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The most common question parents in pain ask themselves is WHY? My husband and I did the best we could to raise our daughter with a lot of love, with a strong sense of right and wrong, to be a good moral person, to not get caught up in any addictive behaviors, and to be an emotionally healthy, happy person. We also raised her with a strong spiritual foundation. Yet, she ended up with multiple addictions, was involved in self-harm and had a brain disorder(mental illness). I would lay awake all night torturing myself with many why questions.

What about you?

Many parents in pain are plagued by questions like these:

  • Why did my son choose to abuse substances?
  • Why did my daughter become anorexic or bulimic?
  • Why were they drawn to the same-sex?
  • Why did my son get involved in pornography?
  • Why did my daughter need to burn herself?
  • Why did they become depressed or develop a brain disorder?

As parents who feel a high sense of responsibility for our children, we also feel a high need for answers. Now. (more…)

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What is your worst fear for your child?  Mine was that my daughter would die.  She was just 18, abusing alcohol and drugs, cutting herself to soothe emotional pain, living on the streets.  Sometimes sleeping in parks, parked cars or wherever she passed out.  I was beside myself with fear and worry for her life.  Would she overdose?  Drink too much?  Be kidnapped?  Murdered?  I couldn’t believe any of this was happening.  Unimaginable.

In my agony I visited a friend who listened lovingly, without giving advice, while I poured out my sad story.  As I sat with her she encouraged me to do something I had not done —  face my worst fear.  She asked me straight out, “What are you most afraid of?”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  It had been the elephant in the room.  The monster lurking under my bed.  The ghost hiding in the darkness of my closet when I was a child.

My greatest fear?  I had been in so much shock and denial I had not allowed myself to acknowledge it.  To face it.  To admit it.  As though doing so would make it more of a possibility.  As though saying it could make it happen or bring me more pain.  (Was that even possible?)

I realized what I feared most was that my daughter would die.  There — I finally said it.  Got it out into the open.  Faced it head on.  Acknowledged the elephant.  Brought the monster out of the closet into the light.   Got down on the floor and looked under the bed.  Would a phone call come from the morgue requesting me to identify my sweet girl?  Would the police or hospital call informing me of my child’s death?  Nightmare material.  How could I live with such a horrifying possibility?

First, I had to be honest with my feelings.   Experience their full force.  I gave myself permission to grieve her death as though it had happened.  To feel the weight of the sadness and huge sense of loss.  I wept and wept uncontrollably until my sides ached.  And then it hit me – – as awful as it would be, if she did die what could I know for sure?  What truths could I stand on?  This was the only way I could survive this unthinkable loss.

Second, I boiled it down to three irrefutable  truths.  I could rest on these:

1) God would be with me . . . no matter what.  He has said, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”.  (Hebrews 13:5b)  I could survive anything, even the death of my child.  I would not be alone.  Not then.  Not ever.  No never.

2) He would be my strength, my adequacy, my sufficiency.  “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9a)  “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid.”  (Hebrews 13:6)

3) Somehow God could use it for good.  “ALL things work together for the good of those who love him . . .” (Romans 8:28)

Suddenly this fear was disarmed.  It had lost its power over me.  Something happened that freed me from its debilitating grip on my soul.  Facing the very real possibility of my daughter’s death brought me a new sense of peace.  Who would have imagined it could do that?

To be completely honest with you, I do still fear this at times.  I am human, after all.   But it no longer has that same grip on me like it once did.  I have faced my worst fear and survived!  I don’t know what your worst fear is, but maybe it is the same as mine.  May God help you face it with the help of a trusted friend or a counselor/pastor and in doing so, find greater peace and a new freedom.

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How can parents whose children are hurting from abusing drugs, alcohol, self harm of all kinds (eating disorders, cutting, burning), pornography, same sex relationships, gambling and mental illness find freedom?  What do we need to be free from?  Everything destructive associated with this child that is destroying our well-being, robbing us of our sanity.  Fear, anxiety, worry, despair, depression, anger, resentment, grief and more.

In my personal experience finding my freedom didn’t come from doing more, lecturing more, helping more, reading more books or Bible verses (they certainly do help and I do these all the time), or trying to fix my daughter more.  It’s also wasn’t from worrying more, yelling more, crying more, or talking to one more counselor.  These things did help.  They needed to be expressed and done as part of my grieving, healing journey.  Not sure about the yelling or lecturing . . .

