Thoughts about forgiving myself and my son

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by MissLulu, Nov 18, 2019.

  1. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    Things are kind of stable here right now (if living with this son of mine can ever truly be called "stable"!) Difficult Child is working full time and looking for accommodation. He currently lives with us but we have all agreed he needs to find his own place. He has a friend (also working) to move out with, and the two of them have been putting in rental applications, but so far have had no luck.

    He's not drinking or using drugs on our property. I have no idea what he does on weekends because he's often not here, but at home he's been sober and I'm not seeing evidence of drug use - ie he hasn't come home visibly high.

    So, I should feel calm and happy, but I don't. I live in fear. Fear of the next meltdown, the next crisis or the next time one of his past decisions is going to come back to haunt us all. I try my best to focus on the positive and to take each day as it comes. I try hard to distract myself and push the negative thoughts into the background. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't.

    I think a lot of this comes from guilt and shame. My whole life I've identified as a "good person". (I suppose everyone thinks this about themselves!) But I've always been someone who wanted to help others. Both my parents were very community minded and volunteered in a number of capacities. I have always sought to emulate this. When it came to parenting, I focused on raising kind and caring children, who respected themselves, others and the law.

    Never in a million years did I dream I would be the parent of a child like my Difficult Child. (I'm sure none of us did!)

    I feel as if being the parent of a child that behaves like mine cancels out every good thing I've ever done. (I realise this is not true, but it's how I FEEL, rather than how I THINK.) I can't seem to stop thinking about the things he's done in the past and what he might do in the future, even though right now he seems okay. I know I need to move past this. I ruminate over his mistakes and mine too. I wonder about all the things I might have done differently and whether these might have made a difference.

    To be clear I don't ever express these thoughts to my son. We have a good relationship at the moment. He eats a meal with us each day and contributes to civil dinnertime conversation. He abides by our house rules and speaks pleasantly to us and his 16 year old brother.

    Even so, I feel so beaten down by being his mother. Some days I'm okay and other days (like today) I feel paralysed by fear and grief. I want to forgive my child and move forward but I'm not sure I'll ever fully be able to do that.

    I also feel as if I'm being punished for being judgemental in the past. I used to believe that kids who behave the way my son does must have had a bad upbringing or some other sort of trauma in their childhood to account for their behaviour. I would never have verbalised this and (I hope) have always been outwardly sympathetic to other parents' struggles, but inside I always believed that if parents did the right thing and loved their children wholeheartedly, the kids would turn out fine. The fact that this simply isn't so has been a humbling (and humiliating) revelation for me.
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    Last edited: Nov 18, 2019
  2. Copabanana

    Copabanana Well-Known Member

    Dear MissLulu

    I could have written your post. I was at Costco today and in the slow moving line I struck up a conversation with a lady asking about the hash brown potatoes in her cart. She explained she had 3 adopted daughters from Eastern Europe who liked potato pancakes, and recommended the hash browns for this use. I saw two lovely teenage girls with her, each smiling sweetly, they did their mother proud. In talking to another grown up daughter accompanying her I learned the mother had 11 children! The mother was sunny, sweet, cheerful and normal. As were all the kids. I felt shame.

    Those kids from Eastern Europe had to have suffered as much as did my son in the crisis nursery where I found him. Where did I go wrong? What could I have done differently? When he was a child, or these past 10 years? What can I do now? (Tears come to my eyes.)

    I have been on this forum 4 and a half years. I post almost every day. In the past I posted maybe 20 or more times a day, sometimes more. Now. Way less.

    My struggle is different now. My son way more compliant. Less hostile. But not productive. Homeless. Unable to handle money in anything remotely within the normal range. No goals. Over and over again we get thrust into one crisis after crisis. Not so different from what you describe.

    I have not one thing to offer in terms of wisdom. I will just say one thing. I love my son, as you love yours. I am trying to do two things that seem on the face of things, contradictory. The first is to accept. It is what it is. There is no other reality than the one right this second. I can try very, very hard to embrace this. Because this is all I have. I may never have more. I love my son. Period. I always have and I always will.

