Encouraging Thoughts for Parents in Pain

Discover the difference between helping and interfering.  Take a closer look at how you offer support.  Learn to detach with love.  This doesn’t mean disinterest . . . it is respect for another’s “personhood”.  – Al Anon

Learning from pain is our life-saving goal.  So, we need to be careful not to step into someone’s life as a continual pattern or else we interrupt the “pain message” and interfere with the real change or healing that is needed.  – Sharon Clark Pearson

As long as they are still breathing, there is still hope.  – a dear friend who has over 25 years of sobriety

Keep showing tough love.  It’s hard.  They won’t like it, neither will you.  But you must or nothing will ever change.

Keep taking one day at a time and enjoy your life.  Laugh again.  Enjoy your spouse, your other children, your friends, hobbies . . . your life.  You can.  It’s ok.  Don’t feel guilty about it.  Go have fun!

Say “I love you” often.  As often as you have opportunity.  They need to hear it.  Many feel so unworthy of it.  Unconditional.  “I just want to be sure you know I will always love you, no matter what.”  Even God still loves us when we are in rebellion.  He died for us in that condition.  (But be careful not to weaken and start enabling again!)

Show affection even if they don’t like it.  Maybe it’s a back rub, or a hug.  When you don’t know what to say, a hug says a lot.  They may be pushing you away, but inside they may be crying out for it. 

Learn your child’s love language. (if you are married it wouldn’t hurt to learn your spouses, either!) This way you are showing love in the way that is meaningful to them, not just what communicates it to you.  Been there, done that.  Not so good. 

 The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman available from Amazon.  He wrote a book on this subject for couples and for children.  Very, very helpful for understanding those special people in your life.


Rip Current Dangers for Struggling Parents

Living an hour from the beaches in Florida, I sometimes hear news reports of drownings on one of the area beaches caused by rip currents.  It occurs to me that having a child who is has problems with alcohol or drugs, is in a out of jail, suffers from mental illness, engages in self harm, has an eating disorder, is suicidal at times, is promiscuous, lives a gay lifestyle, etc. is like being caught in a rip current.  We are in imminent danger.   We feel like we are drowning!  Help!

A rip current is is a strong channel of water flowing out to sea from near the shore.  They can occur in oceans, seas or even lakes.  Rips (as they are also called) can be extemely dangerous to swimmers, dragging them away from the beach and the safety of the shallows.  The average rate of speed of a rip is 1 to 2 feet per second and up to 8 feet per second.  That’s really fast!  Death by drowning comes following exhaustion while fighting the ocean current.  Someone who is not even swimming just simply standing in waist deep water can also be dragged into deeper waters where they can drown if they are unable to swim and are not wearing a flotation device.

Our children’s troubles can sneak up on us and yank our feet right out from under us, dragging us out to the deep waters of fear, shame, guilt, anger, resentment, enabling, sorrow and more.  We thought we were in safe waters after doing it all “right”!  Now we struggle to break free and make our way back to the shore where all is calm, but we just can’t do it.  It’s as though we are caught in this fast moving channel.  I found the more I tried to get out of this in my own strength it just didn’t work.  I quickly suffered from exhaustion – emotional, physical and spiritual.  This experience is so incredibly draining.  It saps even the strongest person of all their reserves.  Before you know what is happening your life is in danger.  You are “ripped”!

How can you escape from a rip current?  Contrary to what you may think it is not by doing what seems natural to you, attempting to swim back to shore directly against the rip. This risks exhaustion and drowning.  You see, a rip is too powerful.  It also does not pull a swimmer under water, it carries them away from the shore and out to deeper waters where there is no foothold.  It’s like a treadmill they can’t get off.  Caught in its powerful forces and being pulled out to sea panic sets in.  However, the swimmer needs to stay calm and swim parallel to the shore until they are outside of the current. Then, locations to aim for are places where waves are breaking. In these areas, they can catch a wave and body surf easily towards the shore and back to safety.

