Whitney Houston’s death is a message to Parents

Whitney Houston’s death was such tragic news.  I just loved her voice.  Oh my, could she ever belt out a song and make it memorable!  While I know no one really knows what happened that caused her death, it appears that at least prescription drugs may have been involved.  What is this message to parents like us?  I think it is the sobering reality that we never know what tomorrow may hold.  Our children probably think they have it all under control with whatever self destructive behaviors they are indulging in — and there are so many . . . from anorexia and bulimia, to cutting and burning themselves, to alcohol and drug abuse, and on and on.  They don’t realize that control is an illusion!  They lost control a long time ago.  So did we.  They can’t fix themselves and neither can we.

So what is a parent to do?  How do you live with this kind of fear and dread?  This what-if?  This unknown?  This dark shadow that hovers over your head?  Here are 3 things that have helped me:

1)  Find support.  Surround yourself with others who understand and you can be real with.  A few accepting friends, a good counselor and a support group are irreplacable life-lines.

2)  Express your emotions with honesty and authenticity.  Face your worst fears head on.  Accept that your worst nightmares could come true.  Accept.  This is the last phase of the grieving process (you are already grieving the loss of all you had hoped and dreamed of for your child).  This is where you find peace.  Between shock and acceptance is a lot of hard work.  Do the work.  Be patient with yourself.  Press on.  Don’t give up.  You will make it.

3)  Let go and let God.  This is a great Al-Anon slogan.  Write it on an index card and put it infront of your face where you can see it every day as a constant reminder.  This is so hard to do.  To let go.  Release.  Relinquish . . . not knowing.  It’s been one of the most difficult parts of my journey because I know there are no guarantees.  But letting go is not saying you don’t care.  It is separating yourself from all the emotional stress of your child’s situation so you can keep your sanity.  It’s giving your child back to God and letting him work when you can’t.  It’s giving them the freedom to fail so they can learn from their mistakes and hopefully make better choices.  As NAMI says (The National Alliance on Mental Illness – nami.org), “Letting go is fearing less and loving more.”  I sure need to do that.  Do you?

Whitney Houston’s life ended the way we all hope and pray our child’s never does.  None of us knows what the future holds, but we can’t live in fear.  May you and I find the courage and strength we need to seek out support, express our emotions honestly, let go and let God.  We can make peace even with the unknown.  For me though, I can only do this with God’s strength.  This a Bible verse I really like that talks about this:  “It is God who arms me with strength. . .”  (Psalms 18:32a)  

He sure has.  And he continues to, moment by moment.


Parents in Pain Need Times of Refreshment

When you are the mom or dad (or grandparent) of a child who is causing you a lot of heartache and pain (you name it — all kinds of destructive choices and behaviors, including things outside of their control like depression, etc.) you are probably not doing very well emotionally, physically or spiritually.  It is incredibly draining in every way.  Every area of your life is affected.  Are you weary?  Drained?  Depleted?  Frazzled?  Stressed to the max?  Is there an elephant sitting on your chest?  Is it all taking a toll?  Are you beginning to wonder if you will make it to the end . . . wherever that is . . . if you will be able to persevere in one piece?

We desperately need to pull back from the chaos and take care of ourselves.  We need to be refreshed.  The dictionary defines “refreshed” as:

1. To revive with or as if with rest, food, or drink; give new vigor or spirit to.
2. To give new freshness or brightness to; restore.
3. To make cool, clean, or moist; freshen up.
4. To renew by stimulation: refresh one’s memory.
5. To fill up again; replenish: refresh a drink.

What refreshes you?  What replenishes you, renews you, restores you, revives you?  Can you remember?  Take some time to think about it and then make a list.  Listening to relaxing music?  Playing a musical instrument?  Singing?  Being out in nature (in your backyard, at a local park, in the mountains, on the beach)?  You might planting a garden or flowers (spring is coming!)?  Reading?  Taking a nap?  Participating in a sport?  Painting, sewing or doing something artsy?  Going to a museum?  What’s on your bucket list?  Maybe you need to make one or add something to it?  Whatever it is, find a way to do it.  Make a plan and make time for it.  Put it in your schedule.

We need the diversion.  We need the redirection of our mental, emotional and physical energy. We need to think about something else!  Oh my, how much we need it!!!!!  We need to live our lives and try to live them more fully.  Most of us have been only half functioning, maybe for a long time now.  It might be something very simple.

