A year or so ago, I was having a Healing Touch session with one of my favorite practitioners when I was telling her how proud I was of my son and how much we had grown together while he had been away. As a single mom since he was two, I’ve always had the opportunity to be close to my son (who will soon be 21 years old).
His father was very involved in his life, and my son spent regular visitation with his father’s family once during the week and every other weekend beginning at the time of our separation.
When my son started middle school though, a lot of things changed for all of us.
My mom fell ill with cancer, and died three months later. My son’s father and his family moved thousands of miles away, and I grew increasingly less available to my son. I was grieving. My mom and I were very close and my son and I had I spent nearly every day caring for her and my dad.
In fact, about five years before my mom got cancer for the second time, I said to my son, “You know Grandma and Grandpa aren’t going to be here forever. Let’s make more of an effort to spend time with them.” So we did. At least twice a week, every week for those five preceeding years, we spent time with my parents. We cooked for them, we ate with them, we shopped with them, we just “hung out” and we made a concerted effort to ensure we would not have any regrets when they were gone. I’m so grateful I had this insight and we acted upon it.
As I was registering my son for his freshman year of high school, my mother was dying in hospice. It hit me like a ton of bricks when I realized she would no longer be his emergency contact if I wasn’t available. She was “Our Person.” And very soon, she would not only not be “Our Person,” she would no longer be with us.
My father died 11 short months after my mother.
I became increasingly withdrawn. From everything really, but mostly from life, and especially from the church community that became my lifeline starting the day my husband left.
As my son went through his high school years, I went through the motions of parenting. We talked as we needed to. Mostly, we talked about things that were required: field trips, lunch money, groceries, sports schedules, his weekend plans, my lack of plans, what we were eating for dinner and when I was going to actually “do something outside the house.” My son consistently encouraged me to make new friends and go back to church.
My depression lingered and deepened. My son grew increasingly distant and he cried out for help by acting out. Nearly every other day in middle school, I received a call from the office about something my son had done or not done to break the rules. I was at my wits end. I considered shipping him across the country to live with his father. My son screamed, “Send me! I don’t care.”
But he did care. He cared very much, as did I. But we were both hurting so much, we couldn’t even talk about what we were really feeling. I said, “If I had the money, you’d be at boarding school.” The truth of the matter was, I needed him with me in order to keep living—even though the life I was leading truly wasn’t a “life.” He needed me in the same way too. We are each other’s reason for being. I’m certain without each other, neither of us would’ve made it through.
We both have suicide attempts in our past. In November of 2013, in a demonstration of solidarity, we got semi-colon tattoos as reminders of what we’ve been through. It’s a humble truth we share, and I’m proud we are here for each other and honor the truth of our story (that’s not over).
My son’s senior year was the most difficult year for both of us. There was repeated “trouble” at school and outside of school. All the while, I was drowning. Literally. My med doctor wanted to admit me to the psych ward at one point. I refused, because it was homecoming week and I didn’t want my senior, star-football player, son to have to go through all the activities alone, worrying about me in the hospital. I sucked it up—again.
Most people didn’t know the anguish that was truly going on in our lives. I went to every sports event my son competed in. I volunteered, I cooked lavish meals for his friends. I was “Mama” for the tribe. But the honest truth was, if I wasn’t doing one of those things, I was in bed. When the boys came home, they automatically came directly to my bedroom to visit with me.
Everything told, I spent seven years’ time in bed. During those years, I simply performed exceedingly well at my office job, did the minimum to get by outside of the office, and then went to bed during all other waking hours.
By the time graduation rolled around, my son had decided to spend a year at his father’s house going to a nearby trade school. I was thankful. And ready. So was he. We needed a break, and he needed the fresh start.
While he was away, I finally felt free to take care of myself for the first time in my life. I had spent my life taking care of other people, and suddenly I had no one to answer to but me. I was staring at my hollow reflection in the mirror and slowly and steadily with consistent action, I got well. In fact, I had a Brilliant Transformation.
The relationship between my son and I flourished while he was away. We talked more frequently, but more importantly, we talked more intently. We talked about things that MATTERED. We talked about hopes and dreams and our past, and the mistakes we made. We explored the way things unfolded as he grew up. We apologized and we forgave each other.
Back to my Healing Touch session. As I was talking about how proud I was of my son and how “grown up” our conversations had become, my healer said something that surprised me. She said, “Our kids are our greatest mirrors. As you’ve healed yourself, he’s healing as well and is reflecting that back to you.”
“Wow,” I thought to myself. “That’s pretty cool. I don’t want to take anything away from the growth my son has done on his own, but I wouldn’t have given myself credit for that. I hadn’t considered how my own Brilliant Transformation had impacted my son.”
Here’s the thing, though. While I was so proud of the way we’d grown and healed, my worst time … senior year, was also his worst time. So if I’m going to take even the slightest bit of credit for his growth and bright, shiny reflection in my mirror, I must also take credit for the dark reflection that appeared during his senior year as well.
Looking back, it’s no coincidence that he had such a tough senior year and we had a hard time relating. I was not a “present” parent. While in my heart I knew this at the time, I simply was so overcome with grief and depression, I could not do what was necessary in order to pull out of it. His “trouble” and his actions of “acting out” were simply mirroring the way that I was acting out against myself and the way I was suppressing my truth. I was an angry and repressed woman, who refused to meet my own needs. My son simply mirrored my rage and acted out on the stage of his life.
Now that we are both better, we have new tattoos to recognize our new humble truth, “Everything Happens for a Reason.” My tattoo is actually in my son’s handwriting and I love looking at it every day.
While we wouldn’t have planned for things to come to light the way they did, we know in our hearts they happened that way for a reason, and we are both stronger as a result. More importantly, we have a stronger relationship because we know what it means to be deeply disappointed, respectfully apologize and experience authentic forgiveness from a place of true, heart-centered love.
Recently, I was celebrating a victory of healing a core (parental) wound from having physically present and emotionally absent parents. My celebration stopped short when I realized that my son has the very same core wound. Once again, the mirror was reflecting my son’s image back at me.
In order to stop the wound from being passed down another generation, I told my son about the realization I had regarding his core wound. Next, we had a conversation about it. Problems don’t resolve themselves by being ignored or swept under the rug. It is only in the light and through open, honest and vulnerable communication that new truths can be formed.
Today, my son and I are looking forward in the mirror of our future, with bright reflections. It is our hope that we may help others who may be, or have been, in a similar situation.
There is hope. Every experience only serves to benefit you for your Highest Good. May our story shed some light and help you see your beautiful reflection in the mirror.
Photos courtesy of author