Grieving - hopes...

Grieving What Could Have Been

My son Matt has been clean and sober for over five months now. What an amazing accomplishment this has been! And how wonderful for his dad and me to see him engaging once again in life. I see the possibility and promise of all that he is moving towards.

I also see what he has left behind—how we long ago thought the direction of his life would go. When Matt was young, his dad and I had visions of what his life would look like one day. We saw him graduating from high school, attending college, finding a meaningful career—we held lots of hopes and dreams, along with many expectations, for his life. We never expected that he would leave high school, get his GED, and ultimately become an addict.

Although leaving high school and accomplishing his GED were positive steps for Matt, and honored who he is, I had lots to work through about how I saw my son’s life unfolding. I had to give up graduation announcements, ceremonies, and celebratory parties, along with senior events such as prom—those activities that our society uses to denote rites of passage and markers of success in an individual’s young life. I had to redefine what success can look like. There was a lot of grieving that went with this.

Facing that my son is an addict was even more challenging. After a year working on a ranch, a place where he thrives, he returned home and started in his downward spiral. Soon, we were all living in hell. Acknowledging that “bottom” and deciding to come up from it has been difficult, painful, and joyful all at once—for Matt and for his dad and me. We now all feel the hope of where he is presently.

We also feel the “in between” place we now find ourselves—that place that is often called “the neutral zone.” It’s being in that space where we don’t know what’s coming next or how it might look. It’s middle ground where we must feel the loss of what was or what could have been while trusting with expectancy that something new will come. We don’t know, however, what IT is, what IT will look like or when IT will happen.

It’s a place in transition where the metamorphosis is in process—we’re in the cocoon, having taken in everything necessary for the transformation to be completed. We know that something beautiful is happening even though we can’t yet see it. Past experience reminds me that this is a place of hope and promise. But it’s still OK to have moments of grief—to acknowledge what has been lost and what will never be—to let go of how things might have been.

We have to let go in order to embrace what’s coming, and that’s where our family is right now. We’ve let go of the ideal of a pain-free, addiction-free life for our son, yet understand that as he comes to know himself more completely—both the shadow and the parts that have always shone in the light—he can have a joyous life. It’s a matter of time—grieving, allowing and processing all of it.

How do you handle changes in your life—those you prepared for as well as that which comes along unexpectedly? How do you cope with the “in between” place as you navigate through the process of change? How do you let go of what will never be or what might have been and make room for what is now possible?

My upcoming workshop, “Transitions and Transformations,” will help you answer these questions and more. Click HERE for more details.

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