Are you the parent or grandparent in pain from a broken heart? Is your pain from the choices, behaviors or struggles of your child or grandchild? Mental illness, addiction, self-injury, an eating disorder, suicidal tendencies, same-sex attraction, incarceration, or an unplanned pregnancy?
They feel like elephants sitting on our chests. They hang like menacing storm clouds over our heads, creating a constant state of anxiety and panic we can’t shake. Nausea is our regular unwanted companion. Maybe you’re a relative or friend of someone this describes. If so, I wrote this for you.
In my opinion, there are 5 things parents in pain (and yes, I’m a member of that club) want their loved ones and friends to know:
1. We need a lot of patience and understanding. Lots of it. We’re not ourselves. We can’t think straight. We may be more forgetful than usual. We may look all right on the outside, but inside we feel like we’re dying.
2. Ask us about our child. Not asking, avoiding the subject to not upset us or make us feel bad hurts more. Yes, it hurts to talk about them, but it hurts more to never be asked. That makes us feel like you don’t care. We’re already hurting. Asking won’t make us feel any worse than we already do. We need to know you haven’t forgotten, you’re aware we’re hurting and you care enough to ask. It helps us not feel so alone.
3. Treat us with tender loving care, like someone who’s in mourning – we are! We’re grieving the loss of the hopes and dreams we had for our child. Ask how we’re doing and be brave enough to listen. A great question is, “How’s your heart today?” Then, just listen. Tell us you’re sorry and that you care. Give us a hug or a gentle touch on our hand or shoulder. But please, please, please DO NOT offer any advice, unless we ask you for it – and be sure you don’t tell us why you think this happened. Bite your tongue and let the urge pass. Only God really knows why and knowing why doesn’t help us feel any better.
4. We need you to send us encouraging notes, cards, emails or text messages to counter the lies Satan puts in our minds. We’re in the middle of a battle – a life and death battle for our child’s very life and soul. Some days it feels like the we’re losing. We feel overwhelmed to the point of exhaustion, draining us to barely be able to function and do normal, everyday activities. Simply getting up in the morning is a challenge, because the truth is – many times we’d rather not.
5. We need prayer – for ourselves and for our child. And if you can be brave, we need you to pray with us in person or on the phone. Without your loving support and encouragement, sharing in our pain, we might give up. We could even despair to the point of choosing to end our lives. That would be exactly what the enemy wants – to get two victims instead of one. But with you encouraging us, we can make it.
“The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down (Psalm 145:14).”
May the God of all comfort uphold and uplift your hurting loved ones and friends through you.
(* photo cred. Jordan McQueen)