My freedom came through something else.  It came through yielding more.  Surrendering more.  Giving her back to God more.  Trusting him more.  Releasing her into his care more.  Into his loving hands.

I had to remember that while I loved her immensely, He loved her even more.  Much more.  After all, he is the one who made her and gave her life.  I was part of the process, but he is the Divine life-source.  When I say yield and surrender I don’t mean giving up or not caring.  It’s letting go and letting God do his work.  I step back and let him step in.  I stop any enabling or helping.  I focus on taking care of myself and let my daughter learn to do the same for herself.

Here is a powerful prayer called “Declaration of Release.”  It is written by Sylvia Gunther  with The Father’s Business.  Used it as your own prayer to help you let go and give your child back to God.  Use it as often as you need to.  It helped me find freedom.  I believe it will help you, too.  Let it be your Freedom Song!

Because Jesus Christ is my Lord, I free you from my anxiety, fears, and control. I trust the Holy Spirit to lead you and show you the way that is right for you the way of love, joy, and peace and all that salvation includes.

I place you at God’s throne of grace. I cannot force my will on you. I cannot live your life for you. I give you to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. You are a very special person. As much as I love you, God loves you more. Your life today is totally in His hands, and I trust Him with it.

 In Jesus’ name…

 I release you from my expectations,

 I place you on open palms to the Lord,

 I give you my blessings,

 I let you go.  Amen.

It is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose. Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:13, 1:6).
                                                                                                                                                  
Prayer Portions L 1991. 1992. 1995. Sylvia Gunter. P.O. Box 380333, Binningham, AL 35238 USA. All Rights Reserved.       

 

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Forgiveness.  For parents walking the path of having a difficult child this is part of the journey.  If your child is causing you a lot of heartache and pain forgiveness doesn’t come easy.  When alcohol or drugs are being abused, when they are cutting or burning themselves, have an eating disorder, are confused about their sexual orientation or have been in and out of trouble with the law there has been a lot that needs forgiving.

Our beloved children have made choices that have cost us a lot:   Loss of health.  Loss of sleep.  Loss of time at work.   Loss of finances – money spent trying to help them.   Loss of or damage to our realtionships – with them, with our spouse, with our other children, maybe even with our friends.  Loss of our emotional and mental well-being.  Our faith can be weakened.  We may even have walked away from God.  How dare he let this happen to us?

We need to experience forgiveness on several levels.

1)  We need to forgive our child for how they hurt us.  And they have hurt us deeply.  It is an open gaping wound for some of us.  A mortal blow for others.  Broken hearts.  Shattered dreams.  Surgery of the soul will be required for our healing.  The pain of rejection and watching them destroy themselves.  A death has occured.  We are thrown into a period of grieving the unthinkable loss of all we hoped and dreamed of for our precious son or daughter.

2)  We need to forgive ourselves for not being the perfect parent (there isn’t one — only God!)  Be easy on yourself.  Refuse to believe the lie that it is all your fault.  You didn’t make them choose what they have.  You did the best you could.  No matter how badly you may have blown it, it doesn’t excuse their choices.

3)  We need to forgive othersthose who hurt our child.  Those who encouraged their behavior, sold them drugs, took advantage of them or hurt them in some way.  This is a biggie. This was very difficult for me.  My daughter has been raped by men who took advantage of her when she was drunk.  I had so much unforgiveness in my heart toward them.  It wasn’t hurting them at all – only me.  Forgiving them has been a long slow process for me.  Your friends may walk away, too.  They can’t handle your pain.  Your suitcase is too heavy for them.  They want to, but they can’t carry it.  It’s not their fault.  They just can’t do it.  It’s too hard.  They can’t understand.

Louise Smedes said it so well: “The first and only person to be healed by forgiveness is the person who does the forgiveness….When we genuinely forgive, we set a prisoner free and then discover that the prisoner we set free was us.”

4)  We may even need to forgive God.  Sounds strange, doesn’t it?  It can be very difficult to accept that while he is all-powerful and could have prevented them from going astray, he gave them free will to choose for themselves what they will do with their lives.  We blame him for not protecting them from the bad things that happened to them as a result, even though they were the natural consequences of their choices.  God doesn’t need to be forgiven because he didn’t do this TO them.  WE need to forgive him, if we are blaming him and resentment is building up in us.

