I always love going to our parents’ weekends in Utah, meeting up with Chloe and participating in family activities. And, since it’s summer, our other daughter was able to join us, too. Although it’s emotionally draining, our time there allows us to focus not only on Chloe’s challenges but our own personal deficits that hold us back from loving ourselves, gaining success or making connections with others.
The theme during this parents’ weekend was centered around the emotional burdens we hold onto that prevent us from connecting with our family, giving of ourselves fully and loving others unconditionally. The activities involved all of the families together in recreational settings. We were challenged with tasks which required us to work together as a family or as a collective group while we physically carried “burdens” that represented a real struggle. For example, mine was a large leaf that represented “avoidance” or a blanket for the times I shut down because caring for Chloe and my other daughter became too much.
Frequently, our emotional burdens are passed down from generation to generation, holding us back, sometimes without even realizing it. It could be behaviors and preconceived notions we hold onto from our childhood, or voices of shame or fear we hear in our heads…”I’m not good enough… I need to do more… My kids and family have to meet my expectations,” etc. One mom even shared a heart-wrenching story of how her grandfather’s survival and trauma of the Holocaust has been passed down over generations, affecting decisions she has made for her own family.
While the parents, siblings and program girls shared their burdens during the weekend, I noted some beautiful things:
- We are not alone in our struggles. Most of the parents felt alone in their journey with their challenging child and, often, experienced stigma and osterization from friends and other family members who don’t understand.
- Healing needs to happen in the entire family – siblings and other family members frequently carry heavy burdens from the family and years of trauma than any child should have to endure. Putting emotions to the side or always being “good” while dealing with another family member has caused years of suppressed feelings, which are buried deep and hidden in core issues of neglect, abandonement and safety.
- Sharing our common experiences in a safe place with others helps the healing process.
- Changing deep-seeded behavior and thoughts is hard work, feeling at times next to impossible!
When I come back home, to work and life, it’s difficult to focus on the patterns that are holding me down and make those changes. I start by saying my daily affirmations that tell my negative voice and behaviors there is no longer room for that garbage in my head.
Chloe continues to do fantastic in school and we are so proud of her. She is slowly making progress with her social deficits and understanding of who she is. Jeff and I practice patience and letting her program take the reins…which is very difficult for me, I might add!