    The second thing I am trying to do is this: I am trying to define my life in a powerful way, from me, not him. His business is him. My business is me. I am trying to get back to the me that is separate from him. The service I have given others. The self-made person I am, who is accomplished and ethical and caring, and has so much more to give in life. The fun and adventure I've had and can still have. The love I can give.

    This is who we are. Women who love our children. Women who have set high bars in life and still do. The judgement, the self-criticism, have no place here in our stories. This is the ego talking. We aren't our egos. This voice that only knows to define, to limit, to compare. We are so much more. Life is so much more.
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  3. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    Thanks so much for replying, Copa. I have read many of your posts and they have often helped me. (It took me a long time to get up the courage to post here, and I still struggle with posting my thoughts publicly - even though it helps when I do.)

    I am struggling with acceptance. I understand that if I am ever to have peace, acceptance must come first. I think the struggle for me (and perhaps all of us) is making my heart accept what my head knows.

    I so desperately want to define my life as separate to his. I hope that when he moves out of home that this will become easier (not easy, but easier). But I also know that when he goes there will be different worries. Is he going to work? Is he sober? Is he staying out of trouble? I know these things are his business not mine. But my heart wants him to to have the basic comforts of life - food, shelter, meaningful work - and I can't help but worry that he will devolve once he leaves home.

    I have a wonderful life aside from this one huge burden that is my child. (I hate to speak of him this way but it's the truth.) I am happily married, have two other sons (who are mentally healthy and high achieving). I'm working in the job of my dreams. I so want to enjoy the good things I have (and am incredibly grateful for those things) but still I walk around each day with a stone of dread in my stomach.
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  4. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    From what I have learned of acceptance, it is not as complicated as some make it out to be. It is not about the past or future or what we may have done differently, which I have come to believe would not have changed anything at least for us. We are not born blank slates.

    All of us are born with a certain resiliency or not. Like you, two of my kids are very resilient and one is not. Back to acceptance. Tara Beach has a great book called Radical Acceptance. Please give it a try?

    Acceptance from what I understand is about living in the MOMENT. It is acceptance of what is NOW. It isn't about accepting any moment other than now. The breeze in your hair. The blue sky with fluffy clouds. The distant smell of donuts and coffee. The joy of the senses in the now.

    And it is about letting judgment float away on a cloud...judgment of ourselves and of others and . of circumstances. Things are as they are because of a cumulation of Everything Up Until Now. NOW changes each moment. Enjoy each moment. Accept each moment.

    Mindfulness (many books on this) and Acceptance are closely related. I study both and have been doing so much better. Not perfect but much I am happier. More content.

    Going on, I also feel a need to share this.

    It is a true story; a chilling TV documentary I should not have watched last night. It was about a very nice man and involved father of three who told the harrowing true story of his son Alec. Handsome boy.

    Alec was always difficult but his father walked with him every step of his rocky childhood trying to help him. He had a loving mother and grandparents too. No trauma. But the boy was never right. Never settled. Angry. Defiant. Troubled.

    In his teens his dad thought he was getting sadder or more remote but his son would not talk about it. He had few friends but did hang with a nice boy named Kevin. Kevin was respectful and polite. They were together often.

    One night Alec slept over at his house.

    That night Alec stabbed Kevin and his parents to death. Nobody suspected him but he ended up having a nervous breakdown and told his father while he was in a hospital. His father didn't want to turn him in but in the end he did. It was tempting for Dad just to take his son and leave the country. In the end, he turned him in.

    Alec went to jail and was convicted of three lifetimes of incarceration. Alec could not tell anyone why he did it other than he tried to fight the darkness but could not. He said Kevin had annoyed him lately. Nothing more.

    Alec was put on psychiatric medication in prison but he killed himself. His father wrote a book about how to move on after dire times.

    The father and his wife had divorced and he is remarried and tries to help others. He has a relationship with Drew, his younger son, but his daughter blames him and won't talk to him.

    Did this seemingly kind man who tries to help others deserve this type of son? Did he do something wrong? I don't think so. His son was never right. But he could never have imagined this.

    If we don't blame other people and if we have other thriving kids, why do we blame ourselves? Everyone is made of different DNA which causes us to experience life in different ways.

