The Lost Child

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The Lost Child
By Bernadette A. Moyer

lost child

My grandmother on my father’s side, (my nana) lost a son (Jimmy) when he was just seven years old and just weeks after his first Holy Communion. She never got over it. It was an unexpected illness that quickly took his life. I imagine that a part of her died too. She talked about him all the time. She cried about him often.

I was just a little kid that visited her and I knew very little about death way back then, but I sensed enough to know and witness her heartbreak, sadness and uneasiness. She was tormented by her loss. It showed itself in her verbal and consciousness and stream of thoughts and words. Her actions showed intense grief. Today I can’t help but wonder how different her life might have been if Jimmy had not died so young.

The lost child changed her; it changed how she related to everyone including the remaining family members. How did it affect her marriage? How did it affect her relationships with her remaining four children? How much of the way that she was determined how her children became? Really we can never know but I think a reasonable person could agree that everything and everyone in that family was altered as a result of such a loss, like the loss of a child.

We can lose a child to death, to estrangement and to mental illness, where there maybe different types of loss, losing a child brings a wide range of emotions with it. We lose a piece of our hopes and our dreams. We lose a piece of ourselves and a part of our futures.

Mothers put so much of their own wellness on how their children are doing; they want their kids to be healthy and happy. I’ve read somewhere that “a mother can only be as happy as her saddest child.” I sure hope that isn’t true, but I do appreciate the thought.

I’ve never known the death of a child, thank God, but I have known losing a child. My first child was lost to me through estrangement on July 4, 1998. This year marked 19 years, she has been gone longer than I had her. For me she is a lost child. I too grieved her intensely and often talked about her too. I think that we talk about our lost children so that we can somehow keep them alive. It is all so unnatural for any parent to lose a child, regardless of the type of loss and a loss is a loss.

I changed. Initially my world was forced into an upside down position. Everything that I once held so near and dear in my own life like being a mother was shattered. I had to look at myself, I had to look at her and I was forced to look at everything. Being a mother meant everything to me, perhaps more than it should. I was consumed with grief. I went through all the stages from denial to acceptance. It felt like a death to me. A death of my child and a death of a part of myself, today I am different, very different. I see from a broader perspective from more of a life experienced, my head learned much, my heart initially shrank but then as the years passed by my heart grew larger with more acceptance and a greater understanding. Funny how that can happen, but it did.

Remember when the best stories ended with the phrase; “and they lived happily ever after”? After you experience enough life you soon realize that not everything ends with “happy ever after” but that does not mean that your happiness has to end.

You find new and different things that make you happy; you learn over and over again that true and sustained happiness comes from within.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

What Mom and Dad Really Want

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What Mom and Dad Really Want
By Bernadette A. Moyer

appreciate-your-parents

We are half way between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and I have been thinking a lot about what moms and dads really want from their children. And it is pretty simple too. At every age and at every turn they want their children to be happy and to be healthy. They want them to be the best that they can be, however that is defined.

Most adult children will buy mom and dad gifts and although that is really nice and appreciated, most parents just want to know that their children are okay and doing well. They want to see them. They want to hear from them. They want to know that they haven’t forgotten the people that gave them life and raised them. They want to be respected for having tried and having done the work even if it wasn’t always perfect.

Mom and dad want peace with their children. They want to hear their stories and hear about their struggles and their achievements. They want to share space and time. They want to have the opportunity to create new memories.

When I was a young adult I often went to visit my dad who had re-married. I liked just stopping by and he always seemed to enjoy my company. We drank coffee together. I would tell him about my boyfriend or about school or about the issues I was facing in my life. Often he shared his stories too. He would talk about his parents and his siblings and his time in the service. These were some of my best memories of my dad.

Sometimes we would go to the Farmer’s Market or make a cigarette run for him. However menial it was what we did, we did it together and just being in his company was healthy and good for me. It allowed me to see him not as a child and a parent but as two adults sharing time together, two adults that shared a history.

I wouldn’t give those memories up for anything in this world. Now that he is gone and I am older, I appreciate them all the more.

My dad came to visit me when I was in the hospital giving birth to my daughter. Later she would spend a week in the summer with him. She had a chance to get to know her grandfather.

Gifts are nice but spending time talking with mom and dad and enjoying their company is truly what most parents want from their children. Above all else parents want to know that their children are okay and safe and doing well. They want to be remembered.

So when Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and birthdays and holidays roll around no need to stress over the perfect gift. A simple phone call or visit is sure to make mom and dad feel special and truly is the gift that they want most in life.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Parental Love

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Parental Love
By Bernadette A. Moyer

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There is no greater opportunity for love like the love a parent has for their child.

