It’s my pleasure to introduce today’s guest blogger, Dena Yohe. Dena’s website, Hope for Hurting Parents, is a great resource for those of us who walk this path.
“I can’t sleep! I’m a nervous wreck and I had another argument with my husband over what we should do next. This can’t be happening. How much worse can things get?” My friend wrapped her arms around me while I wept, drenching her jean jacket with my bitter tears.
“What do you need me to do for you?”
“I have no idea.”
What do parents of troubled kids need to survive when their precious offspring cause them relentless heartache? I know. I’m one of them.
My daughter struggled with substance abuse, mental illness, and self-harm for over sixteen years. In the beginning, I was clueless about what I needed. No matter what type of problems we’re facing, the result is the same: shattered dreams and broken hearts.
The impact is identical to what bereaved parents experience. Sorrow and grief are our closest companions. Suffering changes us. We isolate in guilt and shame, blind to what will help us survive. All we know is that we want the pain to end.
We Need Two Things to Survive
Quiet and Rest.
- Quiet for our mind—from guilt. From the heavy burden of shame and the belief that our child’s problems were our fault. What did I do wrong? How could this be my life? What if I had _______________? What if I hadn’t _______________________?
Dear parent, your child’s struggles are not your fault. They made their own choices. Remember Genesis 3. God, the only perfect parent, also had children who messed up. Did He make any mistakes? Did He do anything wrong? No! Who are we to think we deserve better?
- Rest for our heart—from emotional pain. From fear, sadness, worry, and the torture of unanswered questions. What’s happened to my child? Will they ever be the same? Will they live to their next birthday?
Make Time for This
On my parenting journey I’ve come to realize something. We need to make time to stop and breathe. Life is busy, unless we’re in the middle of a global pandemic with “shelter in place” orders. Now might be a good time to do what Psalm 46:10 urges: be still and know that I am God. Our weary souls craves these moments.
Let’s create space for quiet rest. Soul rest.
Make time for a walk. Gaze at the sky. Get up early and watch the sun rise. Pause in the evening to admire a sunset or stars. Nature promotes relaxation.
Soak in a warm bath or lean back in your favorite chair with the television off. Suspend what you’re doing. Enjoy a breather as you listen to soothing music.
Try This Exercise
Go to a quiet place, sit, and close your eyes. Take three slow, deep breaths—in through your nose, out through your mouth. Relax your muscles: start with the top of your head, then forehead, jaw, shoulders, neck, etc. Work your way down to your feet. Set a timer for three to five minutes and focus on God’s love for you.
Set aside troublesome baggage that weighs you down. Practice the skill of loving detachment. Release negative emotions. Let go of worrisome thoughts. Surrender your child back to God. Trust Him to work in their lives. This will prevent you from drowning in the dark waters of depression and self-pity.
We may be powerless to change or fix our children, but God is not. He is still in control and has all the power needed, even though it may not look that way.
The Scriptures provide soul rest. I wrote these on index cards and placed them where I could see them throughout the day:
. . . in quietness and trust is your strength (Isaiah 30: 15b).
. . . he leads me beside quiet waters (Psalm 23: 2).
. . . he will quiet you with his love . . . (Zephaniah 3: 17b).
Let the beloved of the Lord rest secure in him, for he shelters him all day long, and the one the Lord loves rests between his shoulders (Deuteronomy 33:12).
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest . . . learn from me . . . you will find rest for your souls (Matthew 12:28-29).
God, thank you for the gifts of quiet and rest. Show us how to be still in Your presence and lean back in Your love. We come to You for what we need to survive. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Dena Yohe is the award-winning author of You Are Not Alone: Hope for Hurting Parents of Troubled Kids (2016) endorsed by Dr. James Dobson, Family Life, and Focus on the Family. Co-founder of Hope for Hurting Parents, blogger, CRU affiliate staff, and former pastor’s wife, she’s the proud mom of three amazing adults, loves music, reading, and time with her grandchildren. Connect with her on Facebook, blog or by email subscription.