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.