    Why are you ashamed? I get it. I was too. But I no longer think there was anything I could have done to change Kay. She was born sensitive and with low resilience to life. And she has little empathy. Some people seem born without the capacity to care. Others become cold and unable to love due to life experiences or mental illness or addiction. It is about them, not us. But, yes, it hurts.

    Sorry for rambling. Perhaps read the book Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach. People misunderstand acceptance and it is a powerful tool.

    Many prayers.
  5. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Miss LuLu

    Your post also resignated with me. Pretty much every word of it.

    I also have a great life. Am healthy, married to a wonderful man, have a beautiful home on the coast, two successful sons in Chicago, a great job, good friends, financially stable.

    I think you/we need to be thankful for each good day. Don't write the end of the story (I'm telling myself this too).

    I don't know how old your son is (mine just turned 24) but he spent many years in rehabs and sober living and finally a 13 month very strict faith based program. The latter is what enabled him to come back to our home. If he had not completed this program we would not have let him, and even at that, I was leery and very afraid to repeat the past. He felt I had disowned him as his father dealt with him mainly during the years we had sent him out of state. I just couldn't because I think I loved him too much.

    He came home doing great and in the past few months has had some struggles but I still feel that he has matured a lot and actually cares about himself and wants to do good. It is still so very hard for me because I want him to be where I want him to be. Sounds silly doesn't it?

    I think that you should try to be a bit at ease that he is moving in with a friend. He seems to be going in the right direction - to me anyway. How old is your son?

    I do hope that he continues to be stable. No one can predict the future.
  6. Blindsided

    Blindsided Face the Sun

    I feel the same as Copa. I would add just this.

    You have identified:
    Feelings are not the same as thoughts (emotional vs logical).
    You are learning it's not only okay, it's best, that to put your own health first.
    You are able to identify what brings joy in your life.

    What could be vs. What is can ready the dark abyss by not letting reality prevail. It is a wasteful place to be for everyone.

    You have learned that at least sometimes, like me, you dont let your Difficult Child steel your joy.

    Maybe our DCs arent making the forward progress we want to see, but we are - and that's all we can control.

    In healing
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  7. JayPee

    JayPee Sending good vibes...

    Miss Lulu

    It is a day to day struggle for me to separate my sons happiness from my own. In my opinion, once your son does move out, you may be able to detach with love a little easier. Nothing is "easy" about the process but it just might help you to get stronger with each hour, each day etc.

    I have found this to be the case for myself. Although sons have not been living with me it's not seeing them every day. Not looking into their pitiful eyes, heavy hearts and looking at their uncleanliness or emotional issues they have. I have to tell myself, I have not "washed my hands" of them but I tried for so long to put everything in order so they could have a platform from which to succeed. Nothing worked. I hit brick wall after brick wall trying to change them.

    Only until I realized I have to change myself and work hard at it did anything even remotely get better.

    Some days are better than others but I am much happier putting all my work into getting myself healthier minded than putting all my work into two sons who have showed no signs of improvements for years. I'm putting my time on this earth to better use now and continue to hold them in my prayers.

    Please take care of yourself.
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  8. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    Please don't apologise for rambling. Your thoughts are most welcome. Thank you for the book suggestion. I will definitely read it. And thank you for describing the documentary. Reading that has actually brought me great comfort.

    I'm trying so hard to let go of the guilt I feel and some days I achieve that. Others, not so much.
  9. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    JayPee, I have read lots of your posts and I find your strength (and your honesty) inspiring. Thank you for your kind words. They are very much appreciated.

    My heart goes out you and all the other moms with more than one difficult child. I'm barely surviving with one, so I can only imagine the headache you have been through with two.

    You are totally right. We can only work on ourselves. This I need to accept. I'm getting there... slowly.
  10. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    Thanks so much for your kind words, Blindsided. For me, it seems to be one step forward and ten steps back. But reading the posts here each day really does help to give me strength and also to feel less alone with it all.
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  11. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    Hi RN,

    Thanks so much for your response. Your kind words are greatly appreciated.

    My son is a similar age to yours. He's 23 but will be 24 next month. (I know this is pointless but I keep thinking about myself at the same age, and my husband, and how far from that level of independence my own child is...)