Do you feel caught in a rip current?  Caught on a vicious emotional treadmill you can’t get off?  Do you feel yourself being pulled away from the safety of the shore, where your emotional stability was?  Has fear and panic set in?  In my experience relief only came when I finally quit fighting against what was happening, moved out of shock and denial, faced my fears, and accepted there was a problem I couldn’t handle.

When I stopped trying to fix my daughter and make her change . . . when I finally surrendered her back to God . . . when I let go and let Him work, that is when I regained my foothold and found peace.  That is when the rip lost its power over me.

I had to work hard though.  Learning to “float” was really hard, just like when I was a kid.   I was so full of fear.  What if I leaned back and the swim instructor or my parents didn’t hold me up?  Leaning back in my Lifeguard’s arms, relaxing  and trusting in him — this is where I found freedom from the affects of the “rip current”.  This is how I made my way back to shore . . . and it wasn’t under my own strength.

So, according to my research, here are the things you can do to survive being caught in the dangers of a rip :

1)  Relax, then calmly float or tread water.  Eventually the rip will lose its strength and you can swim diagonally back to shore at your leisure.

2)  Swim where there are lifeguards on duty.

This is your only hope for survival.

Are you in danger of drowning?  Have you learned to float?  Are you learning to overcome your natural responses that aren’t really helping, but might actually be hurting you?  Do you need to overcome your fears so you can lean back in your Father’s arms and trust him to hold you up in deep waters?  Do you need to be rescued by your heavenly Lifeguard?

God can be that for you.  He is always on duty.  There is nowhere you can “swim” that he is not.  If you feel caught in a dangerous rip current because of your child’s destructive behaviors, He will rescue you if you call out to him for help.   He can bring you safely back to shore.

Two Bible verses that comes to my mind are:

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  (Deuteronomy 33:27)

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name, you are mine.

when you pass through the waters (the rip currents), I will be with you;

and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you . . .

For I am the Lord, Your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior . . .

Since you are precious and honored in my sight and becasue I love you . . .

Do not be afraid, for I AM WITH YOU.”  (Isaiah 43:1-5)


Hurting Parents worst Enemy

Fear.  It is our worst enemy.  It is the uninvited guest that has over-stayed their welcome.  If you read my blogs very often you will see that I talk about fear alot.  That’s because from first hand experience I have found that it is one of our biggest problems.  Every hurting parent I know agrees with me.  We are so terribly afraid of what will happen next when our child is caught in the web of addicitons, suffers from mental illness, is involved in self harming behaviors (cutting, burning, picking their skin, eating disorders), is living a gay lifestyle, keeps getting in trouble with the law, is promiscuous, or has made suicide attempts and/or threats.  Total misery!  Pure agony.  We hate what this kind of fear does to us!

We waste so much time and energy fretting over all the “what-ifs”.  It can make you crazy. It can make you sick.

What can we do about it?  We can work on improving our memory.  Remember who God is; remember He is in control; remember you are NOT alone; remember Truth. When fear grips me everything I know seems to vanish.  It flies right out the window and out of my brain!  It’s like I develop a sudden case of amnesia!  Ugh!

So, here is my idea for you today.  I have done this and it helped me.  It helped me a lot.  Make a list of everything you know is absolutely true – all that you know, that you know, that you know you can stand on as firm ground under your feet when everything around you is crashing down . . .  when you are shaking so badly inside you tremble all over . . . when you don’t think you can bear to face the next moment.  Keep it nearby so you can read it over and over again every time fear comes knocking at your door!

