The Hidden Face of Grief

Life is funny and then it’s sad. Life is a dance and then it’s a struggle. And then the sun comes out and all is grand. And then night falls.

Today, metaphorically speaking, I’m waiting for the sun to come out. I’m in a place in life I never thought I’d be and I’m walking in circles. I didn’t choose to be where I am—at least I didn’t consciously choose to be here. Instead I feel I’ve bounced from one experience to another, pushed about by destiny as a child, shoved by my adolescence and driven by an internal clock that demanded I follow steps in order, then tossed wildly as a parent by the choices of my daughters and the consequences that followed.

No, that’s not fair. I made some stupid choices. And I made some good ones. The same is true of my daughters. Only some of their choices were catalysts for reactions that shuffled me in a specific direction, but once on a path I made my own reactive choices that turned me in another direction. Action. Reaction.

(I would have liked to have known Newton so that we could sit at a bar one night and debate his theories.)

Truth be told, I’m a walking oxymoron. I’m happy with my life in general, but I’m unhappy with the pushes and shoves I’m experiencing right now in all aspects of my life. I feel tired, exhaustion in every pore of my body, and yet I’m restless. My mind wants to take flight and escape, but it also seeks comfort in the known. It’s no wonder I feel I’m walking in circles!

I want to walk in a straight line again! To have a destination, or at the very least, a path to follow that leads somewhere. And I want the sun to come out and shed light on the situation and bring warmth into my soul. I want the absence of heavy, the opposite of dark, the ease of mundane.

What I really want is for my youngest daughter to wake up and realize all the blessings she has in life, to add order and structure and discipline to her life, and to change in such a way that I don’t have to do the difficult work of being a parent. And I want this because it’s been difficult for too long a time and I’m tired of it being difficult.

Okay, so now that those words are on the page, I feel stupid and embarrassed. I love my children and I love being a mom. I really have no reason to complain. My husband and I count our blessings nearly every day and they are many. So perhaps what I’m dealing with this very moment—besides depression, self-pity, and an uncharacteristically weak spirit—is grief.

Now that, my friends, is indeed the ugly truth. I should have recognized its disturbing face in the dark shadows. It is no stranger to me.

I learned long ago that one can never be “cured” of grief. Certainly, you can overcome a tragic loss and after several weeks or months return to a state of feeling satisfied with the blessings in your life. But then some trigger will bring back a memory and sadness will creep into your soul. It could be a favorite song on the radio, or the fragrance of a specific perfume or cologne. It might be a milestone moment in life, such as a graduation, wedding, birth, death. Whatever the trigger, under its disguise grief can slither into your life quietly or stomp about like a wild storm. And the best thing you can do is face it head on, experience it in the moment, acknowledge it and let it have its limelight. Don’t fight it. Trust that it will tire itself out and slink back off into life like a chameleon. It is what it is and if you fight it, it will take fuel from your energy and rend you completely powerless. Let it be. This too shall pass.


I’ll Call It Progress

Earlier this week I did one of the most difficult things I will ever do as a parent. I told my youngest daughter that she has two choices — go to residential treatment or move out of my house. I told her she had two days to make up her mind. One way or the other, she has until May 15 to get out of my house. Yes, she reacted just as you would think. After a couple of hours, I agreed to consider letting her finish out the school year at her school. The next day I called and spoke with the school. I am no longer considering that option. I’m back to May 15.

After three days of yelling, screaming, begging, pleading, bargaining, and crying, Brianna came to the realization that this time Mom is not bending. She asked me why I had to do it this way — an ultimatum – because, according to her, if I had asked her to do it she would have. I doubt that is truth and I think she was just trying to weigh on my guilt about this. Except, she found out very quickly that I’m not the one carrying any guilt on this issue. She’s also telling us she will cooperate, but she wants to be involved in the process of finding the right place. Since she’s being forced to get help, she wants to have a say in the kind of focus the treatment is and how far away from home she will be. For the moment, she is very “sane” and we’ve made huge progress in our discussions.

Now, tomorrow morning when we all wake up, she may be drinking some different koolaid and I’ll be right back at square one.

Last week I called our insurance provider and got the ball rolling by asking for the names of facilities in our insurance network. I did a bit of research on the Internet and found a place I felt comfortable with and thought would provide help for Bri with all her issues. I spoke with an admission’s counselor yesterday, only to find out that they cannot take Bri because their operating license from the state allows them to take an 18-year-old only when they don’t have any 12 or 13-year-olds in the facility. Right now they have a few that age and they will be there for a while longer. My first thought was my own self-pity at the fact that they can’t take her. My second thought was, oh my God! I can’t even begin to imagine how awful things have to be for a parent to send a 12-year-old to treatment!

