Holidays are Hard for Hurting Parents

The holidays can be so hard for hurting parents whose children are ruining their lives with drugs or alcohol, are suffering from mental illness, are involved in self-harm, have an eating disorder, struggle with their sexual orientation, are in trouble with the law or are in prison, and on and on. You may be dreading them. As the holiday season approached my mind would begin to wander back over the past. Memories from when my daughter was young and innocent flooded my thoughts. Sadness. Regret. Longing. Tears. Do you ever feel like that, too?

I remember how my sweet daughter, excited to watch the Thanksgiving parade, would curl up on my lap, giddy with anticipation. After the big meal she would eagerly pull on the turkey’s wishbone with a sibling or other relative, smiling and laughing the whole time. Happy sounds filled the house. Would she hold the bigger portion of bone so her innocent wish might come true?

What about you? Do you find yourself yearning to have your wish come true  – for your son or daughter’s health and well-being to be restored? Would you be giddy with excitement just to have them back, fully restored? I wish it was as easy as pulling on a turkey bone.

In your mind you can still see your adorable little girl all dressed up in her new Christmas dress and shoes. How her beautiful little grin could steal your heart.  Your precious little boy, so cute when he was four – how contagious was his laughter.  You have tucked away so many memories. Selecting and decorating the Christmas tree; making everyone’s favorite cookies; surprising them on Christmas morning with specially chosen presents; school programs, Christmas caroling, church musicals and  plays – you remember it all, only now, instead of putting a smile on your face, they bring tears to your eyes and a lump in your throat. If only . . .

Most of us are blessed with happy memories with our children, but now they bring us pain because things with them aren’t happy any more. Those days are gone. Over. They only remind us of what was, of what has been lost.  Our children aren’t who they once were. Everything has changed. Our once innocent child has broken our heart. Some parents wonder if their child will ever even like them again.

If your child is over eighteen and out of your home, you wonder if they will choose to spend time with you over the holidays? Will you see them at all for Thanksgiving?  Will they even call?  What about Christmas?  Some of us wonder if they will even survive until the New Year due to the seriousness of their situation. Some would be satisfied with just hearing from them to know they are alright. That itself would be a wonderful gift. If they still live with us, they can make the holidays miserable for everyone. We may even wish they weren’t there. Sounds terrible. Who do we admit that to?

And what about their gift? What in the world should you give them? How does gift giving need to be different this year?  Should you do everything the same as you always have?

One fall when my daughter wasn’t doing so well, I thought I would listen to some Christmas music. I like this kind of music so much I can usually enjoy it any time of the year. But this time, when the music began to play, instead of enjoying it I broke down crying. What had previously brought me joy, now only brought sadness. I had to turn it off. Is your heart too sad to feel very festive or “holiday-ish” this year? Do you want the holidays to go away, to hurry up and be over? Are you wondering how you are going to do this?

I have found the holiday season can be bittersweet. A strange mixture of the sweetness of the past combined with the bitterness of the present.  Hold on to hope dear dad or mom, for you never know what tomorrow may bring.You can’t see what God is doing, even now. I heard from a mom last night who had lost all hope and was on the verge of despair. BUT two days ago the impossible happened. Her son came to her with a long, big hug, declaring he’d found his faith again and has committed himself to beginning a new life. How quickly things can change! God still changes lives every day.

This may not happen for your child this holiday season, but God can give you his peace as you keep giving Him your pain. He will help you and get you through this difficult time.

“Wait for (trust in) the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  (Psalm 27:14)

May your Heavenly Father comfort you right now. May He lift up your head and renew your hope. May He make His face shine upon you and give you His peace. May it comfort you to know that He is collecting all your tears in his bottle.  They are precious to him.  As the holidays approach may He show you how to cope with a  heavy are heart when everyone else is so happy.  We can’t do this on our own.  We are depending on You.  We are so thankful we are not alone. You are with us. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

**In my next post I will share some helpful tips that will help you survive the holidays.

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