“Parental love is a limited reflection of a limited love. In the experience of parental love I was wounded as were you, and every other human being. Most parents are the best and the greatest, but in the human experience, parents are also very broken people.” Henri J.M. Nouwen

I am always intrigued by how parents speak about their children and equally intrigued about how children speak about their parents. Parents aren’t perfect and neither are their offspring.

The kids that profess to come from the “perfect family” alarm me as much as the ones who declare they are a product of the “worst family” I suspect neither to be 100% true.

In a recent news story three tiger cubs band together as their mother’s maternal instincts fail. It was a first time mother in a zoo and the staff there is tasked with nurturing the baby cubs. The vet says that they won’t re-introduce the mother because she won’t recognize them. There was no bonding that took place. Most mothers could never imagine this and yet it happens, it also happens that offspring reject their parents.

Most parents would literally kill for their children, hurt the child and suffer the parental consequences.

John has a grown daughter that he once loved dearly and would have killed for, today they are estranged. His feelings have changed. Now he states, “she is not a good person, I don’t like her and how she acts” it is hard to imagine how he could feel one way and then the exact opposite way.

He says, “I have feelings too” in reference to the things that she has said about him and done to him.

We all witness the Trump family and the adult children that seem to have such a close and loving relationship with their father. Whether you like him or not, he maintains close, loving and supportive relations with all his kids.

When my own daughter became a teenager and started acting out like so many teenagers do, it was the first time that I saw her through different lenses. In her behaviors I witnessed her father who was deceased before her third birthday and although not around she had many of his traits and characteristics.

Parents are people with the same wide range of feelings as all others and kids can make their parents proud as easily as they can disappoint them. Parents find joy in their children and they also suffer sadness and grief because of them too. It is no different than any other relationship.

Maybe we expect too much from our kids and therefore can be disappointed. I think the best place to be is where I am today. My children are all adults aged 25 to 36 and I no longer view them as a reflection of myself or my parenting but rather as their own unique individuals.

There is such freedom in having adult children that you are no longer responsible for and you can do as much as you want with them and for them or as little as you choose.

Today I view parenting as though the gift is and was in the giving and like any gift if it was well received all the better but my part was solely as the parent that gave the gift of parenting.

Parenting is an awesome responsibility and it is not an exact science. Most all of us go into it wanting and doing our very best. Where the outcomes may be different the tasks, responsibilities, love, commitment and efforts involved in parenting are all so similar.

“There is nothing wrong with the pleasure that comes from a big meal, a sexy night, or victory on the playing field — but it is fleeting. Raising kids, working through marriage troubles, and volunteering at a soup kitchen may be less pleasurable, but these pursuits provide fulfillment – a sense that you’re the best person you can be.”

From LOVE THAT BOY by Ron Fournier

Happy parenting and happy being the best that you can be …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
Books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

The Heart and Head Conflict of a Parent

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The Heart and Head Conflict of a Parent
By Bernadette A. Moyer

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My husband and I have often lead with our hearts, when in retrospect it might have been better to lead with our head. When it comes to raising children it can be a real challenge making decisions for our children when our heart is telling us one thing but our head is saying another.

It has been said that “bigger kids means bigger problems.” Our kids enjoyed a certain amount of success while under our care. When we made all the decisions they were all doing well and set for success. Each child looked and acted fit. Each child was encouraged to do their best and to lead with their own unique talents. We wanted them to be happy but we also wanted then to be successful in life. We knew that our job in being “in control” would end one day and they would transition from child to adult.

As I read through social media earlier today a friend wrote this statement:

“I feel that the toughest part about parenthood – once our kids are adults is that we lose control. We have no control any longer, like we did when they were under our watch as toddlers and teens. We lose control of the five W’s:
– Where they go/Where they live
– What they do
– Who they choose to be/Who’s attracted into their lives
– When we get to be together
– Why they want/do/pick/think/decide
We are forced to trust our babies to themselves, to others, and to the world … and that’s a LOT to ask of a parent. We hope we did our jobs okay when we did have control.

So now we want to, have to, and do … trust our precious beings to God and to the universe … and we pray for the best outcomes possible. While we sit here and watch. Out of control. Cheers to all of us parents. The most emotional, challenging — and rewarding — job on Earth.” S.S. 10/12/16

Only a seasoned parent with years and years of parenting under their belts could/would fully appreciate the quote above. Kids are so ready to call us “controlling” yet those “controls” often were what was necessary to avoid further hurts and conflicts.

