Saturday, January 30, 2010

When Life Hurts- Part 1

Imagine a terrorist snatching your child off the street, right under your nose. The vicious monster holds her by the neck, a knife to her throat, and mocks you as he races away into the night shouting, "You can't stop me."

If that sounds overly-dramatic, then you haven't lived through the nightmare of a wayward child.
There are no words that can accurately portray the absolute agony parents endure when the child they've nurtured from infancy sets out to destroy herself. It is similar to the death of that child, except this death keeps happening over again. There is no closure, no time to dwell on happy memories, no instant empathy from everyone you know. Instead you fear that everyone is wondering what you did wrong. You wish you knew.

And for parents who've raised their children in a Christ-centered home, the sense of betrayal is overwhelming. What about the verse that says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it?" We did everything right. How could this have turned out so wrong?

I'm not referring to the inevitable teenage attitudes or a mistake that is later rectified. This is more than a "phase." This is a headlong race toward evil, extending over a long period of time by the child you've treasured since infancy, taught the Scriptures, and instilled with a sense of right and wrong.
  • One of the first emotions to hit is denial, similar to what happens with a death. This is impossible! This can't happen in our family. There's no reason for it. Surely we misunderstood. Surely it's just a phase... .
  • Then comes a grief so great you don't think you can take it. You lie there, night after night, when sleep won't come, trying not to imagine where they are. Who's harming her right now? What's he doing to himself? Please, God, don't let the mistakes be irreparable.
  • Then you discover that anger is preferable to the overwhelming hurt, so rage becomes your ally. It fuels your day. Red-hot anger lets you breathe as you go through the motions of life, all the while screaming inside at the child who dared to savage you like this.

  • With the rage comes the dawning knowledge that the child you've loved to distraction all this time doesn't love you back. Hurt simmers just beneath the surface, but your heart can't take the enormity of that much betrayal. So anger stays and now you truly believe you could kill her with your bare hands should she dare show up. There's temporary liberation in fury, but the reckoning will come later.
  • Then the sense of loss echoes through your heart and house. You hear a song, pass their room, laugh at a joke, and it hits you between the eyes. Your stomach twists and all joy is sucked out of the moment.

    But you're not allowed the dignity to grieve openly, as the parent of a deceased child is given. You carry on, pretending there is life inside your body, assuring everyone you are holding up all right. How can you explain the grief to someone who hasn't been there? You can't share the details that are so heinous you never imagined them spoken in the same sentence with your child's name. Shame battles with grief until you don't know what you're supposed to feel.

    No, she's not dead, I don't think. I don't know. She's out there, somewhere, but the chasm between our hearts is so great it may never be bridged. My baby is gone forever.
    What I've discovered since we began our personal nightmare years ago is the alarming number of families going through the same thing. Although each case is different, the pain is identical. And no one is talking about it. Every parent when faced with the unthinkable feels alone: "What did we do wrong? Why would he do this to us? I'm so ashamed..."

    In the next post, I will list some steps you may find helpful if you or someone you love is dealing with this family crisis. If nothing else, I hope this series provides a hand to hold as you live through your personal nightmare.

Feel free to leave a comment or email me privately at
You're not alone. 
I understand.

I've been there.


  1. You breathed aloud all the things I felt in my heart. No one understood how I mourned the loss of my child like death. Thank you for giving voice and validity to my pain. Thank you.

  2. Ticia, I'm glad it helped. Thank you for commenting.

  3. Thank you for this, Lea Ann. You are exactly right.

    Some friends and family know some of what is happening with our 22 year old daughter. Some don't. They all ask the same question . . . "How are you doing?" How am I doing? I'll tell you how I'm doing.

    I'm confused and scared and angry and terribly sad. It feels as if my broken heart is tearing a hole through my chest. I cry endlessly and sleep very little. My sweet husband deals with his pain in ways that can only work for a man - and a father. But for me, as her mother, it's so different.

    I am grieving . . . grieving the loss of a daughter I will always love - deeply and unconditionally - but whom I don't even recognize anymore. Her looks have changed as a result of her addiction and she acts and speaks as if she is a complete stranger. I see a tiny flicker of her light in that frail body, but just a tiny flicker.

    I want to help her. I want to scoop her up in my arms and hold her and make all her troubles disappear - just as I always have. But she doesn't want that from me and she pushes me further and further away. That is her right I suppose - her free agency to make her own decisions in life and to follow a path she chooses for herself, even if it is dark and cold and lonely. Why would she choose this for herself - and or over the amazing relationship we once shared? I do not understand. I cannot understand. I don't know how I ever will.

  4. Thank you for articulating the unspeakable range of emotions I feel from my daughter's abandonment.

  5. Thanks, Sabrina. I'm glad you found some help here. Blessings as you let God turn this into good in your life.

  6. Wow. Finally someone understands. These are the words I haven't been able to speak to anyone. While I feel like my child is dead, I haven't been able to grieve like a parent of a dead child would.... instead I'm left with every single feeling and thought you described in the post. It saddens me to know others have had to go through this.... but brings me a bit of comfort knowing I'm not alone and reading your post... thank you <3

  7. I was beginning to feel guilt on top of guilt for my white hot angry response to my adult daughter's disgracefully mean and vengeful behaviour towards her ex boyfriend until I read your article. I am in the clutches of my deep need to be honest and true to my thoughts and feelings about her egregious behaviour and the so-called unconditional love of a mother. How does one reconcile the two? However, your article seems to help me understand that it is normal and understandable to harbour feelings of anger towards our wayward children and that it takes time to work through these feelings and hopefull one day I will fall in love with my adult daughter again..