Day 6 of HIKMT’s 25 Ways in 25 Days to celebrate Christmas

Today’s tip comes from none other than me, Dina Marie:

I’ve lost many people that I love to this disease. Most recently, my niece Julia Mae. Perhaps this idea of doing the daily tips to deal with addiction in the family during the holidays is a way for me to cope with her loss. I didn’t really think about that when the idea came to me, but having read and co-authored the last 5 blogs, I have been struck by the stories and experiences shared. You see, I have been on both sides of the isle and I have done some of the things that those brave enough to share their stories have said we as family members shouldn’t do. I can tell you this – the holidays are hard when coping with active addiction, new recovery and a traumatic loss from an overdose. I now find myself having to deal with the latter.

I am usually Christmas Queen – my house literally oozes Christmas everywhere and there was no place else she wanted to be on Christmas eve than to be at “TiTi’s house.”

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Not so far this year… there are days where I can barely get myself up and dressed. The relapses of last year’s holiday season within my family have carried on throughout this year and spilled into this year’s holiday season, with the ultimate sacrifice of another empty chair. One that is almost too much to bare.

So, I guess my tip is about dealing with grief during the holidays – and yet, I feel like I have no words of wisdom as I try to navigate this empty place. How do we go on? How do we put on a brave face to the world? How do we stop this constant ache? I have been here before with the loss of my grandmother, parents and close friends… but there’s something to be said for the natural order of things and this is beyond comprehensible at times.

In my past life, the life where Julia was still alive and I could empathize with other’s pain, but didn’t fully understand,  I would be there to swoop in and to cheer you on and tell you to “snap out of it,” “focus on the good memories,” “you have to fake it until you make it,” and of course the ultimate: “do it for the children.” Now I hear those well meant words and think to myself, just shut up! I would never say it out loud of course and I know the sentiment behind it is well intended to help alleviate the pain but I don’t just don’t want to accept this yet. Maybe one day, but just not today.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not by any means ungrateful for the blessings in my life, and I do have many, but this grief is just so profound. And the healing process is just messy… The only way around it is through and while I know and understand that on every level, I just don’t want to… I don’t want this life, never did and I want off of this rollercoaster.

I will tell you this, don’t let grief be your teacher. Read, learn and try to understand as much as you can about substance use disorder. I didn’t truly understand addiction as disease when this first started and I just couldn’t wrap my mind around that concept for many years. But I tried every possible aspect of everything I knew about this disease to try to save her and yet I come back to regretting the “tough love” approach. There were times when it was necessary and it worked, but only when it was tempered with compassionate love and not cutting her off. The truth is, I didn’t agree with her “lifestyle” many times over the years and I have always been very authoritarian in my approach and it is in this grief that I can now see the many missed opportunities of connecting with her.

We were so very close, but I was strict and as she matured we had talks and especially during times of her recovery and she gave me her honest advice about how I could have done some things differently and especially in the beginning. I remember thanking her for teaching me how to love her in those moments, because often times I was at a loss on how to reach her, especially when she was active.

We have to remember these are our loved ones, our children and this disease makes them do awful things that in turn make us angry and disappointed. But don’t stay in that place of anger or disappointment over a stolen item, or their inability to keep their word or a stupid argument because ultimately, in the end, none of those things are more important than them sitting down at the table with us for a family dinner or the holidays.

We are each at a different level of this journey. There’s no right or wrong way;  there’s only doing the best you can with what you know and where you are in the process.

If you are dealing with grief, here’s what I say:

Don’t dwell in the guilt because everything you did was out of love. Be gentle with yourself. Allow yourself the time to grieve. It a process not a destination and everyone grieves in their own time and in their own way. Another example that there is no right or wrong way to do it. It just simply is. Be in the moment: when you are sad, feel it, when you are remembering happier times feel that too, and when you are angry scream it out or break a dish if you have to and when you are numb, remember that is only temporary and the waves emotion will flow again and soon.

Don’t force yourself to take on any projects that you are unable to manage. Things will get done without it having to fall on you. Keeping busy is good but know your limits. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation. And always take a shower no matter how bad you feel, even if it’s the only selfcare you can manage. If you know someone dealing with the loss of their loved one this holiday season, make sure you are there for them, even if it’s only to sit quietly by their side.

It’s hard to remember that the magick of Christmas lies in our hearts when our hearts are broken. This will not be the best Christmas ever, but Christmas will still come… so just BE.

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Daily Reflection:

Reacting…
Sometimes, I allow my temper to get the better of me and when I do… I jump to react.

But, the problem with reacting during a moment of intense emotion, is that I often say things or do things I later regret. When I let my emotions take over, I act from a place that is not in line with my spiritual path. Reacting without stepping back to calm my mind leads me to make assumptions… assumptions that often prove to be inaccurate.

Today, I try my best to walk away from a heated moment and give myself time to process the situation and use logic to clearly think on the problem. Then, when I feel that I can approach the situation again with a bit of compassion and a bit of maturity, I do so… sure in my behavior.

“Dear God, help me to be rational. Help me to choose to react as a loving and kind adult in all situations that may try my spiritual growth.

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Shortcut to the Spirit of the Season:

Even if you don’t feel like embracing the usual traditions this year, remember this: The Christmas tree is much more than just a decoration. Think of it as a tie to the past. Each year, millions of us retrieve old decorations that have been carefully stored in boxes. Often, using these ornaments generates vivid memories of Christmas past. This, like few other things, the tree brings to life the love and wonder of the season. Suddenly loved ones who have passed away are with you once again. You feel their spirit and remember their warmth and love. In this way, the Christmas tree reunites us with our own family tree. There is an element of strength that comes when you hang an ornament that once belonged to a parent or grandparent. Just placing this trinket on the tree allows you to introduce to a new generation to someone they might have never met. By telling your children stories of family ornaments, you build a bridge to the past and presever memories of those who came before. Yet the connection not only reaches the backwards; it goes forward as well. Decorating the tree is a way to build a bridge to the future. The Christmas tree holds so much more than meaningless baubles. It hold symbols of love and signs of growth. A Christmas tree connects generations.

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