As we become those “mature parents” with our own rich history in parenting, it doesn’t take much thought to think back to all the times we challenged our own parents as we also needed to transition from child to adult.

“A parents job is to give a kid what they need and not what they want.” Dr. R.

One of the hardest decisions any parent will make is in the letting go. We think we know what is best and even if we are right, they still need to learn and to grow and to see and experience it all for themselves. Even if we are “right” we don’t get to decide when our children are adults.

Prayers up for all the parents of adult children who are learning to let them go, and doing so with grace and love.

Prayers up for all the adult children that are exercising their adult status and making their own decisions.

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.Facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

All books by Bernadette A. Moyer on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

Our Children Are Not Placed Here

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Our Children Are Not Placed Here
By Bernadette A. Moyer

 

children

Our children are not placed here to please us
Or to make us proud
It is not their job to complete us
Or to go along with what we need or want
Or feel is best for them or us

Our parents are not placed here to please us
Or to make us proud
It is not their job to complete us
Or to go along with what we need or want
Or feel is best for them or us

We strive for love and we strive for acceptance
We strive to be understood and we strive to understand

Did we receive the child we hoped for
And/or the child that God alone gave to us

Did we receive the parents we wished for
And/or the parents that God alone gave to us

Our children are not placed here to please us
Or to make us proud
Our parents are not placed here to please us
Or to make us proud

Oh … but isn’t life easier and oh so sweet when they do …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
New books! Along The Way and Another Way on Amazon and Barnes and Noble

The Estranged Dad

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IMAG2534The Estranged Dad
By Bernadette A. Moyer

Dads hurt too! Barely a day goes by when I don’t hear from an estranged mother who is grieving over an adult child that decided to dismiss mom and dad from their life. Rarely but very rarely do I hear from the dad’s. But when I do the pain shared is no different than what the women have shared. Men seem to keep it in, are more cut and dry about it and seldom do they show their grief outwardly.

When I asked my own husband “what single thing in your life has hurt you the most?’” I was surprised by his response.

This is a man who grew up in “The Projects” and who became a widower at age 32 just after his wife delivered twins pre-maturely. He had a younger brother that he loved commit suicide; he is a man that held his mother’s hand as she died and has a father suffering from severe dementia. (Since this article was written his father has died)

His response; “our girls” and “It didn’t have to be this way.” He was talking about their estrangement. They chose to turn away from their family under the guise of “abuse.” Both times it was over a teen boyfriend that they were determined to have and neither one ended up with.

My husband was a huge support to my daughter. One year he wrote the entire check for her Catholic prep school tuition. During high school he drove her to school every day before going to work. He was invested in her success even though she was not his biological daughter. He attended every single father-daughter dinner throughout high school and he wasn’t just happy to do it but he was proud.

His twin daughter is his namesake that he took up for the entire time she lived at home. Always doing battle with anyone that came to tell him that she was failing, he didn’t want to hear it or believe it. Whether it was a teacher or an employer he only wanted to hear the best about his daughter.

Many times it would be her own twin brother reporting to dad about her latest scheme and how awful she made him feel. He dismissed his only son to support his daughter. To him, she walked on water. Until … right up until he could no longer look the other way. Until she would not only estrange but declare that she was “abandoned.” After all she needed to have a story to support her decisions to disrespect the house rules. And at the age of 18 she certainly had every right to live her life, her way. But we all know that when we live with our parents and in our parent’s house, it is by our parents rules.

Fathers take it differently from what mothers do and looking back I would be willing to bet that my husband stayed strong so that I could be the one that fell apart.

My son describes his twin and her departure as a “low blow” and a “sucker punch” to their father. I believe she acted in haste as many teens do and at the time truly did not comprehend the magnitude of the decisions that she was making. Friends will come and friends will go, but family is forever, or it is supposed to be. He was also the one that didn’t want us to go after. He stated, “She will just do it again” and “I know her better than anyone” and “we are better off without her.”

This is not what any parent wants to hear. We raised our twins to have their own interests and seldom did their interests intersect. He was an Eagle Scout involved in the theater and drama; she played the flute, went to band camps and played soccer. Although we always hoped they would be close and we tried to instill in them the importance of looking out for one another. We thought it was a blessing that they had each other. Little did we know that our desire to keep them together and close was often at our son’s expense and well-being.

My husband isn’t the kind of guy that has regrets. He lives and he learns and he has accepted that the daughter he loved and adored didn’t or doesn’t hold him in the same esteem. His immediate response when she left wasn’t one of hurt or of anger, his response was “I am so disappointed.”

