Grieving an Alcoholic Parent

Grieving an Alcoholic Parent

Since writing my initial ‘Grief during a pandemic‘ post my brain has moved into a completely different place. Toast no longer takes 20 minutes to make and after seven weeks of being looked after by the best friends a girl could ask for I’ve felt ready to move back into my own house. I do still feel like I’m being hit by a bus a few times a day but as I am often told, this is completely normal.

Through my experience, I’ve found there are two major aspects of grieving an alcoholic parent. The loss of the addict and the loss of the person.

I recently read an article ‘What You Learn From Loving An Addict’ by Alicia Cook. Not to be too dramatic but it changed my perspective on a lot of things related to my mum and helped me understand why most people can’t relate – they’re lucky.

My mums vice was alcohol. Easily accessible and in most peoples kitchens right now. Listening to and reading other peoples accounts I realise I have been quite fortunate with my experience – my mum was incredible when I was young, I genuinely couldn’t have asked for a better childhood. Her drinking took over after I had finished university so I was already fending for myself and taking my first steps at being a proper adult. Don’t get me wrong, the journey hasn’t been easy but it could have been a lot harder for a lot longer.

Losing the addict

Honestly, this stage came with a slight sense of relief. The past 5 years have been spent in a Scooby Doo hallway of tears, accidents, anger, silence, tears, accidents, anger, silence. It’s completely unfair of me to say there weren’t some good times in there too, it’s just easy for them to be overshadowed. I struggled during this time to really enjoy being in my 20s, I couldn’t see an end to the cycle or how to plan my life on such shaky foundations.

Losing the person

With the addict finally being gone, remembering the real woman became so much easier. The kind, funny lady who raised me and surrounded me with so much love. Coming to terms with the fact I will never be able to see her face again, talk to her, laugh with her or have her stroke my head and tell me everything will be okay has hit a lot harder than I ever thought possible. I want that woman to be here, to see my house, to watch me become a mother. It’s all selfish, I know. She has hopefully found peace now and is no longer surviving in perpetual torment.

While she was still here I felt like I had grieved through ambiguous loss. My mum had gone but the addict was still in her body. I had a glimmer of hope at the back of my mind that she would come back to me but I hid behind a mask of being angry at her for choosing alcohol over me. I don’t think I ever really believed that was the case but sometimes it felt like the easiest way to try and carry on with my life. At the time I thought this was my best (if not only) course of action, I do realise now though this made me shut out all the good memories. They were too painful to deal with when she was so close but couldn’t be there.

For me separating the illness from the woman seems to have helped, that and allowing myself to cry unapologetically whenever I feel the need to. To be clear, I am not spending time fantasising about a future that will not be but rather seeing the past more clearly in the hope that I can learn from it.

I don’t have any answers. All I can say is if you relate to anything you have read, you’re not on your own.

H x