The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness.  These are two of my favorite verses on the subject:

“Be kind and compassionate to each other, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”  (Ephesians 4:32)

“Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23: 34)

Why should I forgive?  Because Jesus has forgiven me and it is for my well-being.  If he forgave those who brutally crucified him then I can forgive.   He  is my example.  This is what motivated the Amish parents in West Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, to forgive the young men who murdered their children in the school shooting several years ago.  He is the how and the why of forgiving.

Forgiveness.  We need to offer it.  If we don’t it will only lead to bitterness.  It is the only way to lance our wounds before they fester and make us sick.  I encourage you to make this journey of forgiveness. It is not easy.  It is not quick.  It is a long, slow process.  It takes a lot of hard work.  But if you choose to forgive, you will be set you free.

You can read more about how the Amish community forgave in the book Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy available from Amazon. 

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Tomorrow is Mother’s Day.  A special day of joy for many moms, but a sad day of emotional pain for many others.  If your child is causing you a lot of heartache and pain due to their negative behaviors (alcohol and drug abuse, self harm, an eating disorder, trouble with the law, same sex identity issue, etc.) it is a day that you wish you could skip.  Every holiday hurts, but Mother’s Day feels the worst.  This one focuses on all that you wish you had with your child but have lost.  It elevates your pain.  It reminds you about your broken dreams and your broken heart.  The reminders are everywhere.  TV commercials, stores where you shop, ads on the internet and in the newspaper.  You’re surrounded.

You may hear from your child.  You may not. You may see them.  You may not.  You may get a card.  You may not.  Maybe you would just be happy to know where they are or that they are okay.  If any of these describe you, I have 5 tips for you.  They are the same I give on every holiday.  They really do help.  I hope something here will help you.

5 Tips for Surviving Mother’s Day:

1) Adjust your expectations – lower them.  If you can, let go of them altogether.  This will help you be content with whatever happens.  Let go of needing a certain thing to happen.  If you don’t you are setting yourself up to be hurt and disappointed.

2) Consider doing things differently – maybe your former traditions will just make you more sad or be too difficult to do in light of your situation.

3) Avoid social media – hearing about your friend’s blessings with their children can make you feel worse than you already do and envious (not good)

4) Focus on others – do something for someone else who is hurting or lonely

5) Be grateful – keep giving thanks no matter how you feel; start a gratitude journal (even the smallest things count!)

A book that will comfort you and help you keep your sense of humor (is that possible?) is Where Does a Mother Go to Resign? by Barbara Johnson.  Click here to watch Barbara herself say a few words about it on Youtube.   I just finished reading one of her other books, When Your Child Breaks Your Heart,  and found it very insightful.  She’s been in the pit of despair yet found her way out.  Two of her sons died and a third was living a gay lifestyle.  She lost her sense of humor for a while, but through her faith she found it again.

Laughter.  Hmmm . . . maybe this should be #6 on my list?  Laugh.  Laugh hard if you can.  Let’s be honest.  It may make you angry with me for suggesting such a thing.  You may be wondering how in the world you can laugh again?  I know.  I’ve been there.  But if you can find a way to have a really good laugh it will do so much for you.  It releases those “feel good” chemicals throughout your body.  So, go watch a funny movie.  Read some jokes (or have someone tell you a few!).  Watch silly Youtube videos.  I like America’s Funniest Videos and re-runs of really old sitcoms like I Love Lucy, The Carol Burnett Show and Happy Days.  Whoa.  They are really old, aren’t they? Maybe that will give you a laugh!  I am so glad God created us with the capacity for humor and laughter.  I need to go add that to my gratitude journal!  Ha!  :o)

Happy Mother’s Day and God bless you with his comforting love.  And may He give you the gift of a good laugh sometime during the day.  If you need a little help click on a few of the links above and watch a one of the video clips.   I bet something there will help you laugh!

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven . . . a time to weep and a time to laugh . . .”(Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 4a)

LAUGH!!!

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In my last blog I said I would share my list of coping strategies in my next post.  This is what I like to do to relax, distract or uplift myself.

