Here are the next four “gifts” I feel I have been given from being the mother of a self-destructive daughter these last almost 12 years. Being her mom I have had to face many of my worst fears for my child. All the things I tried so hard to protect her from – addiction (alcohol and drugs), self-harm (cutting), depression, bi-polar, an anxiety disorder, rape, and attempted suicides. It has been a horrific nightmare, but I have come to see good come from it. In a previous blog i listed 4 gifts. Here are #5 -8.
5) The gift of deep, close friendships with those who accepted me and did not judge. A few friendships fizzled out – those people who couldn’t handle how hard this was. But I made many new, special friendships and even encountered some compassionate strangers. (God’s angels?) I have discovered there is a unique fellowship among parents who have suffered like this. It is very unique (like cancer survivors would have with each other) . All along the way I have seen my Heavenly Father continuously put just the right person in my path at just the right time to offer comfort and encouragement, courage and strength, hope and faith . . . exactly what I needed at the moment. It never ceases to amaze me.
Here are just a few I remember: The woman(a total stranger) I met in a public restroom who held me and prayed for me when I ran in there for privacy when I was sobbing uncontrollably. The dear friend who washed the blood off my daughter’s car (inside and out) and off the sidewalk (in a public parking lot) after one of her severe cutting episodes, while all I could do was sit and cry in her car nearby, totally incapable of helping with the task. The friends who brought food, flowers, helpful books, prayed faithfully, called frequently, emailed regularly and sent cards. One friend came from out of town just to ask how I was doing, then she simply listened while I shared, and cried (of course). Another person I barely knew made a notebook for me full of scriptures and appropriate prayers for my daily use. This became a priceless treasure to me over the next few years. I still have it.
6) I Developed a Greater Capacity to Trust. So many times we did not know if our daughter would survive. I never had any sense of security that she would live. Instead, I sensed God saying to me, “Trust me. Keep trusting me in this dark valley, in this desert place. I won’t leave you or abandon you. I will be with You and I will be with her, too. Even if the worst happens (she dies), I will help you and you will survive.” When you think you can’t go on, keep trusting. By His grace and strength I did and still am.
7) God took my greatest pain and turned it into my passion and a new work
When we were going through this we were desperate for support from others who understood. We looked throughout the community, calling all the large churches, searching the internet but found no help or support for parents like us. My husband and I promised ourselves then that when we were stronger and felt ready, we would start a support group. We did that about 2 1/2 years ago. After that my passion to help other parents grew more and more. It is now my work, my personal ministry – to offer encouragement, hope and help to hurting parents. From my pain God gave me something I am very passionate about. I found purpose from my pain.
I am now a volunteer with Campus Crusade for Christ with Prayer for Prodigals. I maintain the website, Prayer for Prodigals Anyone can become a member of this online community and benefit from it by posting prayers for their child, receive prayers from others for both their child and themselves and enjoy the many resources posted there – books, scriptures, devotionals, reflections, places for help and a message board. I am so blessed to be able to help parents who are hurting due to their children’s self-destructrive choices.
8) Learning to be Authentic and Vulnerable. I learned to take off my mask. It was too heavy and required too much energy to keep it on. No more pretending I am ok when I am not. I decided to stop hiding my struggles and chose instead to be open and honest. As hard and scary as it was at first, I decided it was worth the risk. I have found this to be quite freeing. It also opens the door for others to do the same. “What? I’m not the only one? You, too?” (I believe C.S. Lewis said this) This helps my relationships be more meaningful. We are able to go deeper. I ask hard questions. I listen with more of my heart. It’s scary at times, but well worth it. Authenticity puts me in better position to have my own needs met , as well as helping me more effectively meet the needs of others.
You never know what beauty may rise out of the ashes of your experience. Hold on to hope.