We find it amusing that you can raise kids in the same home, at the same time with the same parents and schools and everything and how one child can be so appreciative and happy and constantly reflects on all the good things he had in his childhood. He states; “I had a great childhood” and another child who was probably given even more states that they weren’t happy and estrange.

From all the parents I have talked with over the 16 years since estrangement entered my life I hear many common threads. Parents that feel betrayed by their children. And their kids lied to them and lied about them. Kids that grow up and decide to estrange from their parents while making the choice to play the victim rather than to succeed in life.

The parents in my support group are the ones that are just like my husband. They are really great dads who gave it their all and never dreamt that all the efforts he put forth would be minimalized and unappreciated. My husband is a strong man, a Christian that prays every single day for the daughter that he thought he raised.

We have great memories of all our kids and all the years that we were raising them. We are so happy that we survived those years with our marriage intact and even stronger. It easily could have gone another way.

Like all the moms and dads who have done the work and raised their children; we want for our children what we have always wanted for them. We want them to be happy, to have peace and good health and a good long life filled with as much love as possible.

Thinking of every dad out there on this Father’s Day and every single day …

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer

New books! Along The Way and Another way available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Estranged … Now what?

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Estranged … Now what?
By Bernadette A Moyer

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Knowing what I know now and after my own experience and hearing from thousands of mothers and fathers who are estranged from their adult children, I would do things differently!

I should not have wasted my time, my heart and my tears over someone who was already so far gone from me. Today I would say that yes you will be hurt and yes you might be shocked but what you really need to do is get over it and get over it as quickly as possible.

It is okay to love the child that you had and to reflect fondly on them but it is also necessary to let them go in peace and in love. When it is over, it is over. Some situations will allow for a reboot and another chance, some never will.

Today I believe that adult kids that estrange enjoy the satisfaction they receive in knowing how much they hurt their parents and their families. It is all about control. It is all about being selfish and all about them. It is the choice that they alone have made.

And the stories they will tell is that they were the victims. Think about it? A nice son or a nice daughter wouldn’t cut mom and dad out of their life. They will need to justify their actions and that means making mom and dad out to be the bad guys. And the more they can paint themselves as a victim, the more they can manipulate others and command support for their cause and position.

Don’t play along and don’t play their games. Find things to do that will occupy your time and utilize your talents. Go to a therapist or go to the gym but keep moving. Life is all about forward movement. You can think, hope and pray that they return, but whatever you do, do not compromise the quality of your own life in the process. Remember if they do return you will have grown and changed and taken better care of yourself. And if they never return you will be healthier, stronger and better able to manage and enjoy your life.

Because if you compromise your life away you will eventually regret it and you won’t get those lost years back. Our response should be one that says I hold myself up in the highest. I will not allow you or any other to destroy me or my joy. My life with you or without you, matters. I am important and I deserve to be happy.

Back then so much of my life wasn’t even mine. Maybe that was a huge part of the problem? I had given so much of myself away in being a wife and a mother, a career woman and a friend. The last person who received my time and attention was me.

Learn to retreat in healthy ways. It is okay to be alone with yourself. It is okay to grieve and to process. It is okay to feel the loss and the pain. But don’t stay there and don’t get stuck there. Being a victim is never attractive no matter how it comes about. Fight for yourself. You are worth the very best!

There will always be up and down days. Some days you will have stronger and better coping skills. Some days will be tough. It takes time. It takes time to acknowledge this, to accept this and then to learn how to live with it. In our disbelief and in our shock we tend to want to fight it. Very little is resolved in hanging on to that which has already left us.

Where it may seem so unnatural and so unkind, remember it is happening in record numbers and in families around the world. You are not alone. This month marks 18 years since the trauma of estrangement entered my life like an uninvited guest. I have been through all the stages from denial, anger, hurts and trying everything and anything and to finally arriving at pure total acceptance. My life is so great right now and I don’t think I could be happier or be surrounded by more love. I am so lucky to have survived it.

I thank everyone that reached out to me and shared their stories and supported me through all my writings. I would not have made it through without the love and support of so many people.

My best advice is to try and build an even better life. All those things that you wanted to do but never took the time to do; make the time and do them. Life goes on. Life is lived by looking forward and not from behind. You are worth so much more than to have the child or children that you gave your life for and invested so heavily in, discard you.

Remember it isn’t about you. It is all about them and their choices …

In God’s peace and love … Bernadette

Bernadette on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/bernadetteamoyer
All books by Bernadette A Moyer available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble