Forgiveness and Healing
In life we grieve. We grieve death, divorce, friends, jobs, and losses of every kind both large and small. Where people are involved, the complicated feelings attached to loss can cause us to lose all balance and send us careening into an emotional turmoil while we seek to regain our footing and make sense of the loss. I have always found it harder to grieve the living than the dead – and I have grieved some dead. The living just keep showing up to turn your world upside down again and again.
This is especially true when you are the parent of an addict. Whether you have contact or are completely estranged; your precious child continues to walk the earth and through your mind and there is no simple avenue to closure. I grieved Crystal moment by moment, day by day in a relentless cycle of chaos, and unlike grieving the dead, this was a silent grief that no one wanted to talk about… a grief that bred isolation, shame, fear and hopelessness.
When Crystal was using and living on the streets, I lived in constant fear that she would disappear, be killed, or overdose. Each time the phone rang I feared it would be “the call”, the one telling me she was dead. I called the morgue when she was out of touch for long periods and went on websites looking at pictures and facial reconstructions of the unclaimed dead. I was a sick puppy.
I allowed one terrible scenario after the next to play out in my mind. I thought if I could imagine myself handling the worst that I would be able to survive whatever was around the corner. I spent time preparing myself for her death by planning her funeral. I thought about what I would say and where she would want to be buried. I craved closure but hadn’t given up on trying to save her…and all the while, I isolated more and more.
I tried using the steps of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I had dealt with plenty of death in my life, and in most cases found my way to acceptance, or at least a way of moving forward in the land of the living. Time does heal if you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other.
With Crystal it was different. She was still alive; albeit a ghost of her former self. I missed my daughter…her smile, her walk, her presence. I was grieving the loss of what could have been; the dreams I had for this child and the expectations of how I thought her life would evolve. Expectations - a misguided parental trap doomed to be crushed into oblivion by the reality that we have no control over our children and the choices they make.
The only way out of grief is through it. Grief takes time and entails accepting the loss of preconceived roles and a willingness to look at the truth as it exists now. I did not choose for Crystal to put a needle in her arm, become an addict, walk away from her family, and end up homeless and on the streets. I did believe she had a disease - and heroin, not Crystal, was the enemy. Right or wrong, that acceptance helped me to move forward with my living and allowed me to continue loving my daughter and hanging on to hope.
After two and a half years of homelessness and living on the streets, Crystal is clean with over a year of sobriety. She is working a solid program and surrounding herself with a supportive community. I have still not seen Crystal since 2015, but we talk and text. Heroin took so much.
The Crystal I have been grieving for the last five years is gone, but Crystal “Is” and that is the miracle. We are both still healing, but I look forward to opening myself up to this new Crystal. I would like to say I have no expectations, but I’ve come to accept that this is simply impossible for a parent. My new hope is that she will move beyond the narrow lens of my expectations and blow me away with hers!