Grieving the family you never had

For several years I worked for the Department of  Family Services. I worked closely with children who were removed from their homes in order to keep them safe from an abusive parent(s). Some of these children were later returned to their homes, and some went into the foster care system. Some of the children were never removed and some of them, never came onto the radar of child protective services. None of these children, I can say without hesitation, experienced an idyllic childhood. Once these children are grown, they may wonder how to grieve the family they never had- or never will.

Growing up Chaotic is an online community for family and friends of addicts and survivors of abuse. An article, How to Grieve The Family You’ve Lost Or Never Had, was recently posted to their site.  In this article, the author offers three tips to help how to grieve and move through these broken relationships.

Tip #1 Inhale, Exhale and Repeat: you’ve heard this before. Calm down, breathe, slow deep breaths. The reason you’ve heard this before is because it works. Getting in the habit of following your breath, when you hit an emotional rough spot, is that your breath becomes a reliable tool.

Tip #2 Pay Attention to Your Arrows: “If a situation comes along and shoots an arrow into your heart, it’s fruitless to stand there and yell at the person, place or thing that inspired the arrow. It would be much better to turn your attention to the fact that there’s an arrow in your heart”.  In other words, respect your reactions but don’t let them become a distraction. Remain aware that there’s something deeper that needs your attention.

Tip #3 Holler for Some Help: Often when we’re living with emotional pain, as time passes and the issues remain unresolved, that tense emotional state can become our new normal.We forget that we don’t have to live with constant tension. We don’t have to live our daily lives tiptoeing around triggers, depressed and full of anxiety.  Talking with a therapist, joining a support group, reading a therapeutic book on the topic, meditation or some other method of healing can help you manage these emotions and process your thoughts.

Adult children of addiction or abuse can grieve the family they’ve lost, or never had, and they don’t have to do it alone. There are resources and therapists who can help.