Guilt and Grief After the Death of an Alcoholic Son

Dear Barbara, How can I rid myself of the guilt I experience due to the death of my adult alcoholic son? He lived with me, no job, family dumped him, he felt hopeless.

Life is hard work. For some of us it is just too hard so we escape into alcohol and/or drugs. Some of us even choose to end our life because we feel so hopeless.

Our society has a lot of expectations about behavior. Expectations about what is considered productive, what is considered right, wrong, good or bad. These expectations make life even harder.

How do you rid yourself of guilt? You didn’t say why you are feeling guilty. You told me about your son, but that doesn’t say where your guilt has come from in relation to him. So I will answer your question to the best of my ability while speaking from a place of not enough specific information. I will apply some general suggestions about living with grief to your situation.

Let go of any expectations you have about how your son lived and died.
Let go of any expectations you have about how you should or should not, do or do not, feel in regards to your son’s life and death.

Remember we all do the best we can in any given situation. None of us sets out to do a “bad” job, to live life poorly, to make mistakes, or to fail. We are always doing the best we can given our circumstances and knowledge at the time. Your son was doing the best he could, you are doing the best you can. Forgive yourself and forgive him for not living up to expectations.

Write your son a letter. Put down on paper all the thoughts you have in your heart, positive and negative, about his life and your relationship with him. Put all the feelings down and let the tears come. This letter is between you and him only. It is the deepest heart to heart talk you have ever had with him. When you have written it all down do something special with the letter. Burn it, release it some place as you let the ashes go, and let the guilt go with it.

Check out a grief support group from your local Hospice and look into attending an Al Anon Family group.  Look at your life as a gift. You are alive, functioning. Let your life and how you live it now be a positive tribute to your son.

As I wrote earlier, life is hard work. Accomplishing the above will not be easy but it is doable. I wish you well.

Something More...  about Guilt and Grief After the Death of an Alcoholic Son 

Here is another article that may help with feelings of guilt after a death- Be Gentile With Yourself- Grief and Guilt

Here is an article that I wrote for The Mindfulness And Grief Institute:  How Do You Let Go and Stop Feeling Guilty?

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