What Can a Hurting Parent Do to Stay Emotionally Healthy?

I was a mess. My daughter’s alcohol and drug use had spiraled out of control. Living on the streets, sleeping in her friend’s cars and in city parks, her life was often in danger.  Filled with fear, anger, grief, guilt, and shame I could barely eat or sleep. I was an emotional wreck.

Picture our hearts being like a garden. Mine was full of weeds. Major work needed to be done right away or pretty soon anything that had been healthy was going to have the life choked out of it.

Can you relate to this? Does it feel like the trauma and stress you’ve been going through with your child is choking the life out of you?  Are weeds taking over? Do you feel overwhelmed, and emotionally unhealthy? If so, it’s time to do some weed pulling.

When I work in my flower beds, I have to recognize the weeds from the healthy plants. The same is true with my heart. My eyes need to see where there may be a problem. Here are a few I’ve identified:

  • Fear and worry
  • Anger
  • Bitterness and Resentment
  • Unforgiveness
  • Isolation
  • Self absorption and self pity
  • Cynicism

Do you see any “weeds” taking root in your heart? Left unattended they can begin to take over and do damage. It’s best to deal with them as soon as you realize they’re beginning to sprout up. The longer you wait, the harder it will be.

Don’t delay. Take a minute now and look at your heart. Ask yourself about each item on this list. Are any of them beginning to mess up your garden? Each one has the potential to hurt you and the relationship with your child.

Here are a few suggestions.

1) Be honest with yourself about the “weeds” you are struggling with.

2) Talk openly with a friend who is a good listener and won’t judge you.

4) Write out your feelings in a journal.

5) Talk with a professional (counselor or clergy person) for extra help.

6) If you are an artist, draw or paint a picture that expresses how you feel.

I don’t like to draw but I did enjoy making a poster that showed how I felt before and then after the problems developed with my daughter. I wrote descriptive words and used pictures from magazines.  The activity was healing and insightful.

7) Talk to God in prayer. Give these things to Him. Ask for courage to face them one at a time.

I have done each of these things and they have been an important part of my healing path.

Thank you, God, for caring about the condition of our hearts. Give us the courage we need  to take care of our inner garden. Show us how to do this. We need you. Come quickly to help us. Amen.

“When I pray, You answer me; You encourage me by giving me the strength I need (Psalm 138:3).”

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