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It’s Okay to Grieve: If I Want to Be Sad, I Will

My parents have been gone over twenty years, my youngest sister only six. I list all of them as victims of drugs and alcohol. I continue to grieve their loss.
I’ve found that grief never goes away completely. Instead, the grief changes and shapes itself into something tolerable. Most of the time, I can go along okay, pretending that the holes in my heart don’t exist, that I am seemingly whole.

The other times are excruciating. I cry a breathless river of tears, flooding the pain from my soul. Each breath tightens the vice crushing my heart until I feel like death is certain. Just when I think I can’t go on another moment, the universe grants me a pardon. It might be an hour or a day or a week before I get my reprieve, but it always comes. I want to revel in the sweet relief, but not missing them feels wrong somehow.

My parents have been gone over twenty years, my youngest sister only six. I list all of them as victims of drugs and alcohol. My dad had AIDS, my mom had cirrhosis, and my 19-year-old sister died in a drinking and driving accident. I was using when I lost my parents. Heck, I was high at my dads funeral at fourteen years old and again at my mom’s at seventeen. And my using had definitely progressed in the three years in between. Counseling and meds didn’t help me much at the time. I just wanted to use and drown all the feels.

I was sober when my sister died. I stayed sober for about six months after, I was on parole and sent back to jail. I was gifted with the opportunity to be forced to feel all my feelings, including grieving our lost relationship. I had not seen her in six years. Before that, I had been her legal guardian for several years and her unofficial guardian before that. Sitting with all of that was super heavy—but also freeing.

I got to examine my part in each of those relationships. I could see where I did my best and where I didn’t. I could see where addiction had taken over my life, and my parents’ lives, robbing us of the ability to love, care, parent and provide.

I didn’t have to be mad anymore. Not at myself, not at them, not at my sister for leaving me before I could make amends.

After I entered recovery, I did some more work through therapy and 12-step recovery program suggestions. The work didn’t heal all the pain. It seems sometimes that many believe that the 12 steps are the answer to EVERYTHING, but they aren’t for me. The process did, however, allow me to dump much of the garbage I had been carrying and collected over the years. The 12-step led me to believe that if I did XYZ and therapy and whatever else I was told, I’d be cured.

I’m not cured.

Some days it hurts as bad as it did in 1994. Other times, the thoughts I have aren’t so sad. The grief is never better or worse or gone. It’s ever-changing and unpredictable—much like myself. I’ve learned that it’s okay to feel. I can feel however I need to feel about any situation, for as long as I need to feel it. I don’t have to bury it with a substance or pretend I’m okay when I’m not. I can just be. And if I want to be sad, I will.

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