A new concern emerges since he died. I could easily become absorbed in my grief. I began attending 12 step meetings years ago when our teens became caught up in drugs. Early on, I realized this program was not about changing them, but changing me. Their drug use was not my problem to fix.

My responses to their drug use were. I was the one who needed to learn how to reinvent myself. What I could do for them was to model how not to be defeated by life, how personal growth and self acceptance happens.

In those amazing 12 step rooms, I discovered by putting the focus on my growth, I could give them the space they needed to deal with themselves and choices. Over the years, I’ve drawn on 12 step experience, strength, and hope when facing challenges.

For instance, the 12 steps saved my sanity in the ‘80s when I faced focused anger and rejection from church leaders because I, a woman, dared respond to God’s call to Christian ministry. When they verbally abused me, shamed , and blamed me, I’d remind myself whatever another’s actions, beliefs, or feelings, it was about them, not me. Yet, no matter how hurtful, I needed to pay attention because what they said or did provided me with important information about who they were, what they believed, and what they feared.

By learning to separate myself from their beliefs and criticism, I became able to see the person behind the vitriol without judging them or myself. By learning to listen they gave me necessary information that allowed me to either work with them or remove myself from toxic situations.

Besides, their cruel attacks often contained a kernel of truth I needed to hear.

We frequently focus on self care in our Co-Dependents Anonymous meetings. One of the symptoms of codependency is living vicariously through our children, spouse, lover, job, etc.

As a codependent, we think what we want or need is less important than what others want or need. We codependents happily assume responsibility for others choices and actions as that makes us feel needed and important.

For years I blamed myself for our teens’ addictions, and, to be honest, I did things that contributed to their addictions, such as enabling and excusing their addictions. Fortunately, I finally grasped that since I didn’t cause their addiction, I couldn’t control or cure it. My challenge is to love and accept them without demanding they change to suit me.

If any change is needed, I am the one to change and adjust.

Self care means setting healthy boundaries and assuming responsibility for my part in any situation, then letting the rest go. Self care demands I avoid personalizing every little remark or inference, be that negative or positive. Blaming myself for every bad thing that happens is just as arrogant and selfish as taking credit for others’ work and success. So, here I am, a brand new widow. Do I accept his death as the painful loss it is and wallow in self pity or do I honor his memory by living as dynamically and courageously as possible?

Joyce Shutt is pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church and writes a blog that can be found at http//stepstohope.net.

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