How to cope when a loved one dies or is incapacitated as a result of alcohol or drug abuse
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As a psychologist, I have worked with people who have lost loved ones or have had them incapacitated as a result of alcohol or drugs. I have discovered that the loss of a loved one to alcohol or drug abuse is difficult to cope with no matter what one's religious belief. However, in my work with members of the Church, I have discovered they seem to find it very difficult to cope because of guilt or feelings that all is lost. For anyone who has recently experienced this, I would recommend the following:
- Immerse yourself in an in-depth study of the scriptures that pertain to the doctrines of resurrection and of mercy. You can find great peace in knowing that your loved one is now in a much better place and that he or she is in the Lord's care.- Seek comfort through constant prayer to combat the inclination to blame yourself - or even your loved one. Through prayer, you can find peace and you'll be able to forgive your loved one.
- Expect extreme emotional swings. Initially, you may fluctuate between feeling all is well and feeling hopeless. In time the memories and thoughts of your loved ones will more often bring a smile than a tear.
- Draw fully upon your support system, and avoid the inclination to withdraw and isolate yourself from others. Members sometimes draw away from other members from guilt and embarrassment. Seek comfort from trusted relatives, friends, home and visiting teachers, Church leaders and community support groups.
- Remember that grieving a loss is a process. Time truly is a healer as you use the aforementioned strategies and allow the growth from this difficult trial to occur.
- Don't judge. It's important to trust in the Lord's mercy. - Gregory Murrey, Brainerd, Minn.
How we did it:
Peace, comfort came
On the morning of Dec. 24, 1992, I received a telephone call informing me of the death of my younger brother. His death was due to acute pancreatitis resulting from alcoholism. Our mother was serving a mission across the United States from where we live. How could I tell her on Christmas Eve of the death of her son; it had only been a year since the death of my father.
The Savior promised us that He would not leave us comfortless. (See John 14:18.) After the shock, tears and prayers, the peace and comfort came. Scriptures came to mind. Verses of scripture seemed to stand out in bold print while reading.
Our family was so very proud of my mother and her understanding of the gospel. It was a difficult time for her, but she stayed on her mission.
In her life, she has always believed and followed the scripture, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths." (Prov. 3:5-6.) - Name withheld, California
Easier to cope
Recently my father committed suicide while heavily intoxicated. At the time, I was an investigator of the Church. I had been reared in another denomination. All my life I was led to believe that those who took their life or the life of another would have "no eternal life." Prior to my father's suicide, I learned that this was not necessarily true. The dead may have chance to learn and accept the gospel and that living relatives may be baptized in the name of their deceased relatives. Knowing this, when my father took his life, made it much easier for me to be able to cope with his death. - Michelle Sudduth-Dowse, Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho
Addiction an illness
Our daughter died after years of battling addictions. What I found most helpful in coping was the following:
- Reading 12-step recovery literature and going to support groups where I learned addiction is an illness that I did not cause and could not cure.
- Being grateful for the beautiful person she was and the good times, especially the 10 years of sobriety.
- Being grateful for the sure knowledge she is in a better place.
- Going to the temple where she was sealed to us and feeling she was there.
- Coming to see that death for her was a blessing. - Marie Sadlick Walker, Round Lake, Ill.
Line upon line
Be committed to family history research, to spreading the gospel, to striving to be worthy of and being able to attend the temple and doing work for the dead - including for those who one "feels" died hopelessly.
By commitment and living line upon line, I find hope. Be cheerful and uplifting even when dealing with the unpleasant consequences of others' choices. - Name withheld, Canada
Blessing was a comfort
My mother died five years ago on March 4 of alcohol abuse. The last memories we shared were from her bedside at the hospital as I watched her in agony and tremendous pain slip into a coma and then literally drown in her own blood. This was one of the greatest trials I have faced in my lifetime. The hardest thing to cope with was the fact that she would probably still be alive if it weren't for the alcohol.
One thing that helped me cope was the fact that I did spend the last few days with her trying to comfort her and letting her know how much I loved her. I knew she knew that fact when she died. The priesthood blessing we gave her was also a comfort to me because I knew what the Lord's will was and prepared myself for it. Lastly, I knew without a doubt that she was happier to be free of pain and encircled in the arms of a loving Father in Heaven. - Bill Sperry, Boise, Idaho
Trust in God
My son is a drug addict, currently serving time in a state prison. How do I cope? Since he is not in my daily life, I am faced with the fact that part of me - or my dream - has died. This is not what I wanted motherhood to be. This is not what brings me happiness and joy. There is an emptiness when it comes time to plan or anticipate simple things, such as birthday celebrations, holidays, family meals, etc. A key person is not there, just as physically not there as if he had actually died. Even when he is not incarcerated, he is "not there" emotionally and/or spiritually. He lives in his own drug world.
The death of a dream is as painful as the death of a loved one. There is mourning that must happen. It does not happen in any specific time frame. Knowing that the gospel is true and that there is a God who loves all of us, including the one "not there," helps to make taking one day at a time easier.
The bottom line is trust in God and be patient. - Jean Steinberger, Sacramento, Calif.
How to checklist:
1 Pray, study scriptures for strength; attend temple.
2 Leave judgment to the Lord; be aware of His mercy.
3 Seek friends, family, priesthood blessings for comfort.
4 Don't blame yourself; realize others' moral agency.
WRITE TO US:
March 18 "How to teach children the principle of sacrifice."
March 25 "How to enhance your commitment to Church service beyond the three-hour block schedule."
April 1 "How to teach children the true meaning of Easter."
April 15 "How to sustain the priesthood in the home."
April 22 "How to help those who are less-active."
April 29 "How to draw closer to those to whom you are assigned as a home or visiting teacher."
Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.