    I'm so pleased to hear your son is doing so well. I hope to be here in 12 months time and saying the same thing, but for my son the positive changes are too new for me to have confidence in them. (Not trying to be negative - just realistic.)

    I think you are right - it is good that he is moving out with a friend. I just wish they could find somewhere. We live in a small town and rental properties get snapped up quickly. Anyway, he is trying and that is the main thing.

    I will try to live in the moment and appreciate the good times while they are here!
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  12. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    The name of the book is "Refuse to Drown" by Tim Kreider, who is Alec's father.

    I know it is sold on Amazon.

    I am slowly beginning to see that nothing I did as a mother formed Kay's personality. The shame is still a part of me, but I am really not sure why. I think it may be because of old-school thinking about how parents are the reason why their child fails. I was brought up thinking that way. I know it's not usually true, but the thought still lingers in the background.
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  13. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    Thank you! I will download it today.
  14. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    Let me know if it's good. That man broke my heart as he spoke.
  15. MissLulu

    MissLulu Active Member

    Absolutely. Will do.
  16. ChickPea

    ChickPea Active Member

    Gosh do I hear this! Beaten down, indeed. A lot of my life had a gray cloud over it. Oftentimes I just wanted one hour of joy. One happy moment that wasn't clouded by worries, fear, embarrassment, hurt... I'm learning, though, and finding more of that here and there.

    The forgiveness piece is difficult, isn't it? I get down on myself for my inability to fully forgive.
  17. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    How about a good night's sleep?

    I wake up and worry about my son's future.

    Is he depressed? Is he an alcoholic? Will he ever be to a place where I can just enjoy my life again?

    Then I pray for him. I don't know what else to do. I pray that God has his will with him.
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  18. RN0441

    RN0441 100% better than I was but not at 100% yet

    Miss Lulu

    Agree that at my son's age I was so independent. I was without parents at the age of 17-1/2. I was married at 20 and moved out of state with my husband (now my ex). I had a full time job. I had a baby at 25.

    My husband of 27 years bought a two flat at the age of 22.

    No comparison.
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  19. Beta

    Beta Active Member

    Oh my. This is exactly how I feel. My husband and I raised both our sons, praying that each would turn out to be godly, caring, responsible human beings who love and respect their parents. Our youngest is mostly this way, but Josh, our oldest is nothing like the young man I dreamed of raising. He is a profane, disrespectful, uncaring person right now. So much so that I've had to break off contact (mostly). As recently as last Friday, he texted me, calling me filthy and profane names. I feel both anger that someone could treat their mother this way and grief and sorrow that someone would live with this much rage and hostility in their heart. That must be a horrible way to live. My heart breaks for my son, but at the same time, I too am beaten down by it and am exhibiting some of the symptoms of post-trauma. I know that I have to be responsible enough not to allow myself to be emotionally battered by someone, even someone I love as much as I love Josh.

    I too once believed this. Now, of course, I know that this simply isn't true. But yet the shame is still there. I have actually cut off contact with friends of mine from the past who knew Josh as he was growing up because I can't deal with the questions about how he is doing, what he is doing, etc., or with seeing how their kids are living "normal" lives. It's just too painful.

    Thanks for posting what you did. It was well-written and expressed my feelings so well.
    Busynmember--I too found this "comforting." Not that someone else's pain is comforting, but for someone to do something so horrible and so inexplicable, despite having come from a stable home, is a comforting thing. I will look for this documentary.
  20. BusynMember

    BusynMember Well-Known Member

    It taught me a lesson....sort of. The documentary was about a normal family whose oldest son seemed as if he had been born mentally ill. Aside from his parents divorcing when he was ten (and being civil about custody) nothing bad happened to him. He was just never content. Before he killed he had not been violent. His father never quit visiting him in prison and his younger brother also visited.

    As I heard him speaking, I wondered how he didn't throw himself in front of a train. I wondered how he could survive his son murdering three innocent people and his daughter refusing to contact him after it happened. He was a man of strong faith and I want to see what he does/did to be positive in his life. I will probably download and read the book too. This man may have advice for some of us. Nobody here has had a difficult kid murder anyone then kill himself in prison and also be rejected by a second child. If he can have a positive life, we can too.