Photo by Suvodeb Banerjee
Often mothers come to the blogosphere to get inspired or to gather ideas.
Maybe you need activities to enjoy with your little people, or tips to help you be a more patient mama. Maybe you just need to know that others struggle at times like you do. That we're all in the same boat.
But there are other life seasons you might not see represented on blogs as often. The dark, painful ones that arrive uninvited and often linger as unwanted guests.
It's fine to read about "10 Organizational Tips" or "How to Plant your Spring Garden" when the sun shines brightly inside and out. But what do you do in the other times?
Like when you're suffering from a serious depression...
Or your husband just announced he's leaving you...
When you've had a miscarriage...
Or you've recently lost a loved one...
In these times there is no clear, simple solution. Pain and tragedy hurt.
Sometimes life is about survival. Sometimes the goal becomes just "getting through."
You may be wondering what I know about any of this. I am mama to a beautiful child currently struggling with an attachment disorder. Out of respect for the privacy of my babe, I don't feel at liberty to share much, either here or in real life conversations, about my personal pain.
But it represents loneliness, grief, and buckets of mommy tears.
Here are a few ideas that have helped me cope as I dance my way through the dark clouds of life.
1. Get help.
Just a month ago my sweet friend Stephanie, who blogs at Carried Through Grief, suffered the unspeakable tragedy of losing a child--her precious daughter, Amelia. Those of us who haven't experienced this honestly cannot understand or even imagine the depth of her pain.
A few days after Amelia died Stephanie sent an email to friends--explaining in detail the ways she needed help. She listed bulletpoints of everything from making dinner, childcare, to bringing new DVDs for her kids.
It's not popular in our culture to do so, but those who care about us don't know what we need unless we make our needs known.
Whatever type of help you need: counseling, friends, childcare--don't walk alone.
2. Share with your kids as you feel comfortable.
Nowhere is it written that we can't discuss the hard parts of life with our children. At an age-appropriate level, we can and should.
We don't have to look like roses and sunshine when we can barely make it through the day. Our kids can see our tears and still feel secure, providing we proceed at the pace we know they can handle and allow them the opportunity to share their feelings as well.
Photo by Kathleen Conklin
3. Let go of guilt.
The darkness of life is not the time to evaluate your mothering skills.
When you're having a good moment, jot down a few thoughts about the practicalities of how you'll get through this time. Be realistic about what you'll need to let go.
Have a flexible schedule if it helps you, and a routine to turn to on bad days that covers the absolute basics.
This dark place may be all you can see for now, but it doesn't define your whole existence. It doesn't define who you are and forever will be as a mother. So lock all mommy guilt away.
4. Lighten the mood.
You need to laugh and so do your children.
Find whatever helps you lighten up and in a good moment go for it. A tv show, a mindless film, a water fight in the kitchen with your littles.
In the darkness we can look for opportunities to smile. Sometimes even a fake smile or laugh turns into the real thing.
5. Set personal limits.
I would not even begin to suggest what these look like for anyone else, or even if/when you should have them.
Our hard places vary so drastically--my tough situation may seem like a walk at the park compared to what you now face. I can only speak to what has worked for me, and I find it helpful to set personal limits.
So on a bad day, I may "give in" and decide that this is a bad day. A day to grieve, to acknowledge the sadness of my situation. But I've found personally that if I invite the sadness in for too long, it doesn't make me feel better. Instead it compounds my pain and drags me down more.
So I put a limit on it. I allow myself one bad day but pull out all the positive strategies I know to get back on track the next.
Other personal limits may be taking a shower in the morning, or forcing yourself to get outside for a ten minute walk each afternoon.
Image by David
6. Consider the Source.
If you have a belief system, allow it to become your focal point during life's tragedies. I find immense peace in my faith as a Christian. I believe that my child's attachment issues will one day be healed.
Until that day I wait, I hope, I grieve, I pray. And I'll never stop any of it, even when my pillow is wet with tears.
Without faith and hope that the tide of life will turn again, where are we? We must go to the Source.
I wish my words sounded more profound, containing some secret code or method that could take hardships away. But sometimes the only way out is through.
As a mother we may have pain, but we also have love.
Mother Teresa once said this:
"There is a terrible hunger for love.
We all experience that in our lives - the pain, the loneliness.
We must have the courage to recognize it.
The poor you may have right in your own family.
Love conquers all. And as mothers we've been given the ultimate gift, even in the midst of our brokenness--someone to love.
**Are you dancing in the dark? Please feel free to share if you're comfortable. Sometimes we just need to have our pain acknowledged in a safe place.**