A new perspective in grief

Typically, the beginning of a new year has always prompted in me a fresh resolve to begin or recommit to a resolution that fell by the wayside long ago; usually a casualty of the inevitable hurly burly of life and the big beautiful mess that it so often is. The turning over of a brand new calendar page will evoke in me an optimism for the year that lies ahead. I am an optimist at heart and therefore am hopeful that a new year will be a little better. Summer has naturally been a time to take stock and plan for the year ahead.  However, this year I’ve approached things very differently. The events of the past 18 months have left on me a big heart wound. Last year was filled with so much sadness and grief, one does not simply turn the page and move on as if all that was in the past has no lasting impact on the present. While the end of a year naturally brings to a conclusion some things, feelings and emotions are a little more elusive to box up. Rather than resolving to do and be someth


Currently, the common choice of music in our family is that of Coldplay. Whenever the kids are in the car and arguing about what to listen to, Coldplay is universally agreed on. So I’ve had the pleasure of many hours absorbing their lyrics. One song in particular has really resonated with me and how I’ve been feeling. It’s entitled Fix You and the song begins with the words, “When you try your best but you don’t succeed. When you get what you want but not what you need. When you feel so tired but you can’t sleep, stuck in reverse”. 

The daily challenge of adapting to life with teens, has left me feeling like an utter failure. A repetitive and unhelpful thought has played through my mind, negativity suggesting that all my conscientious efforts in the toddler and primary years have amounted to nothing. It has felt like everything I’ve tried to instil has been crumpled up and tossed out; deemed irrelevant and outdated (a common teenage assessment of things). My motives, my values and my hopes have all seemed to come out misshapen and misunderstood; causing me to feel very stuck, stuck in reverse. 

Part of being stuck, is perpetuating the internal pity party; a defeatist wallowing. Telling myself that, “I’m not the bad guy, I’m the victim”. However, this only glues me to the thought of being stuck even more; implying I can’t move forward unless the other person changes. 

Another part of being stuck, is having no clear direction for the way forward. The uncharted waters of parenting teens, means that the realities, strategies and wisdoms are untested. My inexperience leads to, in effect, on the job training (a scary prospect for anyone who likes to get things right first time round). 

While these two reasons can be totally understandable, they are not sufficient enough to keep me from pursuing the way forward. I am not content to let difficulties rob me of love and joy, peace and patience. I want change; change for the better; a new confidence in knowing how to proceed. In acknowledging the desire for change, I have come to realise and accept, that I can only change myself. I cannot expect that I can change someone else (while that would be lovely). So where have I started? I’ve replaced the well-worn tune of “What did I do wrong?” to a more helpful tune, “What worked well before, isn’t suitable for now. A new season needs a new approach.” More importantly, I’ve asked myself, how can I change my response to the times when my teen is uncommunicative, rude or lazy. As King Solomon so wisely says in Proverbs 15 vs 1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

In his book The New Strong-Willed Child, child psychologist James Dobson helpfully articulated at least part of my current struggle. He said, “[Late teens] is the most frightening time of parenthood, particularly for Christian mothers and fathers who care so deeply about the spiritual welfare of their family. How difficult it is to await an answer to the question, “Did I train them properly?” The tendency is to retain control in an attempt to avoid hearing the wrong reply to that all-important question. Nevertheless, our sons and daughters are more likely to make proper choices when they do not have to rebel against our meddling interference to gain their independence.” 

While I have been slow to admit it, sitting with the pain of seeing the child you love make mistakes, coupled with the fear of future outcomes and uncertainties, is my weak point. The natural and important process of letting a child grow up and go is enormously hard. However, it is in this point of vulnerability that I cling to the only thing that is unchanging and true. God: who is the all powerful, all loving, all wise Heavenly Father. 

Time and time again, when I turn to him in prayer and read his word I am assured of his good promises to me, his help in times of trouble, his forgiveness, salvation, great love and a future hope. While the current seas I sail are choppy and turbulent, I want to plot my course to the one fixed point. As the chorus of ‘Fix you’ so beautifully croons, “Lights will guide you home”. I do believe this to be true; the light of knowing God and his ways is my best guide to survive and thrive in these years of great change. 

I read just this week in Jeremiah 6 vs 16, “This is what the Lord says, “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”

So often as a Mum, I fall into the trap of thinking that it is up to me to do all the fixing. While I am still required to play my part, to the best of my ability, ultimately it is not up to me. God actually does all the fixing, and while I continue to pray that he work in my kids, he also fixes me; making me more like him.


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