I’m the mom of a daughter who’s struggled for over ten years with addictions, self-injury and mental health issues. At times I felt like I was living in the middle of a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. The road has been rough. The path, steep. The nights, long. The days full of agony. My shame has been great. My guilt has been heavy. Sadness infected every are of my life.
There are three things I wish I had known sooner in my parenting marathon. When I finally heard them they were like medicine for my sickened heart. If you’re the parent of a troubled son or daughter (or grandchild) you need to hear them sooner rather than later.
- You are not alone. We need to say this to ourselves repeatedly until we believe it. This desperate situation isn’t happening only to you and your family. You’re in good company. There are thousands of parents all over the world who suffer with children in turmoil just like you. But we’re embarrassed, so we keep it a secret. We stay to ourselves and remain isolated. It only makes the journey harder and more intense.
- You are not a bad parent. Although you weren’t perfect, no one is—that’s not your fault. Children have free will to make their own choices. Some of their troubles are genetic, like mental illness or the propensity for alcoholism. Please stop beating yourself up, feeling guilty for what you have no control over. Your child made their own choices and will reap the consequences.
- You are going to be okay. You will get through this. You can learn to let go and let God work. You can be at peace with unthinkable circumstances. It really is possible as you trust God with the outcome. One day, joy will return, even if they never do. You can find new purpose, new dreams and goals. You can enjoy life again. You may not have control over your child’s choices, but you do have control over how you respond to them. It’s what you do now that matters. If your child is under eighteen, get them all the help you can, but don’t neglect your own well-being. Take care of yourself, too.
Remember, this experience with your son or daughter is a lot like a long-distance run. You may have no clue what mile you’re on. At times you think you catch a glimpse of the finish line, but it’s elusive. You can’t quite get there. Some times you feel like you’re not going to make it.
If you’re running alone, I have a suggestion. Please don’t.
We need to be with others who understand, people who know our pain who will run with us. We need community to finish our parenting race.
We can do it—together.
“Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1).”
Where have you found community on your journey? Please share where you’ve found support. Thank you!