Grieving My Sister (The Ugly Side of Drugs)

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My second oldest sister left this earth almost 2 months ago.  The loss was unexpectedly expected, as I knew her health was failing, but I never imagined a sudden heart attack/stroke to be the final cause of her earthly departure.

 To be honest, I was shocked!  I was shocked with the quick finality of her death.  I was shocked with the anger that escaped from the deep places inside my heart!  I was shocked with the utter sadness I felt the days and weeks that followed.  I was shocked with the regret, the feelings of powerlessness, the pain, and my inability to easily manage the loss. 

The past several weeks I’ve been left with overwhelming emotions.  In fact, I was surprised with the level of difficulty I experienced while processing the death of my sister.  I struggled to make sense of the ache within my chest, the vast pit I felt within my gut, and the struggle I had for weeks to function in a normal manner.  The weeks following her passing, I found it difficult to complete normal daily tasks, tasks that once were second nature to me. Everyday chores became tedious, caring for my children, cleaning my house, and even going to weekly activities such as Bible study.  The hardest struggle, was a sudden lack of desire to be in God’s word; which was exactly where I needed to be during my time of grieving.  I would open the Bible, only to discover an inability to process the words on the page.

I visited my counselor several times after my sister’s death, each time I walked away having gained an increased understanding of my grief.  Walking out of the counseling office after each session, I felt a more refined pain. This pain was familiar to me, a result of the dissection of broken and hidden places within the deep recesses of my sub-conscious awareness. Throughout my life, I’ve grown accustomed to the fine art of burying painful experiences and memories, all for the sake of coping.   In that office I found myself fighting back the very emotions that lead me to make the appointment in the first place.  I was by no means consciously aware of my effort to fend off emotions, reading my therapist I saw empathy and awareness in her eyes.  My “counselor-self” was quite aware of the gentle knowing I saw in her eyes, which made me push through the {hard stuff} toward greater healing and understanding.  The process of bringing forth repressed memories after so many years is difficult, but healing. I sat there with tears falling from the corners of my eyes, yet there seemed to be no real connection between the wet droplets trickling down my face and a conscience awareness of the fact that I was crying.  Throughout my life, I’ve become quite efficient at hiding my pain and brokenness from myself and others around me.  The job of a counselor is to aid clients in the process of bringing repressed memories and pain into one’s conscience awareness, for the sole purpose of long term healing.  As a counselor myself, I’ve walked through this process with my own clients.  Thus, I know the vital importance of owning one’s past memories and pain in order to find deep-rooted healing.   Somehow, seeing the root of pain in my clients is more easily accomplished, than seeing the root of my own pain.  As a counselor, I know that losing a loved one is a unique journey for each individual and there is no time line for the grieving soul.  I have minimal compassion for myself and placed unreal expectations upon myself to heal and process quickly and efficiently. Thankfully, I am much more patient and empathetic to others who are grieving.

As I exited my counselor’s office she gently reminded me that this type of grief is not easily endured, the pain involved in losing an estranged family member to a life of drug addiction, is complicated and messy.  It is complicated grieving, due to losing a family member to abnormal loss after years of broken relationship. Much to my shock, the estrangement from family members resulting from the evil stronghold of drug addiction, complicated the grieving process. Through the process of counseling and processing my pain, I can to realize several factors complicating the grieving process; 1). Not only am I grieving the loss of my second oldest sister, I am grieving the loss of my childhood family to drug addiction.  2). I found myself re-grieving the loss of my oldest sister, Carolyn, who died due to the disease of alcoholism at the age of 36, when I was 20 years-old. 3). I realized I am pre-grieving the impending loss of others soon to follow, as addiction continues to steal the people I love through estrangement and ultimately death.  4). I grieved a childhood of pain and loss. 5). I grieved the sad fact that I have always been unable to have healthy relationships with my siblings. 6). I grieved the unfortunate fact that my sisters’ lives were miserable and without joy. These 6 areas of grieving were dissected for the purpose of healing and understanding, which manifested awareness, understanding, and ultimately healing into my soul.

The words complicated and messy most accurately described my daily struggle. The definition of complicated is…

“composed of elaborately interconnected parts; complex.”  

This definition is entirely accurate in explaining my recent emotional struggle. Once again, I came to realize that everything I feel today is interconnected to the pain from my childhood.  Thus, the importance of allowing God to reveal the areas in my life still requiring deep/rooted healing. The path to healing is certainly not easy, my childhood didn’t begin with a bed of roses, it was filled with elaborately interconnected; neglect, abuse, and rejection. This stuff forced a young girl to develop lifelong coping skills and defense mechanisms, which have required an intimate relationship with the Lord to heal.  Healing requires gentleness, understanding, and patience to heal.  Praise the Lord, I’m in a place in my life, with God, my family, and close Godly friends to journey through the healing process.  Healing began at the age of 15, the moment I became a Christian, and continues today!  Healing is a journey, not a destination!  The healing process will continue everyday until I see the Lord’s face and hear him say, “Well done my good and faithful servant!”  

My sister Cindy’s death has awakened feelings within me that I’ve worked hard to shut down my entire life.  I’ve become quite skillful at shutting down my needs, as a result of the difficult areas I suffered as a child.  Needs such as having healthy and peaceful relationships with my siblings and parents, to be unconditionally loved and cared for, and any sense of normalcy in regard to my childhood upbringing.  As skillful as I’ve become throughout my lifetime at shutting down these needs from my past, I am beginning to realize they were in fact needs and simply shutting them down failed to provide wholesome healing.  Processing the pain, neglect, rejection, and trauma from my childhood is essential to longterm healing, peace, and joy. My life has been a journey of healing, just when I think I’ve overcome, God gently reveals another broken area that requires healing.  God has been with me every step of the way, I’ve gained increased understanding, empathy for the pain of other people, a tremendous dependence on God, wisdom to make good choices, and the full awareness of God’s ever present help in times of trouble.  My heart has ached, I’ve felt broken within, and I’ve been rejected by some of the most important people in an individual’s life. Praise the Lord, he has taken my brokenness and used it for his good.

Romans 8:28 “All things work for good to those who love the Lord and have been called according to His purposes!”

One thing I know for sure, I’m much less broken and more whole than when I began the journey.  I have joy and peace in my heart! My life is a story of God’s redemptive power through the life of someone surrendered to the Holy Spirit. Thus, my life is victorious through Christ Jesus!

Grieving my sister’s loss has definitely been a heart-wrenching and confusing process. Losing a loved one to drug addiction, after years of estrangement, is difficult.  There are many complicated factors to process while grieving the loss of a loved one who ultimately died from a life-style of drug addiction.  As I continue this journey of grieving, healing, and finding closure; I know that my joy is found in God alone!

I will hold onto this…

Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

My hope is found in God and the hope of eternity!  I will rejoice in the knowledge that my sister made peace with the Lord before her death and I will see her in Heaven again one day!  Until then, I will look forward to the day when our relationship will be restored and we will spend the rest of eternity serving the Heavenly Father together in complete unity and harmony!

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