So I did some more searching and found another facility. I called and spoke with a counselor there and discovered that even though they can have “residents” up to age 19, that’s only when they have started in the program before they turned 18. So I’m back to searching again.

Where in the world am I going to find a place that will take an 18-year-old who still needs to be in high school and whose issues are teen issues, not an adult woman’s issues?

The counselor at the first facility also prepared me for the fact that we will likely need to get a comprehensive formal assessment done in order for insurance coverage to kick in. Bri had an assessment done a while ago, but the insurance requirement is that it has to be within the last six months. Again, more hoops to jump through, costing more time and money.

I hate waiting now that I’ve made up my mind. I hate that I’ve hit these obstacles. With Bri saying she will cooperate, I feel like I have some momentum going and I want to keep moving forward before we lose control of the situation or she changes her mind.

I’m grateful that Bri is cooperating, but with all her anxieties this is going to become very scary for her very fast. She thinks she’s going to land someplace for 30 days and be “cured.” (Isn’t that what everyone thinks when they go into treatment?) I just want to get her in a place and let her see the help she can get from them. And I want this to happen quickly — before she drinks the other koolaid and decides not to cooperate any more.

I understand insurance companies have to follow the process and treatment facilities need to follow the admission rules. But it’s all so frustrating! Some boy could smile at her at the store tonight and her brain will go to mush and “cooperation” will disappear.

One thing that seems to be working in our favor – for the last several weeks Bri has been totally out of control, not willing to follow household rules, etc, etc. In the last day she is much more calm and rational. Can it be that now that the decision has been made for her and she knows what will happen in her near future, that she’s not so freaked out about everything? And that allows her to control her behaviors better? It’s an interesting thought.








Can I do this?

I took a big step this week and now, after the fact, it’s killing me. And I have an even larger step to take in the next couple of days and I’m scared. Can I do it?

Earlier this week I drew a line in the sand with my third daughter, Emily. She’s twenty years old and lives away at college. She doesn’t have a job and lives by the Mother Pays for Everything Creed. Emily and I have been bumping heads for months, mostly over the fact that she wants me to “gift” her a car. This week we discovered that she filed income taxes (how can you do that when you don’t work??) and claimed herself as a dependent. We asked her to amend her tax forms and she refused. We cannot claim her as a dependent on our taxes and it’s costing us a lot of money that we don’t have.

So hubby is looking for ways to cut back on bills even more than we already have and cell phones are at the top of the list. At Christmas time we finally got my second daughter off our cell phone bill. She’s getting married in four months (OMG! There’s so much to do!) so it was long past time. Emily has been away at college for two years, but all of her stuff is still here at home. Anyway, hubby decided that if Emily had enough alleged income to file taxes (really, she doesn’t have a job!), then she should be able to pay for her own cell phone. I conveyed the message to Emily and she made the decision to remove herself from our account and establish her own account. She could have stayed on our account if she paid us each month for the cost of her line, but no, she wanted to be completely independent. It will cost her twice as much as if she had stayed on our account. And that’s what’s killing me. She’s a college student. She really doesn’t have a job. She’s living solely on student loans. And she can’t afford a huge cell phone bill. And I did this to her. Ugh!!

The other side of my brain says, wait a minute! She’s how old? And she doesn’t even have a part-time job? She’s lucky to have had a cell phone all these months! And she’s living on her own, away at colllege? She has nothing to complain about. These are her choices.

Yeah, but that doesn’t help the ache in my mothering heart.

And this little issue is minutely small compared to the other line in the sand I have to draw. This one regards my youngest daughter, Brianna. She’s eighteen, a senior in high school. She goes to school once a week (on a good week) and therefore won’t graduate on time in June. She doesn’t have a job, because she can’t get herself out of bed to get to a job on time. And she doesn’t understand why managers aren’t understanding when you show up for work a half hour late or not at all. Bri has been told her boyfriend is not allowed to spend the night and yet she regularly sneaks him into her bed in the middle of the night. We’ve told the boyfriend that we will call the police the next time he spends the night. So now it appears they’ve both turned their days and nights around so he’s sleeping in her bed during the day when I’m away at work.

I could go on for another page about the “infractions” Bri is guilty of and all the consequences and punishments we have doled out in the last four years. But why bother? The fact is, these things have happened on my watch and I’m guilty of enabling her. And this week, when I discovered another $400 missing from my checking account, I reached the last strand of my rope. I’m drawing the line.

