August 21, 2022

Special Guest Blog - "Dealing with Other People’s Normal Celebrations and Milestones When You Are Grieving Loss Due to SUD"
by Bill Guy

Almost six years ago, after losing our sweet Chris at age 34 to an overdose of heroin and
fentanyl, following some 20 years of struggles and chaos associated with his substance use, I was in deep grief for several months. Over time, I came to understand that dealing with his death was not something I would ever put down as in acquiring a definite finality.

I believe that the measure of grief we carry for those whom we love and then lose is in proportion to the abundant love we shared with them while they were alive. If grief is the price for having such love, then I would not trade one for the other.

As time passes, I have found that my grief is somewhat comparable to the physical pain of a chronic lower back condition I have had for years. It only manifests itself sporadically, but when it does, it can be debilitating for a short while. I have learned to accept its painful presence when it does, put into practice things I have learned will mitigate its severity, and endure the temporary discomfort that I know will get easier until the next time.

Holidays or special occasions can be similar triggers for emotional pain or distress related to Chris’ physical absence, and I have learned that I can manage that discomfort in similar ways. First, I realize that it is what it is. It’s natural for things like birthdays, anniversaries, Mothers/Fathers days, Christmas, or other religious or familial observances to evoke sweet memories from the past, while also reminding me of his absence. I know that such occasions may be tinged with the bitter as well as the sweet, so I adjust my expectations so as to plan to be satisfied with what does occur. Sometimes, I’m pleasantly surprised.

Though many things can be similar for all who grieve, we can find unique ways of coping that fit our individual temperaments and circumstances. For some, being with close family or friends and having a celebration of life related to the specific event can be meaningful. Bake a cake we know our loved one would like, buy the lost one a gift, and then give it to someone else in their honor. Share funny or poignant stories. Get out old photos or school memorabilia. Sure, there may be tears as well as smiles, but I have come to recognize that tears are sourced from the abundant love we shared that just sometimes overflows and seeps out. They can be tender and not tormented.

For others, it could be good to plan something completely distracting, like binging on movies or taking a trip, even if it’s spending a night in a nearby hotel in an area with shopping venues, good restaurants, and tourist attractions. Perhaps an exciting sporting event or even an extended trip with new vistas and venues could be helpful.

For me, when I find myself dipping into the doldrums, I look for some way or someone for whom I can be of service, especially if it involves something about which Chris was passionate.

He loved all creatures great and small, so volunteering at an animal shelter is a natural option for me.

My desire to wrest purpose from his passing is what motivated me to become a certified BALM family recovery coach. It honors his struggle and memory for me to help others still panicked by their loved one’s peril.

As I try to imagine what Chris would want for me, it results in different things at different times, but this I know. He would be pleased to know that I’m well and enjoying life, and that I’m trying to do good in his memory when and wherever I can. It would please him to know that I’m taking care of myself, inspired by the brilliant but much too brief span of his. He would be proud that I’m trying to find purpose from the pain of his passing.

To learn more about the BALM Family Recovery One Year Program, visit the program page or Call Karen at 1-888-998-2256 Ext 5

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