By Sabrina Schlesinger
I was sitting in the parking lot of Target with tears streaming down my face. And these weren’t happy tears because I knew I would go in for one ordinary item and come home with a bag (or two) of glorious finds that would fill my home with beauty and unnecessary trinkets. These were tears of grief. Of loss. Of friendship.
Next to me in the car was my 12-year-old daughter observing this minor emotional breakdown.
We had been listening to show tunes…because she is my only daughter who will belt them out with me in the car. It’s our thing. It what makes our mommy-daughter dates extra special…at least in our humble opinions. But then a song came on that struck a chord in me I wasn’t expecting. It was the song from the movie, A Star is Born. It wasn’t the most famous song from the movie soundtrack, but the last one she sang, after (SPOLIER ALERT) she learned about the death of her loved one. It starts out with the lyrics…
Wish I could, I could’ve said goodbye
I would’ve said what I wanted to
Maybe even cried for you
If I knew it would be the last time
I would’ve broke my heart in two
Tryin’ to save a part of you
Ok, I know what you are thinking. It is a love song between a man and a woman, a husband and a wife. I know! But have you ever loved a friend so deeply that they were engrafted into your heart? Of course you have! And so had I. And then it was over, tragically over. It wasn’t pretty, it was ugly. It was heart wrenching. She didn’t die, but it was as if she had. In my life one day, and gone the next, leaving a gaping hole. There was no long goodbye. It was abrupt, out of my control, and broke my heart.
I have four kids, three are teens and tweens, and one is still a little guy. There was no hiding what took place with them (except for my son who was oblivious) because she was as much a part of their life as she was mine. So we were all sad. I didn’t share all the details with them, but enough to let them know why it would never be the same again.
And I cried. I mean…a lot. Ugly, snot filled tears. I fought the temptation to keep my tears hidden from my older kids, but I eventually decided to show them part of my struggle, to let them see some of my process, and to show them how to let grief in, how to forgive, and how to let people into your heart again.
On this particular day…over a year out from the “break up” I was surprised by the emotional wave that hit me. But grief is like that, isn’t it? It hits you when you least expect it. And as my daughter turned and saw tears streaming down my face, we held each other. I let her know my heart is healing well, and this is part of the process. The part where you don’t rush through waves of grief too fast, and at the same time, don’t sit in them too long. You have to let it hit you. You talk about what you are feeling, you turn it over to God, and you keep on moving forward.
In this last year of being broken hearted, I have learned a few valuable lessons while having to still mother through it. I thought maybe it might help you too. :)
1. Embrace the pain
I am a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a whole bunch of other hats. And I was hurting...deeply. In the midst of my tasks and responsibilities, I had to be deliberate to make time to grieve, talk, pray, and process. I had to make space to let the ugly out and let the good in. I had to make the healing of my broken heart a priority so I could continue to grow and move forward. I had to intentionally pause and let waves of sadness hit me (at the most inconvenient times) so I could then, lean into Jesus and let His love saturate and repair all the tender places inside of me.
If you just “keep going” and don’t pause to feel the pain and allow healing to come into you, then you will always walk with a limp, or love from a fortress, or live with poison in your heart, tainting every word and motive that comes from you. It just isn’t worth it. Moving too quickly, pretending you aren’t hurt, and ignoring your emotions will not make you better, it will simply stunt your growth.
2. Process well
If you are not at the place where you can communicate to your kids how you have turned to Jesus for help and have found the beauty in the ashes, then it is probably not the right time to share your struggle with them. You may be going through something that is causing you to doubt your faith, or you are fueled with bitterness, rage, and hate from the violation or betrayal that happened to you. Spewing and spreading the “ugly part of your process” with your kids is not going to make anything better. And listen, we all have the ugly part of our process. PROCESS being the key word. It isn’t a place we remain in, it’s a place we move PAST and THROUGH. So, until you get past that part, keep your mouth closed with your kids. And if you have found you have taken up residence in the ugly part of the process, seek some wise and godly counsel from a mentor, pastor, counselor, or honest friend to help you get unstuck.
3. Draw a line
It is important to be authentic with our children, but it is also important to guard their hearts from feeling the weight of your struggle. Have a healthy outlet, someone who is an adult (a wise one) who will point you to truth and where you can let the ugly fly. But with your kids, you must process tenderly in front of them. Their brains are not fully developed and cannot understand, comprehend, or process the nuances and intricacies of challenging subjects and messy relationships. It is good for them to see you cry, but with our kids, we must be intentional to point them to solutions when they see our vulnerability so they can experience closure, even if you don’t have it yet. Because if we don’t, they will end up feeling an unhealthy and internal burden of having to hold us together. And that is not their job.
I may not know the particular struggle you are in, but you can be sure that Jesus knows every detail and is eagerly waiting to make a great exchange of pain for purpose, beauty for ashes, forgiveness for bitterness, and a message of hope from the mess you were handed.
He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT)
Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. Psalm 23:4 (NLT)
Sabrina is a mother to three biological girls and one adopted boy. She is a pastor’s wife, graphic designer, and founder of Mom Mentor. Along with her husband, Matthew, they pastor Grace Church in Oceanside, CA and host Parenting on the Go and Marriage on the Go Podcasts! She resides in beautiful San Diego where the sun shines almost every day. She prefers chai lattes over coffee, mac-n-cheese over vegetables, and staying in over going out. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!