Since Melanie ran ahead to heaven, I’ve had the opportunity to talk with many parents who have lost their children. Many of these losses have been due to the disease of addiction, along with suicide. Regardless of the cause of death, child loss truly is a loss like no other.
When Melanie died I can’t tell you how many people told me I’d done everything I could for her and I shouldn’t feel guilty. Telling someone that and actually feeling that way are two different things. No matter how much I did for my girl, there are still things I feel I could have done differently or at least better.
Believe me, I’m no martyr. I honestly did the best I could knowing what I did, at the time. I was never a believer in the tough love movement and never turned my back on my girl waiting for her to “reach bottom” as some suggest we do.
For those who condemned me for my actions, whether to my face or silently, my belief is this: God never turns his back on us, so why would I ever consider turning my back on my own child? “I will never leave you, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life!” (Hebrews 13:5 TPT).
There is a fine line between enabling and supporting through addiction, but withholding love and turning my back on my child – NEVER!
When a family member dies due to an overdose or suicide, people look at you differently. Though I like to believe we are moving toward a more understanding and forgiving community, there still remains a stigma associated with these types of deaths.
Because our loved one more than likely died unexpectedly and without warning, there are so many questions that continually swirl around in your head, like the inside of a tornadic wind. What could I have done differently? How could I have stopped this? Why did this happen? Did I do enough? Did I do too much? How did I miss the signs? How could I have prevented this?
Often times we have a weight of heaviness on us that is not seen, nor felt by others. Imagine carrying around a full-size backpack chock full of heavy river rocks every single day.
Soon after Melanie died I learned there are typically 5 official stages of grief which we will go through, and unfortunately, we can go through some of the stages more than once.
You mean I may repeat some of these stages over again?! Oh, how disappointed I was when I realized firsthand this was so true. At one point on the grief journey, I remember thinking, if I can just get through this one stage and go on to the next one the pain will soon go away. Boy, I had so much to learn!
As time has gone on, I think there is one more stage we could add:
The 6th stage of grief should be FORGIVENESS – for ourselves and our loved one.
Since those questions can continue to haunt our minds and hearts and we can’t rewrite history, forgiving ourselves and our loved one may be the first step in beginning to heal.
Perhaps your loved one did some things that have caused you to harbor anger and unforgiveness in your heart. Or maybe you’re angry simply because they died and left you.
We can run to the Father and ask for forgiveness. Letting go of any hurt, anger, or resentment we hold against them or ourselves may help lead to peace. We can even speak out loud to our loved one and tell them all that we are feeling, and then perhaps then it can be released let it go.
As we seek forgiveness I believe it will be like removing the rocks from our backpack, one at a time. We will eventually feel lighter, and a peace that we may have never known existed will begin to permeate our heart and spirit. Be kind to yourself today and give peace a chance.