By Mary Cucarola – 2/19/22
“Like a ritual I cannot abandon, I play again and again in my mind the scenes of our history. And at times, guilt ravages the heart and holds me hostage in a sad story with no ending.” ~Molly Fumia, Safe Passage
No addict intends to end up where he has been because the drug drives the addict, not the intention. No parent intends to enable their child because the fear drives the parent, not the intention. They both dislike the life they are living, but don’t know how to “fix” it. The addict hates himself for the things he does while addicted, and the parent is frustrated because their love isn’t enough to cure the addiction.
Guilt abounds for both of them.
I am reminded of this conundrum every year when I celebrate Cody’s birthday in February. How deeply I loved him and how I thought my love would cure him. How, in the beginning, I thought he could just stop and got so frustrated when he couldn’t. How I kept putting the blame on myself for being a bad parent. How I tortured myself with this guilt for years on end while he was in active addiction and after he passed away, too.
In fact, it still festers in my mind after almost nine years without him. The pain of not being able to save him can immobilize me to the point of not wanting to do anything but sleep. It can be so intense it makes me want to give up. Give up on everything good in my life to punish myself for failing him. My heart breaks all over again, and I tell myself nothing will ever break my heart this hard again as long as I live. I isolate and feel defeated. I lose interest in finding the “joy” in my life that I so desperately want – my “word of the year”.
I call this my birthday blues.
I have to use all of my recovery tools I’ve learned over the years to rid myself of the blues. I have to understand my grief is all of the unexpressed love I still feel for Cody. That I can still tell him I love him through prayer and stillness. I remind myself I lost my son but he is not gone, which my grief counselor drilled into me over and over again.
His spirit is as big as his life was here on earth.
Grief can knock you off your feet and shake you to the core. It is tempting to allow his death to claim more than its share and leave me to my guilt. Instead, the challenge for me is engaging in life over and over again. I remember all of the good that has come out of my loss and how it has changed me forever. How I’ve allowed it to change me.
No one can understand what it is like to lose a child unless they have been through it.
Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning says ““Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I’ve learned to accept what is, even though I don’t like it. I’ve learned to be sad at times and that’s okay. To be uncomfortable at times and that’s okay. To be regretful at times and that’s okay. I don’t think I will ever completely get over the feeling it was my fault, but I do know how to live with the guilt in the best way possible for me. I’ve chosen my own way.
This is my life and it can never be anything else.
There is no satisfactory conclusion, no way to bring him back, no way to re-create the past and make it come out differently. Only acceptance of what is – my February birthday blues. This too shall pass.
By Mary Cucarola – 2/19/22