I pedaled home to find her sobbing on her bed. It broke my heart, but knew from experience not to try and “fix” her, but to just acknowledge her pain and let her know it was a good thing. She asked between sobs why it hurt so much after almost 5 years. I said, “You were 16 years old when your Dad died. Do you think a 16 year old could process that much pain? We process grief when we feel safe to do so. You feel safe to feel those feelings now.”
I didn't mention that Father's Day was coming up and reminders of happy families with dads were all over the place. Doubling her pain. Losing a parent for any reason is devastating, but losing one unexpectedly because of an addiction is both shocking and confusing. Often shame and embarrassment are felt around friends and family members who do not understand the disease of addiction. This makes processing the death of a loved one even more difficult.
Marcie told me she has a repeated image of her father walking with her to a girlfriend’s house down the street. They had been arguing, which was typical of their relationship, and when she turned into the driveway he asked her for a hug. She said, "No." And now, all she can remember is the hurt look on his face. I tried to relieve her of this false sense of guilt. Her father’s disease was difficult for me to understand, much less a young girl. Not wanting to hug was a natural and probably a healthy idea for her at the time. Her father knew she loved him regardless.
As confusing and illogical grieving her father’s death is, there are certain stages Marcie can use as markers on her journey.
These are the five stages of grieving according to Elisabeth in her ground-breaking 1969 book “On Death and Dying.” Kübler-Ross pointed out that these stages don't necessarily come in any particular order. Since there is no brain in the human heart, it is not surprising that grieving a loved one’s death is a messy and illogical process that can take years.
Marcie had entered the stage of Depression. She told me how sad she will be on her wedding day with no Daddy/Daughter dance and how her children will not know her father as their grandpa. And every year she will be reminded of this loss on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays and especially Father's Day. I sit on the bed, let her cry, and hand her Kleenex. It is all I can do, but it is exactly what she needs.
A Reach Out Recovery Exclusive By: Madeline Schloop
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