My husband and I recently had two big situations on our minds.
My daughter started kindergarten, and there was so much joyful anticipation for that. My son was scheduled for open heart surgery, and we were dreading it. Both of these adventures took up considerable emotional space for us as a family . . . all of that anticipation!
So, how do we manage as parents when milestone moments occur, whether happy or sad?
Validate Those Feelings
During seasons of pain, loss, or difficulty, I think one factor that makes it so hard is the isolation. There is a sense that no one else in the world has to carry this terrible burden. If they do, they don’t feel it quite like THIS. Overwhelmingly joyful seasons bring trying adjustments for a family when things change — like starting school or moving homes or even making new friends. Joyful seasons and traumatic seasons both cause us to feel terribly isolated.
Whether your bliss or your grieving is causing disruption in the typical ebbs and flows of life, I think we should all just allow it to be. Let that feeling of being alone live. It is okay that you’re struggling when things are glorious. It’s okay that you can’t stand the thought of entering something extremely hard. It’s okay that you need to whine about something that should be fantastic. It. is. okay.
Remember You Are Not Alone
Breathe. Remind yourself others experience hard things like this too! You are not alone, and you’re not an anomaly. There are many other humans who would heartily agree with your experience, if only you are brave enough to let it show or to find those people. When your grieving heart is screaming, “How can I do this when I’m not following in the footsteps of people I love or respect?! Someone, show me the way,” just do it one moment — maybe one minute — at a time. Feel no guilt for including some in your journey or not involving others. Be the trailblazer, and make the thing happen that needs to happen!
As parents, we have to do the “dirty work” sometimes and then let the chips fall where they may. Sometimes we think, “Will my crew sink or swim?” Walk the path as slowly as is needed. Lean on the shoulders of those who went before you as much as you want to or need to, and then just do it.
Don’t Be Confused by the Emotional Confusion
I think our emotions get confused pretty often, and maybe sometimes we aren’t completely aware of what is going on beneath the surface. I found myself overjoyed for my new school girl, but some of the joy reminded me of the intense pain that was to come for my son during surgery. I couldn’t fully embrace one without embracing the other for some strange reason. These two polar opposite events seemed connected for me.
And that is okay with me.
Life cannot be lived in compartmentalized, neat little sections — like my preference that the foods on my plate don’t touch. We feel and live and breathe daily all of these things at the same time. Overwhelmed or not, trial or victory, we are simply human. The conflicting feelings, the confusion of it all — name it to tame it. Our anxieties only have a grip over us if we are more scared of them than of actually acknowledging them verbally.
It is the best of times; it is the worst of times. How confusing.
Maybe this is all just a lesson in how to be emotionally present. It is more than okay that I celebrated my baby going to kindergarten. It is more than okay that I was devastated about my child’s open heart surgery. I can sit with each emotion and be present with it for that day — or sometimes for that minute. May God help me to do so. Now I will go and attempt to OWN it all, with divine help. Praying today that you are able to own whatever needs owning as well.