The imagined life I had constructed for myself slipped away last week, again and was obscured by the dark fog of parenting a child with attachment difficulties. I am ridiculously attached to my imagined life and now I think it may be gone forever I am enveloped by what I can only describe as grief. I thought I had let go of my imagined life some time ago, clearly I had not and this grief comes around and around.
Therapeutic parenting is the only approach in town and it works. But after wave upon wave of attack my ability to therapeutically parent has been dealt a blow. Old-style parenting has made a reappearance. Its familiar embrace is comforting, its sales techniques attractive. But if something sounds and feels too good to be true it usually is: it promises high and delivers low.
My plan is somehow to pick myself up off the floor again, wipe my face with a flannel and get back on the road. This week I am going on another therapeutic parenting course. I need to be reminded of the message over and over and I need some distance and refreshment. I’m going back to the books too but it’s Dan Hughes, not Philippa Gregory on my bedside table.
Last week I tweeted,
‘Writing about the mini-grief that comes with realising you are going to have to therapeutically parent FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE’.
I’ve never had such a big response to a tweet. Whilst I don’t wish others to be in the same boat as me, it was comforting to know I’m not the only one grieving for a lost normality, career, stable family life, for dashed hopes and dreams. Someone kindly sent a link to an essay called Welcome to Holland by Emily Perl Kingsley. It describes where I’m at (although I’ve relocated somewhere far less peaceful than Holland, perhaps you’re there too, maybe you’ve spotted me).
This grief will pass and the sun will come out. I will see once more that living differently to many others brings glorious surprises and opportunities too. I love my family and will be there for them, through thick and thin. Right now I have to accept that I am going to be a professional, therapeutic parent for a very long time.
Oh Sally your honesty and pain is so apparent in this piece. You acknowledge exactly what is happening in your grief cycles. It is so difficult living with a child with insecure attachments. I hope your waves of grief get less frequent.
Thanks Anne. I know the grief will pass soon enough. And then you can enjoy some more cheerful blog pieces again.
Sally I’m so sorry you’re in this place at the moment. They say the last stage of grief is acceptance, and I think sometimes you get to that accepting place, but something clicks and you’re back where you started again, wondering and thinking about what might have been.
As you say, there is something to be said for knowing that others are in the same place. Your tweet and this blog post have really struck a chord with me as I struggle with the realisation that my life isn’t heading the way I thought it would. I have grieved for a parent, I have grieved for a lost baby, now I’m grieving for my family, and it’s just as hard.
Hoping your days of grief become more gentle, look after yourself x
I think you are right, grief does come around periodically, particularly during times of stress. I sent that tweet off the cuff and was surprised at the reaction. Sometimes it is healthy to shine a light into dark spaces if only to see that others are in the same situation.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
It’s so hard letting go of our imagined lives. I am not sure we ever truly can, but maybe a form of positive visualisation would help. Seeing each day as a detour through the unforeseen challenges ahead and every so often, no matter how grief-stricken, patting yourself on the back and realising that what you’re doing is wonderfully different to what you imagined but wonderful all the same. I find that I have to allow myself to have what I deem ‘basement moments’. Telling myself it is ok to feel ‘naffed-off’, actually helps me to be ‘naffed-off’ for a shorter time (If that makes sense). What we are doing, as adopters, is difficult. Even those who have a vague notion of what you are going through can’t truly understand your personal predicaments, but we can empathise a little. I know I am hugely grateful to have found this small virtual community of adopters. So I want to thank you and say chin up (and if not, bottoms up!) (hugs) x
Thanks Claire. I too am very grateful for the support network that we have. You are right, sometimes it is OK to feel ‘naffed off’ (I might use a stronger term) before we roll up our sleeves and get on with it. I think it may be the heady mix of grief plus parenting a traumatised child which has done for me this time. Relentless is the word of the moment!
Heart breaking – and it may not help much but you just need to remember that what you are doing is amazing. I’m one of 4 from a violent back ground – and received new therapeutic parenting like you give and it turned my life around. I grieved for a while for the life I’d not realised due to the start I had – but what I realised is that my extraordinary achievement was becoming ordinary. Few people have the life they want – but fewer still people turn a life around. Hang in there – you’re amazing in my book.
Thank you for your kind words. It is valuable to get a view from another perspective and encouraging to hear that therapeutic parenting has had such an impact upon you. Part of my grief is for my children too, that their start in life has had such a massive impact. But we are in this for the very long term, so I hope to be blogging about great things in a few years time.
One of the reasons I love Twitter and blogs so much is that we can be honest with our feelings. I am not so honest with family & close friends – they wouldn’t understand, and I think would take backwards steps.
And unless we can be honest everyone trudges on alone and there is no hope for improved post-adoption support services. Thanks for reading and commenting.
Hey Sally. What an emotional piece to read. I wonder how it felt to write? It must be so difficult to parent a child with an attachment difficulty. We are told about it during our prep courses but I doubt anything can prepare you for your best efforts being thrown back at you time and time again. That must be incredibly difficult. I remember a friend of mine likening infertility as being like buying a newspaper. Everyone else seemed to be able to buy the newspaper except us. I guess that’s a bit like “Going to Holland”. I think the majority of adopters end up in Holland instead of Italy. It doesn’t ever stop you wishing that you’d had a glimpse of Italy and tasted some of the wonderful ice-creams but you do learn to love the tulips and windmills instead. It’s important to accept that there are times; moments; days; when you really wish you’d been able to go to Italy. What might have been is a common day-dream. It doesn’t make you any less of a person to wonder “what if?” and to feel the grief of having your travel plans changed and the exhaustion of having to constantly be a more creative parent than many others are. The fact that you are able to be so honest about it all is a show of your strength and adaptability. It’s good to be honest because from there you can review your strategy and emotions and decide which way you want to set forth, with your appropropriate travel guide. You are an amazing parent. There are going to be days when you feel you’ve got it totally wrong but I doubt you will ever stop trying and that is what makes you an awesome parent!
For us the issues are different and, because Baby S is so small, some are uncertain and in the future, but I know a lot of parents of “different” children find that essay v patronising. I have also read one called Welcome to Beirut…
Thanks DrSpouse for your comment and the link to Welcome to Beirut, because Holland is way too peaceful. I wish you and your family well.