If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame cannot survive.
How did I let this happen? That was my first thought. What were the signs I missed? Where were my missteps? Although I was far from perfect, I truly believed that I had parenting figured out. I mean, I felt pretty confident that I knew all the essential “rules and boundaries” I needed to set for my children. Even still, there was no way to stop my shame from grabbing a Big Red Sharpie and drawing a straight line from my child’s mistake to my parenting.
I once believed that caring for them, teaching them about responsibility, and volunteering in their classrooms would all be things that would help ward off life’s trip-ups. I naively imagined myself weaving an invisible layer of protection around them each time I read them stories at bedtime or tucked them in each night. I assumed that monitoring their grades and teaching them to respect their elders would somehow remove all future obstacles. I thought I had followed all the rules, and if I’m honest, I held on to certain perceptions of parents who I believed weren’t following “the rules.” I’m ashamed to admit; I sat in judgment of families whose children ended up in juvenile court.
Call it karma or the exalted being humbled, but one day I found myself in the same place those same mothers & fathers once stood. As I looked at my reflection and saw the judgment I placed on others staring back at me, I felt shame. Shame for how I judged other parents and also shame for how others would pass those same judgments on us. Isn’t it funny how life humbles you and changes your perspectives?
Battling shame was a huge obstacle, but it wasn’t the only one. As a mom, I really struggled to believe in my ability to parent well through this season. Friend, I just did not want to do it. I wanted to run. No part of me was naturally willing to lean in and try to figure it out. I really wanted to be that parent who showed up perfectly, but in fact, I felt quite the opposite. All I wanted was for it to go away. I wanted to wake up and realize it was all a bad dream. I just didn’t see a way through it. Since then, I’ve learned that feeling like you want to run is actually a typical response to trauma.
When you begin to look into how trauma and how it affects the way we process our feelings, things start to make a little more sense. See, most of us hear the word trauma, and we think of the horror stories that come across on the nightly news. The kind of stories that burn images into our minds and make us offer up a silent prayer in hopes that it never happens to us.
But read this definition:
Trauma is the response to a deeply distressing or disturbing event that overwhelms an individual’s ability to cope, causes feelings of helplessness, diminishes their sense of self and their ability to feel a full range of emotions and experiences.
Does that sound familiar? Would you say your child’s arrest or charge is something deeply distressing? Would you say it’s been a disturbing event that has overwhelmed your ability to cope? Have you experienced feelings of hopelessness? Do you feel everything in life took a back seat to what’s now going on in your child’s life? Well, then….we have to call this what it is. Trauma. Until we have a clear picture of exactly what we are dealing with, it’s easy to become trapped in a cycle of guilt, shame, and despair.
You are were not meant to walk through this season alone.
If you’d like to learn more about trauma and how it affects your emotional responses, check out Episode 3 of our podcast Unyielding. You can find all of our podcast episodes on our website or your preferred podcast platform.