A Bible verse that reminds me of several truths on my list is:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble.  Therefore, we will NOT FEAR, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea . . . ”  (Psalms 46:1-5)

Prayer Can Make the Difference for Struggling Parents

We have no power to change our child who struggles with any number of problems from addictions to mental illness.  I have only found peace from giving my daughter to God – over and over again – and then focusing on taking care of myself.   There are many ways you can do this, but the best way for me has been through prayer.  Al-Anon encourages co-dependent family members to do this.  My faith also encourages me to do this.  It is my way of letting go.  It is my source of hope and strength.  I also believe prayer is powerful and can change things.  Ultimately it does not remove my child’s free will, or her ability to choose, but in my life it has made a difference.  My prayers have not forced her to do anything she did not want to do, but they have been a mighty resource.

Many people have prayed for my daughter, Renee.  Maybe thousands.  I will probably never know.  I do know that I have seen the results of those prayers.  They have accomplished amazing things.  I credit prayer with saving her life many times.  Near overdoses.  Car accidents.  Severe cutting incidents.  Mixing alcohol and drugs.  Being in the presence of predators.  I believe it is the sole reason she is still alive today.  Prayer has protected her from greater harm and greater damage than she has already experienced.   It didn’t stop all the bad things from happening, but through it I have been able to cope . . . it helped her cope, too.

Prayer has given her hope (and me, too!).  It has kept her from giving up and taking her life.  Prayer brought loving, caring, compassionate people into her life who were willing to sacrifice themselves to help her.  David McKenna and his friends who stayed with her when detoxing are at the top of my list.  Counselors.  Nurses in ERs.  Teachers in her high school.  Kind strangers.  Faithful friends and mentors.  Through prayer I have seen amazing provision for her needs.  Counseling & psychiatric fees.  Medical insurance.  Stays in Rehabs.  Day to day needs met.

Prayer has also been the catalyst behind each of these things:

Each of us finding purpose for the pain – for her, for me, for her father, for our whole family.

A book by that title  Purpose for The Pain  (a collection of Rene’s journal entries)

My husband and I starting an outreach to help support other struggling parents, Hope for Hurting Parentshopeforhurtingparents.com 

The founding of an international non-profit, To Write Love On Her Arms.   twloha.com.  Click here then on “story” to read more how my daughter’s story was the genesis of this movement.

And most amazingly ,prayer was behind the making of a movie, Renee, based on her story.  reneethemovie.com  It will be coming to theatres sometime fall 2012.

Yes, I have seen prayer accomplish things I can explain in no other way.  Some say there are no answered prayers, only “coincidences.”  If that is true, then I have many more “coincidences” when I pray than when I do not pray.  Therefore, I will pray all the more and enjoy my coincidences!   It has become my lifeline.  My communication with God.  It is not a formula to get what I want, like going into a candy store, declaring “I want that!”  (if only it was!)

Prayer is how I draw near and come into God’s presence to receive what I need . . . which the older I get I realize more and more what I really need . . . is Him.  God Himself.   I’d love getting everything I want (especially where it involves my child) or having everything “work out” the way I think it should.  But really, for me, prayer has become “knowing” God.  When I come to him and lay down all my concerns at his feet, I find the love, strength, comfort, peace, courage and hope I need to keep going . . . no matter what happens.

Today is a day I am taking to devote to praying for many sons and daughters who are “shipwrecked”, languishing, wandering apart from their Creator.  Some once believed but have chosen to walk away and do life on their own.  If you would like to send me a message with your child’s name I would love to lift their name up to God as well.  I would consider it an honor and a privilege.  Not just today, but any day!

If you haven’t talked to God in a long time, you might want to give it a try again.  Just like us parents, He really loves hearing from his children.

Here are a few of my favorite books on praying for your children.  If you’d like more resources on prayer, send me a message and I will send you more titles.

Stormie Omartian’s books:  The Power of a Praying Parent and The Power of Praying for Your Adult Children

How to Pray for Lost Loved Ones by Dutch Sheets

Praying Prodigals Home by Q. Sherrer and R. Garlock

Praying the Scriptures for Your Teenagers by J. Berndt

Here is a final word that the Scriptures have to say about praying:  “. . . pray . . . on all occassions, with all kinds of prayers and requests.”  (Ephesians 6:18)