and painful journeys a person can go through. Sometimes you go through the five stages, the 12 stages or you may create stages that are unique to you. The key for me was to remove the suffering from the pain, understanding that I will always mourn and feel pain from my losses.
What is the difference between pain and suffering?
To me, pain is the emotional feeling of loss. My daughter, mother and sister will always be part of me. They are my family they are part of my life and always will be. Likewise, so is my ex-wife and marriage. My ex-girlfriend, who I loved more than my ex-wife and my daughter expressed that she considered a mother to her. The loss of my family unit both when my parents divorced and my Empty Nest syndrome.
There are many reasons to feel the pain of a loss in your life. Some you may not realize until you experience a traumatic loss event. The ability to look back on those memories or events that were the happy part. How the person or event lived, not how it died, and brings that sense of healthy mourning. Not dwelling, not obsessing and not having a sense guilt with the memory; that is a healthy pain. A natural pain.
Suffering is when I was feeling the guilt and dwelling. For my daughter; why didn’t I force her into treatment or be a better father? The lost time when I practiced “Lovingly Disconnecting” from her, telling her not to contact me until she was serious about getting clean. All the “Should have”, “Could have”, and “What if” questions that bring guilt that could never be changed. Guilt is just trying to go back in time and change reality. Change facts that will never be changed.
Suffering is when my mental obsession with the loss. Using every event or image as a trigger to remember the loss. Not having the desire or ability to heal or go through the healing process because I fear that if I heal, I will forget that person or event. THIS IS NOT TRUE!
We may not strive for full acceptance, but we can find serenity in the journey. Because acceptance is not:
Forgetting or minimizing the person or event
Not allowing ourselves to remember
Not allowing ourselves to feel the loss and pain. It is OK to cry and mourn
So, why the 12 steps? For me, I found that when practicing the program for my recovery from alcoholism; my grieving and suffering also was improving. Talking to others who were grieving. Finding those who could relate to losing a child, not someone who was trying to relate to me by talking about losing an uncle, etc. Sharing our experience, strength and hope.
The first step is the most vital, I came to believe that I was powerless over my grieving and my life had become unmanageable.
What does it mean when say I am powerless over my grieving? I was in such a state of grieving my daughter and girlfriend that I was obsessed and confused. I had a therapist dedicated to each person. I would go back and forth crying and asking why for each one. My grieving took over every aspect of my life. Even if it was in the smallest way. My life was unmanageable because I used every opportunity to talk about my daughter and girlfriend. I would reach out to my ex-girlfriend, knowing she would not respond, expressing my grief and begging for her to talk to me. Every song, TV show, anything became a trigger. I would disassociate at times. Leave the current reality and go into a dream state. Often, this would happen during a conversation and I would communicate what was happening in my dream.
I was allowing the suffering of my ex to not allow me to go through the mourning process for my daughter and vise-versa.
I admitted that this was the current state of my life. That if I continued down this path, I would not only suffer the rest of my life, but that I would drink again as well. I now was in double recovery, for alcoholism and for grieving.
YOU DO NOT NEED TO BE IN RECOVERY FOR ADDICTION OR ANY OTHER AILMENT TO BE IN GA.
However, if you are then this is an especially remarkable journey that takes strength. Congratulations for making it this far! Likewise, if your loss and suffering turned you to addiction, that is a common story as well. The stigma of addiction is being removed every day. Being able to allow yourself to feel the pain of a loss without wanting to relapse is strength in the program and a main goal of GA. There is of course no stigma for grieving. However, those who have not experienced deep loss do not understand the emotional emptiness. We still get the “Walk it off”, “They want you to get on with your life” speech.
We do need help! Yes, therapy and therapists, medication a strong support circle of friends and family. We also need to find a power that is greater than ourselves to help us.
That is the subject of the next post!