Transforming Loss as the Parent of an Addict

A child’s chemical dependency can give birth to tremendous disappointment.  We yearn for the son or daughter who didn’t grow up the way we expected.  We were hoping for college, but we got jail; we were anticipating joyful holiday celebrations, but instead we served up bitterness and swallowed our pride at the Thanksgiving table. Sometimes, horrifically, we don’t just lose our dreams for our children; we lose a child altogether.

What does a parent do with overwhelming grief when a child dies?  When I heard Diedrea Welch’s story on the radio (scroll down to the Healing Arts story), I was transfixed by the way she dealt with the loss of her young son to a drunk driver.  He was just eight years old.

Diedrea’s wisdom can make us all stronger, no matter what our challenges.  She found that, after a period of immense grieving, her son’s death ultimately “led her to her own truth:  it woke me up to the reality of who I am as a human being.”  To paraphrase her experience, after being immobilized by his loss, she began to  figure out what was really important in her life and about her life.  And she began to examine what attitudes were serving her, and which attitudes weren’t. She began to spend her time and her life on the truly important things.

Diedrea transformed her loss in a truly transcendent way, and  I owe it to myself to try to learn from her.  So I ask– Which of my attitudes are serving me, and which are doing me (and others) harm?  What is really important about my life? Where should I devote my energy—in light of, or in spite of—the fears and losses I’ve known? If I can answer these questions, then I have learned well from my child’s chemically dependency, however heart-wrenching that has been.

Healing comes in many forms, even via radio waves….


I’ve been reading a book called Sacred Moments, Daily Meditations on the Virtues.  The back of the book describes it better than I can:  “The virtues such as honesty, generosity, love, discernment and trust dwell inside all of us.  They are our link with the Divine, the best parts of our character and the highest qualities of our humanity….The virtues help us to know who we are and what we can be.”

This book was given to me by a mom student in the anatomy class I took recently.  She mentioned to the class that her young son had been killed several years ago by a drunk driver riding his bike home from a Little League game.

This ethereal mom walked a walk of tremendous grace, compassion and humanity.  There was not a bitter bone in her body over her son’s loss; instead, she continues to dedicate her energy to transforming sorrow into strength, pain into growth, and fear into trust.  She teaches a Virtues class every six months to introduce the concepts to our community, but she lives and breathes the virtues with every step.

When I am tempted to throw a Pity Party for the missteps and damage done along the way (courtesy of drugs and alcohol), I will reflect on this brave mom, do my best to follow in her footsteps, and spin straw into gold.