It’s not always gingerbread, eggnog and Santa for the holidays. For many, this holiday season will be packaged with heartbreak. The bird may be filled with stuffing, but many hearts will be filled with angst, uncertainty, tragedy, and loss.

Heroin, and painkiller abuse, in general, will hijack the holiday spirit for far too many. It will cripple both the person addicted and their loved one’s ability to celebrate with family and friends. Instead, it will serve as a stark reminder that life’s leftovers aren’t all that appetizing.

Multitudes of family members and friends will have no idea of their addicted loved one’s whereabouts. Many will remain ever hopeful for a surprise visit or call that never comes; left to wonder whether their loved one is safe or laying half-dead somewhere needing assistance. For others, whose loved ones will be in attendance, stress remains at a high level for weeks beforehand wondering whether they’ll show up and/or anticipating the all too familiar random outbursts and inflammatory comments that often go hand in hand with family get-togethers and substance abuse of any kind.

Many will go through the motions of the holidays – but not with joy in their hearts – because their hearts are broken.

This might be the first holiday season without your child, spouse, relative or friend due to incarceration for crimes committed resulting from drug or alcohol abuse. Some will be in rehab – which is where my son was during one holiday season – trying to piece their life back together. Still others, sadly, will have lost their chance to ever celebrate another festive event on this Earth – departing all too soon due to the perils of addiction.

For those of you who recognize yourself in this writing, my wish for you is a moment of peace and comfort. I acknowledge the hole in your heart where only an empty outline of your loved one or their memory remains. The pain can be excruciating.

You are not a failure. Your loved one is not a failure, and neither of you is worthless. Take some time to nurture and forgive yourself for not being able to change others or affect outcomes. Grant yourself some grace for not handling everything perfectly – you are not that powerful.

Honor your needs. Change up your holiday traditions, if necessary. Minimize or forget about Christmas cards and cookies, family photos, decorating, or creating a façade for the outside world if you aren’t feeling festive. Mourn if you need to mourn. Cry and scream if you’re angry. Drop to your knees and ask God where He is and why He isn’t intervening if you feel abandoned. It’s okay.

“Silent Night” takes on a different meaning when someone you love is lost in the darkness of heroin.

As we approach this holiday season, let us be mindful of all who suffer as a result of addiction. May our hearts come together, in a spirit of support for one another to help ease the common feelings of isolation and shame and to remind each other that we are not alone. We are all connected. Only love can ease despair.

Namaste – The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.

Cyndee Rae Lutz, Author “When Your Heart Belongs to an Addict: A Healing Perspective”