Advice from Mike Berry on finding hope when parenting feels hopeless.
The feeling comes in all shapes and sizes, from many different sources. Sometimes, your child is out of control, disobedient, defiant and you are pushed to your absolute limit. Other times, you feel like you just can’t win and that life for every other parent around you is perfect, while you’re struggling to stand on your own two feet. Sometimes it’s exhaustion. You’re so tired you have no idea how you will face another day, let alone make it through the rest of the one you’re currently in.
We get it. As adoptive and former foster parents, we’ve spent the past decade parenting children from difficult places, who deal with the effects of severe trauma. It’s overwhelming and defeating on levels that make it hard to breathe at times.
Just the other day, in fact, one of our kids completely melted down, threw and enormous fit, causing us to end our other child’s birthday party early. We were angry, frustrated, and heartbroken for our other son, to the point of tears. We wanted to quit on the day. In fact, we did. We actually quit the next day, a Saturday, altogether. We took everything off the schedule for the day and hunkered down. Sometimes you need to do this.
You are not alone.
If you’ve ever read our blog, Confessions Of An Adoptive Parent, you’ve heard us say these words. In fact, our entire online platform for adoptive and foster parents is built on this premise. The reason is simple … It’s true! They are four of the most powerful, healing words on the planet.
We’ve been in your shoes. We ARE in your shoes. Whether you’re a biological, adoptive, foster or parent of a child with special needs, we know how defeating life can be sometimes. Just when you reach a milestone, something happens that wrecks all of it and you want to pull the covers over your head and quit. Been there, done that.
We’re learning everyday how to pull ourselves out of our bed, even when we don’t want to, and keep going. It’s not easy. Even yesterday, the day after everything fell apart, it was hard. But we’re learning how, and we’ve recognized a few powerful, and helpful truths along the way:
1 Give it a day. The news you’ve received, the trial you’re going through, the pain you’re reeling from, is real. You need to take a day, hunker down, shut the world out, and isolate yourself. Not forever, but a day or two, or even a week is okay. Don’t listen to the people who tell you, in the wake, to pull yourself together, suck it up, or get over it. Words like this come from people who lack understanding and you should distance yourself from them.
2 Allow yourself to grieve. It’s okay to be sad. Grief and sadness are natural human reactions to troubling or tragic news, or times when life is crashing down around you. Fact is, you need time to grieve and be sad. You may need to be alone with your sadness for a while. It may not be a day or two. It may be longer. Take the time you need to grieve.
3 Believe in better. As hard as it may be to think about, or even believe, you must believe that something better is going to come out of the situation you’re in. We say this because the events of the other night were dark and just plain awful. We spent the next day feeling hopeless. But we both realized in the wake that something good was going to come out of this with our son. We have to believe in better in order to find hope.
4 Move in spite of devastation. Listen, I’ll be the first to say that sometimes life looks like a row of homes in the pathway of a tornado. It can crush your spirit to point of wanting to quit (or drink heavily, and say as many cuss words as you can in one sentence). For all of the times we find ourselves outside of this parenting trench, we find ourselves doubly in the trench. But life goes on. It has to. When you’re in this place, your choice is to either lay in the wreckage and give up, which gets you nowhere, or get up and move in-spite of it, which makes you an overcomer. It leads you to new places.
A new day.
It’s hard to see it, but there is a new day. In fact, each day that you open your eyes means a fresh start. I know, I know … easier said than done, right? Again, we’re right there with you. It’s not easy. There’s never a promise that life will be easy. But life is full of fresh starts.
The conclusion we’ve come to, however, in the midst of the personal hell we often walk through, is that you choose to seize what you choose to seize. What I mean is this: You either choose to seize the day for what it is, a new day, a new start, or you continue to hold on to the defeat of yesterday. It all comes down to a choice.
So, what’s your choice?