I’ve thought long and hard about writing this post. I want to share something that I’m afraid many of you won’t get. Hopefully, I’ll say it in a way you can understand.
Here’s the truth about our situation: I’m not upset, disappointed, sad, or any other negative emotion you might decide I should feel regarding my daughter’s life choices. She started making poor choices in her teen years, straightened up for a while, then headed down this path again. There comes a time when you no longer feel what everyone assumes you should feel. I hit that point many years ago.
You’ve experienced this in your life, too, I bet. For instance…
As a kid, I loved riding my bicycle around the neighborhood. One year, I fell and scraped up my knee pretty badly. It scabbed over, but before it healed, I fell and scraped it again. And again. And again. I didn’t stop enjoying my bike. I rode it every day, anyway. After awhile, the pain didn’t matter. I’d lived through the scraped up, bloody knee. I’d learned what caused the pain and learned to avoid it. And, the skin on my knee grew tougher in order to protect that part of my body.
That’s what this is like.
You feel scraped up and bloody when bad things start happening in your child’s life. Each time they make a poor decision, it surprises you less. Then one day, you feel no surprise at all. Your heart toughened. You know this is how it’s going to be. Life goes on and worrying doesn’t change the circumstances.
This doesn’t mean I’ve given up on my daughter. I love her, but, in truth, I love the child I raised, not the person she’s become. Every interaction I have with her, now, reinforces this point. Even if she does return to a clean life, she’ll never be the child I knew again.
I’m ok with that.
I don’t spend my days worrying about her. Who has time?
I don’t rethink my parenting skills (we raised four other children who don’t have these issues, after all).
In the early years of my daughter’s troubles with addiction, I prayed a lot for her, passing it on to God, and then I let it go. I hoped for changes in her life, and she did make them for a few years. Then she slipped up, and down this slope she went, again. It’s nothing new. She’s almost thirty-eight. She’s spent most of her adult life on this path. I doubt she’s going to change. For some of you my last statement sounds heartless and un-Christian, but I’ve seen how much this life has a hold on her.
So, what do I feel?
In regards to her: not much.
Her behavior does not rule my moods and attitudes. I’m too busy. Life’s too short. Yes, I pray for her, but not as much as I used to. God’s given me other responsibilities–my grandchildren. They’re my focus. When I blog about what we’re dealing with, I’m sharing with you in hopes that others going through the same thing will find strength in knowing someone else gets it. Also, I write these posts to make others aware of this situation. I am not alone. Several of my grandchildren’s classmates live with their grandparents instead of their parents. By revealing this reality to you, I hope you will find ways to support these grandparents and their grandchildren, to provide empathy for their struggles.
And that’s a key point to remember: empathize not sympathize.
To express sympathy is to feel sorry for someone. I get a lot of those statements from people online and in my circle of friends. With sympathy, you express how you would feel rather than how they feel. Most people can’t fathom going through this, so your responses tend to be full of sorrow and grief.
To express empathy is to recognize what we’re feeling and acknowledge it. You don’t have to agree with it or feel it, you just acknowledge it. Many people have empathized with me. Some of the most appreciated statements I’ve heard are:
- Wow. I had my niece with me for an afternoon and was exhausted after a few short hours. (This was one of the first comments I received after revealing this change in our lives. I wanted to hug her right through Facebook.)
- Heavy sigh my friend…Definitely lifting you up in prayer. (This came from a blogger who is telling the same kind of story after reading my post about the frustration I felt toward my daughter when she started making false promises to my grandchildren. I knew she couldn’t keep the promises and this woman knew it too.)
- Thanks for sharing. I’m glad you’re telling your story. (Which is why I’m doing it.)
- You don’t deserve this. (Yep. Who does?)
Do you see the difference between the statements above and expressions like:
- “I’m sorry you’re going through this.”
- “I’m sorry your daughter hasn’t been in touch.”
- Or with a quiet, sad voice asking, “Have you heard from her?”
If you don’t recognize the difference, let me help you. Sympathy statements are real downers. They assume I’m moping around under a funk of depression. Empathy statements provide support. They see me where I am.
BUT…If you’ve made sympathy statements to me, please don’t kick yourself.
You’re in the majority. I just want everyone to understand I’m not in mourning. I’m not hoping for a change. I don’t spend my days grieving. I laugh every single day. I’m not doing what I thought I’d be doing at this point in my life, but who is? Yes, I would love for my daughter to straighten up, but it’s not up to me. It’s not on my shoulders.
I’m too busy and too much a daughter of our Lord to let these things weigh me down.
I want to share information in order to help others deal with this. I love hearing from you. Feel free to ask questions or just say what you’re thinking. The point of this post is to let you off the hook: you don’t have to feel sorry for me. I don’t need a pity party.
Hey, but if you want to throw me a party party, I’m all in. Life’s too short to drag around like the world is ending.