Children who grew up in alcoholic families or other dysfunctional homes face loss and thus grief. The first loss is that of their children hood. Childhood is a time when children from functioning families learn certain things about life, such as:
· Life is okay.
· I am okay.
· I can discover my needs.
· I can have wants and have them met.
· I can have a positive impact on the world.
· Change is possible.
· There are shades of gray, not just black and white.
· There are than two solutions to any problem.
· Problems can be discussed.
· Other people are there for my support and I for theirs.
· I can listen to criticism.
· I can confront others without destroying them.
In stark contract, children from alcoholic and dysfunctional families learn other things about life, such as:
Life is to be gotten through because usually it hurts.
If I were okay my parents would have stopped drinking, drugging or wouldn’t have left me or ignored me, etc.
Change is too hard to think about.
There are only two solutions to any problem both bad.
Everything is either black or white.
Problems are to be ignored through compulsive behavior (overeating, worrying, etc.) They will either go away or I can create a crisis so they will get worse.
If I confront somebody’s behavior, they won’t love me anymore.
In order to recover from the effects of parental alcoholism, addition, narcissism, or neglect, children of dysfunctional families must first grieve the loss of their childhoods. They were never loved unconditionally and they never will get unconditional love from their parents.
The second loss that recovering adult children must grieve is the loss of the compulsions that they used to get through life without feeling.
The third loss they must grieve is the loss of the roles they took on to survive in a chaotic family. Sharon Wegscheider calls them Hero, Scapegoat, Lost Child and Mascot. Claudia Black calls them Responsible One, Adjuster, Placator and Acting Out Child. Whatever role the child took on stops working. It never really did work sufficiently. The role was a way to avoid growing up and all the realities that growing up forces on people.
Grief is a prerequisite to healing. As long as our methods of avoiding pain (compulsions, roles, etc.) are working for us or we continue to expect and yearn for unconditional love from our parents, surrender to a Higher Power remains impossible