A place I like to go in Lake Wales

These things help me cope with worry, stress, fear and anxiety over my daughter who struggles with addictions (drugs and alcohol), self-harm (cutting), mental illness, has been suicidal, in and out of hospitals, pscyh wards, and rehabs.  If you are reading this you probably have a lot that causes you to be fearful and stressed, too!  It may not even be over a child or grandchild.  The every day trials of life can do this to you.

So here’s my list which has expanded to 30 things and they aren’t all “spiritual” things.  Many are just common sense and very practical.  But then I think watching the sunset can be a very spiritual activity.

1)   Listen to uplifting music (I like all kinds)

2)   Take a walk

3)   Go for a bike ride

4)   Go to the beach – I like to walk on the beach, sit and look at the water, watch the waves roll in

5)   Call a friend

6)   Read Bible verses (especially in the book of Psalms) or an encouraging book

7)   Pray, pray and pray some more

8)   Pray with someone (even over the phone if necessary)

9)   Post index cards around my home with Bible verses or encouraging quotes (this may include inside my car!)

10) Sit by water and just relax – a pool, lake, pond, foutain, or a water feature; there’s something about the sight and sounds of water that is so refreshing

11) Take 5 to 15 minutes to pull away from everything; go to a quiet spot, lay down (if I can) or lean back and practice the 3 R’s – Rest, Relax Receive: Focus my thoughts solely on God and on receiving his love.   Even 5 minutes completely refreshes me!  Sometimes I might even fall asleep doing this!

12) Read a good book or magazine – just for fun, not work related and unrelated to anything affecting my child

13) Go to a support group meeting – Al Anon, Nar Anon, Celebrate Recovery.  (they also have online groups)

14) Go to a retreat center for at least half a day (I like to go to a monastery with beautiful, serene grounds to walk around).

15) Skype with my family – especially my son and his family so I can see my grandbabies!  What joy this brings me!

16) Clean house or organize something (this keeps my mind focused on something else!)

17) Bake something I like or make a new recipie (then enjoy consuming it!)

18) Go shopping – if my budget is tight then I will go window shopping.  Look out Goodwill store, here I come!

19) Watch a fun movie that makes me laugh (I love old classics and musicals)

20) Practice deep breathing while repeating a comforting phrase – “I belong to God” is one I like; or “God is in control”; “I am not alone”; “This won’t last forever”; “Let go and let God”; “Take One Day at a Time”

21) Read stories (or watch movies) of redemption, about people who overcame great obstacles in their lives.  I find them through searching the internet, netflix, or the library.  Reader’s Digest magazine is a good source.   I find things on the internet – youtube, iamsecond.com, twloha.com, and other websites.

22) Pull weeds or work in my yard.  I enjoy taking care of my flowers and plants.

23) Watch the sun rise or set.  Take pictures of this.

24) Sing songs – play a favorite CD and sing along with it.  One I like to sing with is Stevie Wonder!  Sometimes I like to get out an old hymnbook and sing some of my favorites.

25) Read over my “thanksgiving journal” (a record I keep of things I am thankful for) and make a new entry.  Remembering how I have been blessed always uplifts me.

26) Take pictures of nature or anything that interests me; look through my photo albums; look at my favorite photos in my computer.

27) Do something for someone else  (this is a biggie; takes the focus off of myself)

28) Listen to pre-recorded sounds of nature (birds singing, rushing rivers or streams, rainfall, etc.)

29) Use a “God Box” – I mentioned this in a former post in December 2011.  Take a small box and when feeling worried, fearful or stressed about your child, write that thought down on a piece of paper.  Then put it in the box and put the lid on it.  This process is symbolic of giving it to God!  I have been amazed at how this simple exercise helps me let go of the worries I have about my daughter.

30) Go to garage sales.  It’s a blast!  You never know what you will find.  I usually go with a good friend (adding to the enjoyment), but even alone it is still a good activity for me.

This may have been really boring to read, but I hope it inspired someone to go make their own list.  If you do be sure to keep it handy so you can use it the next time you feel overcome with fear, worry or anxiety about your child, or about anything!  It really does help!  I’m sure my list will keep growing as time goes by.  I need all the ideas I can get to help me cope better.

Ask God to give you ideas of what will work for you.  I’m sure your list will look completely different from mine.  I wonder what you will have on your list?