Well, I’m planning my strategy to draw the line. It’s complicated. Brianna is a mess. Plain and simple. She’s got more issues than I have fingers to count them. She is eighteen, so the world looks at her as an adult. And yet, some days she functions with the mentality of a ten year old. Don’t think she’s stupid or learning impaired. She’s not. She’s incredibly smart. She is a master of manipulation. She’s conniving and could easily qualify for an apprenticeship with the CIA. I’m not kidding! But she’s a lost soul. She has no discipline, no regard for right/wrong, no respect for herself or others. She’s gorgeous—could have a career as a model—but she believes she’s the ugliest teenager in town. When she’s not using, she has a wonderful personality and a really great sense of humor. But we rarely see it.

“Throw her out!” many people have said. To where? No matter where she goes, her problems will follow her. And no one wants her problems. “Let her live on the street for a couple of weeks and she’ll get it figured out.” Honestly, she won’t. She needs help. And she needs more than I can provide. And this week, when I reached the last strand of my rope, I started making phone calls. I’ve found a residential treatment center that will help her through all of her issues. And her health insurance will pick up a large part of the cost. It’s where she must go. It’s the only place left where she is welcomed. But she is eighteen, so I cannot force her to go there. According to law, she has to make that choice.

So now, my mission—and I have agreed to accept it—is to convince Bri that she needs to get help and she must go live in a residential treatment setting. I have to present this to her in a way that allows her to believe it is her idea and gives her the hope/faith that this will be the right choice. I have to convince her that she will survive without her boyfriend, that she can finish school in the fall, and that being clean and sober is the only path for her.

Can I do it?

I have failed.

If parenting can be measured in school years, I have failed this year. It’s only April, but the failure is so pronounced that I am giving up. Maybe I’ll try again in the fall when school starts up again, but for now I feel like I might as well write this year off as a loss.

I’ve blogged before about my third daughter, whom I’ll call Emily, and how we have argued repeatedly because I won’t “gift” her a car. In the last few weeks we’ve spoken once—in a five minute phone conversation that had the two of us yelling over each other. We’ve exchanged a few text messages and a couple of emails. A week or so ago Emily left me a two-minute voice mail in which she used the f-word 14 times as adjective, verb, and pronoun. She called me a bitch a couple of times as well, which seems ridiculously simple in comparison to the other word. Another issue came to light this morning and I felt forced to draw a line in the sand. It was a horrible realization—that I had no other choices but to lay down an ultimatum. Even before I did, I knew what her response would be. And yes, she reacted just as I thought. We are now officially “estranged.”

And then this afternoon, I received word that my fourth daughter, Bri, is no longer considered a student at her high school. Bri was shocked at the news and I was shocked at her surprise. She hasn’t been to school in two weeks. What did she expect?! Honestly, she naively thought they would just let her continue to show up whenever she wanted without consequences.

I want to go on record and scream to the world that I did not raise my children to be this way. I didn’t allow swearing in my home when they were younger. At least three of the four have tasted soap in their mouths and learned not to talk to people disrespectfully and not to swear. I have placed great value on education my whole life, and so did my parents before me, and their parents before them. My children were raised from birth with the belief that they will get an education and make a difference in the world. My children were taught right from wrong. They understood that they were accountable to themselves and to God.

And then they reached a point when they made their own choices, when they had to stand on their own feet and be accountable for those choices. When they made good choices, life went smoothly. When they didn’t, well, sometimes life became sandpaper.

I am frustrated that one of my daughters believes she is entitled to anything she wants just because I brought her into this world, and who considers me the worst parent on the planet because I say no. And I am thoroughly disappointed that another cannot get out of bed to show up for school. I hate the powerlessness that comes with being the parent of an adult child who makes poor choices. And I despise myself for feeling that I have failed as a parent because they made those bad choices. The logical part of my brain knows I am not a failure. But my heart aches in hindsight at the different choices I could have made and the different lessons I could have taught my daughters so we could be looking at different outcomes today.

I have four daughters and two are grown and on their own and are absolutely remarkable women. I am so proud of them and what they have done with their lives. It’s the other two daughters who have brought about my feelings of failure. So in that regard, I’ve failed only half my “classes” this year. It isn’t any consolation at all. Failing is failing.

I’ve had a sticky note on my desk for the last four years—three of which I spent deep in the depths of despair in unemployment. Scribbled on the note is: There is no failure except in no longer trying.

I have overcome quite a few ugly challenges in my life. I consider myself a survivor—of abuse, of loss so great it’s unimaginable. I’ve fallen down many times, but I’ve always found a way to stand up and try again. Tonight I have nothing left to try. I have no answers. I have no more questions to ask to find answers. I’ve offered all the suggestions and advice I had to give. I have failed.