As I continue to grieve the loss of my daughter, I’m noticing that I’m choosing to slow life down a bit. I’m assuming that part of it is that others are giving me space and they understand on some level the complexity of the emotional turmoil that I’m in at the moment. When I feel overwhelmed, or sad, or anxious, or find tears welling up within me, I find myself analyzing the feeling to better understand what is going on deep inside. I find that my capacity to deal with extraneous frustrations is limited so I selectively pick my next steps knowing what I can handle.
Thinking about the grieving process makes me wonder if we wouldn’t be better served as parents to do the same thing. After all, not many kids turn out exactly the way we think they should.
What I’ve come to realize is that there are a lot of moms who need to grieve. Moms who need to grieve what they thought they could have with their kids.
Many have kids that are disrespectful, kids that are making wrong choices, kids who choose not to listen to reason, and kids who are in jail or doing drugs or having sex or — whatever is on your list. But whatever the expectation in which your child is falling short, as a parent you need to grieve it and move forward in your parenting.
Grief is a process of letting go — letting go of what we had hoped for and accepting what is true. And I’ll admit that it is hard.
Too many times as parents rather than letting go we choose denial. Somehow we think that we can fix whatever we think is broken with our child. We nag, we coerce, we try to reason, and we get emotional. Acceptance is sometimes a difficult but necessary path to walk if we want a relationship with our child that isn’t filled with a sense of distance fortified with impenetrable walls.
Acceptance doesn’t mean there isn’t pain for you as a parent, but it releases your child to choose their own path.
So how do you grieve the things you’ve hoped for with your child? How can you turn your frustration into a relationship where you are willing to endure their choices and love them in spite of their actions?
- Share your situation with someone safe. A dear friend, a counselor, or even someone who has walked a similar path with their kids can do wonders for lightening the burden you carry. Just talking about it will lessen the hold the situation has over you.
- Express your feelings. Sadness, guilt, despair, anxiety, fear, hopelessness, longing, anger, and frustration will overwhelm you at times. Don’t be afraid to feel. Let others know what you are experiencing at least in the sense of “I’m going through a tough time right now.” It will normalize the feeling. I’m finding that when friends text me to check in, I let them know what I’m feeling in the moment and ask them to pray.
- Let the tears flow. Crying helps you heal. Whether it is with a friend, your spouse, or alone, tears will bring relief.
- Let others know your need. Each of us deals with grief in different ways. I am finding myself needing time alone and at other times I need to be with people. I’ve asked friends to go to the store with me, meet me for coffee, and to check in by text. When someone offers a meal, I accept. I’m finding that grief zaps my energy, so I’m giving myself permission to accept help from others or decline if I can’t handle what they offer.
- Sleep, eat, and do as much of your normal routine as possible. I’m finding that grief is such an emotional process that I have to be selective with what I can do. Focus on the basics and do only one thing at a time–but do something. Don’t totally disengage from the rest of the world.
- This is a time to be selfish. This is something I learned from a very wise pastor. Grieving needs to be on your terms not what others want to do for you. The day after my daughters death, friends wanted to be with me, to hug me, to do things for me. While I appreciated their desire to be there, what I needed was just the opposite. I needed time to contemplate, rest, and just be with my family. My desire in the moment was to be mom for my other kids.
- Spend time with God. In the midst of my current circumstances sometimes I feel like my prayers are disjointed. Sometimes I just ask Him to give my daughter a hug or I write in my journal letting God know that I accept that He is God in my current situation. I’ve been reading about peace in the midst of difficulty. Coming to grips with the fact that He is in control takes hard work. Acceptance is part of the process.
- Grow through your experience. God has given you this trial to bring about incredible transformation in you. Through your loss of the ideal for your child, you will gain wisdom in learning to overcome and survive. Once you reach this point you will be better able to love your child unconditionally in spite of their choices.
As I’m writing this, it has occurred to me that this is not the first time I’ve gone through the grieving process with my daughter. She was that challenging child where I found myself grieving over and over again at various stages of her life. At some point in my parenting, I chose not to try to change her any more. The nagging, the coercion, and the getting emotional stopped. I would still try to reason with her, but when she disagreed I said something like “it makes me sad that these are the choice you’ve decided to make; however, I love you and I accept that they are your choices.” Once I had grieved and accepted that I was not in control, I reached a point where I was able to truly love her unconditionally. I accepted her for who she was and fully entrusted her to God.
As parents we sometimes need to let go of our expectations for our kids. We need to grieve our idealistic hopes and dreams so that we can better love these kids that God has given us on loan. After all, He created them and He has a plan for their lives.
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
“…but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
Do we trust Him with His story?
Praying you can…
“Let go…and Let God”,
Our Small Group Leader’s Guide for With All Due Respect is now available. Want to help moms develop a deeper relationship with God as they create more fulfilling relationships with their teens and tweens? With All Due Respect was bathed in tears as God walked me through a powerful life-changing process that impacted my relationship with my daughter. Because of what God taught me through parenting her, other moms can now grow closer to Him as they work through the devotional Dares from this book. What is more, if you choose to do the book in a group you’ll have opportunity to develop deep connecting relationships with other women who are also on the parenting journey.