This picture of a place I like to go to be refreshed.  I just sit there and relax.  I might read or just listen to the sounds of nature around me. Today I am going to go sit outside (sorry, but it’s a gorgeous day today here in Orlando), close my eyes and just relax for 15 minutes.  I will have to work very hard to make it happen.   To just lean back in a comfy lawn chair and relax.  I will bring myself into God’s presence and let him love on me.  I will be still.  I will rest.  I will try very hard not to think about what’s next.  I will make it a “no prodigal zone” in my mind!  It will take all the mental energy I can muster up!

Hmmmm . . . then what will I do another day this week?  Maybe I will read something just for fun.  Maybe I will watch a funny movie (the old Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies really make me laugh).  On Saturday I am going on a retreat and I will have the whole afternoon all to myself to just relax and do whatever I want.  Can’t wait.  I think it will be refreshing!

What will you do?  I hope you will do something this week!  Maybe tomorrow!   Trust me, it will help.  It really will.

If you are reading this you are probably dealing with some kind of destructive behaviors or at least very painful situations with your son or daughter, or maybe a grandchild.  They may be abusing substances, hurting themselves (cutting, burning, etc), have an eating disorder, a mental illness (bipolar, depression, an anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia), suicidal, in jail, or have a sexual identity issue (porn, sex addiction, same sex attraction).  You have probably tried to control them, change them, fix them or cure them with no success or lasting results.

You have lost sleep, lost weight, gained weight, become a nervous wreck, called in sick at work, seen a counselor, started taking medication, had fights and disagreements with your spouse, alienated your other children or neglected your own well-being.  You are grieving the loss of all you’d hoped and dreamed for for your child.  Anger is one of the stages of that grieving process.  And besides, a lot of what they do and how they treat you is just downright infuriating!  It makes you want to scream and pull your hair out!

I had so much denial in the beginning, then like another mom shares, “suddenly, as the shock wore off and the reality set in—anger. Intense anger. Just wanting to wail, to scream from the depths. There’s no way I could express as much anger as I was feeling.”

We need to let go of our anger or it can build up and make us sick, cause depression and eventually turn into bitterness.  We need to find a way that is productive for our inner healing and not be harmful to others around us (our spouse, other children, co-workers, a pet, etc.). To release anger doesn’t mean lashing out, throwing a fit, or losing control of it; releasing anger involves the open and honest expression of our emotions in a way that is physically, mentally, and emotionally freeing.

We can do this by expressing our anger to God in prayer (don’t hold back!).  I used to think this was wrong, but I now realize it’s ok.  He can take it!  And He knows what I’m thinking and feeling anyway.  It’s no surprise to him.   Sometimes my anger is because of faulty thinking – I did the best I could, thought I did it all right, so why did things turn out like this?  I don’t deserve this.  It’s not fair!  It’s so wrong!

Another way I can express my anger is through exercise.  Walking, jogging, swimming, tennis, raquet ball, bike riding, kick boxing (ha!) –  whatever you like to do!  Passive activities like deep breathing, stretching, masage therapy or quiet time reflections are also effective.  These are ways to release a lot of pent up negative energy and feels so good!  Just go do it!

We can also release our anger in the presence of a person who will listen quietly and neither judge nor offer advice.  Another healthy way is writing down every angry thought that comes to mind until you cannot think of another angry sentence to write. Let it pour out.  Then rip it up into little pieces, maybe even burn it – destroy it in any way you want!  Flush it down the toilet!  (I think it will disintegrate!)  It is so very satisfying!  Some people find that expressing their anger out loud (and loudly) in a private place is helpful!  Yell, scream, shout . . . where no one can hear you so you don’t scare anyone!  I’ve done this in my car while driving, as long as no one is right beside me.  They might misunderstand what I am doing.  You don’t want to get in trouble.  Ha!

Authors, Brendan O’Rourke and DeEtte Sauer, of The Hope of a Homecoming, suggest we consider what would happen if we told our child how we feel.  Timing is important.  Maybe writing it in a letter form and then getting feedback from a trusted friend would be important.  Pray about it.  Check your motives.  It might make things worse.  The honesty can be good for our relationship.  They may need to hear what you have to say.  They tend to be so self-focused.  I am not very good at expressing my anger, but I am learning.

I hope you can find the way that works for you to express your anger and get it out.  You”ll be amazed at the freedom and relief you will feel.   I think the results are a lot like lancing an absessed wound.  It lets out all the poison that is infecting your body.  Releasing the anger you feel toward your child is so healthy!  So freeing.  And it can lead us to peace, the peace that surpasses our ability to understand.  Being angry isn’t wrong, we just need to find the healthy way to express it.  The Bible says, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger . . .” (Ephesians 4:26).  Lord, help us express and work through our anger so we will not suffer from it’s affects.