Here are a few Bible verses that I like to remember when I need to relax:

God is able to give the “Peace that transcends all understanding.”  (Philippians 4:7 NIV)

“In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From His temple he heard my voice . . . He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.  He rescued me from my enemy (the power of addiction, rebellion, etc. that is working in my child’s life and my negative responses of fear and worry). . . the Lord was my support . . . He brought me out into a spacious place . . . “  (Psalms 18:6, 17-19 NIV)

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When I am in deep emotional and psychological pain I need something solid to hold onto.  The things I have been through with my daughter have brought me the deepest pain of my life and therefore the greatest need for comfort and hope.  So I turn to what I believe is truth — the Bible.  When I read Luke 23:26 – 24:45, which tells most of the Easter story, I am struck by how much truth is in here that encourages me, comforts me and gives me hope as one whose child struggles with substance abuse, self harm, suicidal thoughts and mental illness.

I thought I’d share with you some of the truths I see in the Easter story that mean a lot to me as a parent in pain.  I hope maybe something here will resonate with your heart and give you a little more hope and comfort, too.  I need all I can get!  How about you?

God is all-powerful; if He can raise Jesus from the dead, then I know he can do the impossible in my child’s life, too!  And mine!

Nothing is too hard for God; NOT A THING (mental illness, addiction, a prison sentence, eating disorders, etc.)

Things may look hopeless today (Jesus suffered flogging, was unjustly convicted, died a brutal death on a cross, was buried and his body was in a tomb 3 days), BUT . . .  it wasn’t the end of the story!  It’s Friday (when Jesus died), but Sunday’s coming (Resurrection Day)!  Today is mystery to us; we can’t explain ‘why’; can’t understand or make sense of it with our own reasoning abilities – we must trust God no matter how things look.  Anything is possible for him!

You never know what God is doing.  We must believe he can redeem any situation and use it for good not just in my life and my child’s, but as a ripple effect in the lives of others who will see and hear about what God did.  No one ever imagined God would raise Jesus from the dead!  No way!

God DOES have a plan and he will be with us every step of the way as it unfolds.

There is always hope for anyone.  It’s never too late!  Jesus told the criminal on the cross beside him that he would be with him that day in paradise.  This man would die in just a few hours, but there was still hope for him.

God will do whatever it takes to reveal truth to people.  Earthquakes, the dead coming out of their tombs talking to people, angels bringing messages, Jesus appearing in a locked room and then disappearing, touching his pierced hands and side.  Yet, he gives to all free will to choose whether or not they will believe.  It’s not forced on anyone.  All who see and hear will not respond in faith.

God’s love is incredible, immeasurable and incomprehensible.  He loves every single person he ever made more than we could ever imagine; enough to enter into this messed up world in human form, in the person of Jesus, His son; allowing him to suffer and die a horrible death on a cross to pay the penalty for our offenses to him, so that we could be forgiven and cleansed, be made right with him, have an intimate relationship with him and have the free gift of eternal life.   “God so loved the world . . .” (John 3:16)  Yes, he surely does.  And that includes me and my child, no matter what they’ve done or what has been done to them.

God is faithful to keep his word throughout all generations.  He is trustworthy and dependable.  Fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies is throughout the Easter passages and all of the four gospels.

(from v. 26 “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things then enter his glory?”)  We may have to suffer to bring glory to God.  He has allowed suffering to come into my life through my child, but it has a bigger purpose.  It’s not about me, it’s about God and His glory!

**Which one of these truths means most to you today as a hurting parent?  Choose one and write it on an index card or piece of paper.  Put it out somewhere as a reminder to you of who God is and what He can do in your life or in your child’s life.  Look up these Bible verses and read them for yourself.   What else do you see?  I’m sure you’ll find even more truths than I did! 

***Pray and give thanks to God for the truth you wrote down and any other ones you find.  And keep your eyes on the cross!  Jesus is alive and lives to help us through anything we will ever face in our lives!  Our hope is real!

HERE ARE TWO VERY HELPFUL TIPS FOR SURVIVING A HOLIDAY: 

1) LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS.   IT WILL HELP YOU NOT FEEL SO BADLY IF THINGS DON’T HAPPEN LIKE YOU WANT!!!

2) DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR IF YOUR PREVIOUS TRADITIONS WILL MAKE YOU FEEL MORE SAD AND UPSET.  START SOME NEW ONES YOU CAN ENJOY FROM THIS POINT ON!

 

 

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