Good Grief! The pain of loving our children

Clair adopted Jane as a baby. Clair never had any other children and relished pouring all her mothering into Jane. Clair did everything “right;” sent Jane to all the best schools, fed her all the healthy foods, exposed her to all the right people, and provided her with all the love and care she possibly could.

Even so, Clair never felt fully connected to Jane. Jane seemed odd and distant. Clair got Jane the best psychological care she could find and continued to raise Jane with all the love in her heart.

Jane found alcohol in her early adulthood and plunged head first into a life of substances. She married a few times and had a few kids. She smoked weed and drank alcohol everyday. Jane blamed Clair for her problems while refusing help that Clair offered.

Clair came to me originally because she didn’t want to feel the pain caused by her relationship with Jane. We worked through finding Clair’s intent and only taking responsibility for that. We practiced Clair speaking her truth with conviction while keeping her intent at the center of her mind.

Clair became proficient at recognizing the difference between what she can control and what she can’t. Clair realized that she cannot control how her daughter hears or responds to the love and care that she offers. She recognized that she cannot make her daughter feel better.

Shortly after learning and practicing this skill, her daughter was driving drunk and had a terrible accident. Jane had a brain injury and broken bones and had to learn to swallow, speak, and walk again. After 6 weeks in the ICU and a grueling decision about whether or not to take Jane off life support, Jane’s doctors took her off some of her medications and Jane began to improve.

Clair took Jane home from the hospital, and as mothers do, Clair reorganized her entire life around caring for Jane. Jane still wanted nothing to do with Clair and refused any help that Clair offered, unless it was cash money. After only two weeks of being home, Jane left and went back to an abusive boyfriend, drinking, and smoking; leaving Clair to pick up the pieces of her broken heart.

We love our children like no one else in our lives. If you never have children, this kind of love is impossible to fathom. We don’t even know it exists until we have a child of our own. Parental love is unconditional and it doesn’t exist anywhere else. Unfortunately our children don’t always love us unconditionally. And that imbalance can be extremely painful.

The pain the Clair would feel when thinking about Jane was emotional and physical. Clair’s body would react to her grief by clenching her throat and stomach. Her breath would catch and her shoulders would seize. Sometimes it felt as though the love she felt for her daughter was strong enough to kill her. Sometimes, in the dark moments, she even wished she would die.

We are at the beginning of this new wave of grief that Clair is experiencing. She will need time to talk about it and sort through the different parts of herself: the part that is angry, the part that is sad, the part that is resentful, and the part that will always, without question or reservation, love Jane unconditionally.

We will get through this together and Clair will feel less heart ache as she works through her grief. It’s good grief because the love we feel is worth all the pain.