I stand in my kitchen, early on a Monday morning, coffee in hand, feeling sad. The sun has begun making its ascent over the tops of the trees, spreading tiny rays of light across our yard. The dew-soaked blades of grass shimmer in the fresh morning light. In the past, I’d step outside, breath in deep, and take in the new day. Now, I feel restriction when I so much as inhale normal.
It’s been a tough 8 months. We thought bringing our son home from residential treatment would be a good thing. I was even duped into thinking that things had changed with him. I was wrong. We sent an aggressive but compassionate child into treatment, we brought home an aggressive, violent, non-compassionate, non-caring, belligerent, vulgar child home from treatment. It’s been an uphill climb ever since. But not just between us and him. Our other children have gone through secondary trauma as a result of his behavior. Our younger children are on edge all the time, and another child deals with major depression.
So I stand in my kitchen, as morning dawns, and grieve.
I grieve my son’s behavior. Why can’t he just be normal for one day? I think to myself. I grieve his birth mother’s choice to use drugs and drink throughout her pregnancy with him. I grieve the loss of the day, as I realize that it’s almost time for him to wake up. I grieve for my younger children, who are innocent and kind-hearted. Why do they have to go through this? I question. I grieve for my child dealing with depression, as a result of all of this. I wish I could reach into her heart, flip a switch, and make this all better.
Have you been there with your children? Are you there right now? I can safely say this to you: You’re not alone! If tears drip from your eyes as you read this and identify, we’re right there with you. We understand. If you’re wondering how you’ll make it through this, here’s some encouragement from our life and what we’ve learned to do…
- Grieve. I need to let myself feel loss. You actually need to grieve. It’s okay. Grief is a natural part of life. When we lose a loved one, or we lose something valuable, we mourn the loss. Give yourself permission to grieve over your child’s depression, bad choices, hurting spirit. Too often, we take on a “pull myself up by my bootstraps” mentality, even in dark circumstances. And while there’s a time for pulling it together and moving on, you need time to feel deep loss. You need time to mourn over your child and the circumstance they’re in.
- Hold fast. I need to stick to my guns. As hard as it may be to do, hold fast to the decision you’ve made (if you have made one) to discipline, restrict, or protect. If your child’s decision making is bringing harm to others, or putting your child’s life in danger, it’s your job to protect. For us, our son has an alarm on the outside of his bedroom door to alert us when he opens it in the middle of the night. He also has an extremely strict bedtime which is much earlier than other kid’s his age. But, we’re not dealing with a normal 13 year old boy. His brain damage, suffered from FASD, could lead him into dangerous situations which could compromise his safety and the safety of our family. So, we hold fast. We’re not backing down. It’s exhausting but it’s one of the main things that keeps us on a straight path.
- Seek. I need to find help for my child. Be willing to seek out the help you need for your child. We recognized that circumstances with our son would cause our other children to go through the ringer. Mostly due to lack of structure. So we sought out camps and summer programs that helped keep his day structured. We also filled out paperwork to gain services for him such as a caretaker to help him after school with homework and transitioning to home after a structured day. For our children’s emotional needs, we’ve hunted down counselors who know exactly what we’re going through as a family. Finding the help you need for your family, and your children, is critical.
- Hope. I need to hold on to hope. Fact is, there IS hope. I know it’s hard to see it when you’re in the middle of this trench. You reach up, hoping for the sun, but all you get is muddy walls, and a soupy, dismal life! There is hope. The trauma your child is going through, and acting out of, does not define his or her future. It’s a reminder that I have to give myself every single day of my life.
Tell your heart to beat again.
The other day I was at our local fitness center, getting some exercise, when a song by an artist named Danny Gokey came across my playlist. It’s entitled “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again.” The lyrics go like this….
You’re shattered. Like you’ve never been before. The life you knew, in a thousand pieces on the floor. And words fall short in times like these, when this world drives you to your knees. You think you’re never gonna get back to the you that used to be.
Tell your heart to beat again. Close your eyes and breathe it in. Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace. Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore. Say goodbye to where you’ve been, and tell your heart to beat again.
Beginning. Just let that word wash over you. It’s alright now. Love’s healing hands have pulled you through. So get back up, take step one, leave the darkness, feel the sun. ‘Cause your story’s far from over, and your journey’s just begun. Tell your heart to beat again. Close your eyes and breathe it in. Let the shadows fall away, step into the light of grace. Yesterday’s a closing door, you don’t live there anymore. Say goodbye to where you’ve been, and tell your heart to beat again.
[Lyrics from “Tell Your Heart To Beat Again” by Danny Gokey]
Your story and mine, are far from over. The same is true for our children. We stand together, hand in hand, through these dark times, holding on to hope. Holding on to one another. In the middle of your unimaginable grief over your child, place your hand on your chest, and feel your heart beating. There is hope.
Are you grieving over your child’s bad decisions, extreme behavior, or depression? Share your story with us.