A Lesson from Aspen Trees

Parents With Broken Hearts Need Each Other

Aspen trees. 2020 site

I write to hurting, brokenhearted parents; parents whose dreams for their children have dried up and blown away in the wind. These moms and dads have experienced many of their worst nightmares, things they never imagined would happen – not to them; not to their child. Is that you? You felt like you lost your mind, your sense of well-being and your ability to hope. Filled with guilt and shame, you didn’t want anyone to know – not everything. No way. So you got pretty good at keeping secrets and staying to yourself. And it’s killing you.

My husband and I were in Colorado last month. We did a little sight-seeing one day and I had a fresh insight from something I saw that made me think of you – because I am one of you. I’ve been right where you are.

The cog train chugged along, making its way to the summit of Pike’s Peak. The view from our seats was breathtaking. Postcard-worthy. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough with my i phone. They’d be a little blurry from the movement, but I didn’t care. I had to try to capture the beauty unfolding before my Florida-girl eyes. A fresh snowfall the day before had blanketed evergreen trees, the mountain side and boulders of all sizes with a beautiful white that sparkled in the sun. Rushing streams and waterfalls were greeted by our fellow passengers with an echo of. Then the train conductor said something that caught my attention. A nudge in my spirit told me there was something here for you and me.

“Notice how the Aspen trees are always grouped together in groves or clusters. You’ll never see just one standing all alone by itself. The reason for this is because they share a common root system.” Stop. I need to ponder this.

Aspen trees are never alone. Why? They share a common root system, a foundation that joins them to one another. Linked together they stand strong, drawing strength from each other to withstand the storms that buffet the mountain. They had access to more nourishment and stability. They couldn’t be blown over as easily. They were better together. Better together. Wow.

What about us? From personal experience I can say that alone hurts more. It’s not good for our over-all health. When we try to weather harsh storms with our children all by ourselves, we’re more vulnerable. We’re cut off from the comfort we could receive. Damage can be done to our body, our marriage and our emotional well-being, not to mention our faith. If you’re a believer in Christ, we’re meant to be the church, a group of people who are united. A community. And we need each other – all the time – but especially during tough times. The Bible talks about this:

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2, ESV).

“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another . . .”(Hebrews 10:25, NLT).

“. . . you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing” (I Thessalonians 5:22).

We weren’t designed to be isolated loners like islands. We’re to be like groves of Aspen trees.


Dear God, thank you that you provided others for us to do life with. Please help us not isolate and withdraw; not pretend we’re okay when we’re not, and stay to ourselves any longer. Oh how we need encouragement and comfort from one another. Remind us of this lesson of the Aspen tree. Lead us to develop the supportive community we need so that we can stand strong – together – and with You. 

In Jesus’ Name, who is our strength. Amen.


*One way to stand strong together is through being in a support group with other hurting parents who understand. Try Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, Celebrate Recovery (codependency groups) or let us help you start a group by using our materials. We wrote a Facilitator Manual to be a resource for others who want to start a group for parents. Send us a message if you’d like to see a sample.



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15 thoughts on “A Lesson from Aspen Trees

  1. I would enjoy seeing a facilitate manual. I am looking at having a group for Mom’s with children with disabilities.

    • Brenda, if the only issue the child has is a mental illness (is this what you mean?) then our material wouldn’t apply as well. Some of our topics do apply like Grief and Loss, Fear, Worry and Anxiety, Anger, etc. but others do not like Enabling and Courageous Love. Of course you’ll welcome to pick and choose the ones that do and use our material any way you’d like. We do ask for a donation to receive the digital files. The average is $100. I’d be happy to send you a sample but you might prefer the material offered by the Fresh Hope ministry (freshhope.us), it’s explicitly for those who have a loved one with a mental illness or live with one themselves. Let me know if you’d still like the sample of our facilitator manual.

    • Brenda Lee, do you still want to see a sample of our facilitator manual material? If so, please send me your email.

    • We are so sorry for your painful struggle. At this time there’s not a group in New York City, but we could help you or your church start one! Otherwise we recommend several options: Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, or Celebrate Recovery has coda groups for the family and loved ones. Go to the tab on our website called “websites for parents” for links to these groups. On their sites you can look for groups in your area. You might also check with the large churches in your area to see if any of them have a group for hurting parents. God bless you and we’re praying right now that He will lead you to a group that is right for you!

  2. As I sit here crying my eyes out and reading hope for hurting parents I felt God has guided me to this site. I finally felt someone is feeling the way I feel. My older son has made bad choices most of his life and presently in jail. I think jail has put me in a place I never have been. I feel I’m not the same person since Aug 2016. Yet, he gets out of jail in Aug 2017. I come from a large family and everyone is supportive yet I felt they don’t have a clue. Nor his brother I have 2 children. I spent the day looking for a site like this one. I would have loved if a group for hurting parents was in NYC.

    • I’m so sorry we don’t have a group there for you. But please believe me that many really do understand how you feel. The loss, the brokenness and shame. Yes, these things do change you, but God is still there. Please find a local Al-Anon group (or one of the others I mentioned) and go. You’ll be surprised how many in the rooms have walked in your shoes, or are in them right now. There is much comfort out there for you!

      • Thank you for your quick reply. They do have one meeting in NYC for parents only al-anon. I plan to attend this Sunday. I have attended in the past. I never have heard the gut wrenching pain except on this site. I’m very grateful I found hope for hurting parents!

  3. Your reference to Aspen trees was so true. When I do share I’m amazed at the number of people who have similar problems with their children.
    I have felt so alone in my grief for so long and when I heard you on AFR today I couldn’t wait to connect.
    Thank you for the encouragement.

    • Yes, when we’re willing to open up and be honest it encourages others to do the same. And so often we’re surprised to learn that we really aren’t so alone after all. How beautiful is that? God bless you for being willing to do that. It takes a lot of courage, but God makes us bold and courageous as we lean on him. Keep leaning, dear sister. He’ll never disappoint you. I hope you’ll sign up for our FREE email subscription for daily words of hope, support and prayer. I write them just for moms like you.

      “They will pass safely through the sea of distress . . . by my power I will make my people strong . . . (I will strengthen them in Yahweh)” (Zechariah 10:11-12, HCSB). I pray he will do this for you.

      We’re Never Alone.

  4. Hi – I would be interested in seeing a sample of your Facilitator Manual to start a group for parents. Thank you.