Three years ago we experienced a major life change, the death of my mother. I tried to shield my children from the pain that I was experiencing but I didn’t realize at the time how my decisions would affect my children and their own grief. As time went on we began noticing a change in our oldest daughter, Emma. At first we didn’t realize what was going on with her and why she was acting out so much and refusing to separate from me. She was afraid to do things that she normally loved, didn’t want to go to school and would cry every morning, and also became defiant towards us. At the time she was 9 and in 3rd grade. I became very fearful of our mother-daughter relationship and the negative effects on my family. During my own childhood my oldest sister was a “trouble maker” and even as an adult I never understood what happened in her childhood to cause her to rebel the way she did.
The relationship that developed between my parents and oldest sister completely changed the dynamic of my childhood family and I knew I didn’t want that for my family. I was terrified that my oldest daughter would end up like my oldest sister. I was scared and almost felt hopeless.
My father and my other sister were also worried but I didn’t really know what to do about it. My pediatrician recommended counseling and gave us a list of counselors. I was feeling overwhelmed so my husband made the initial call to Amy and she said that she had experience in dealing with grief and children. That’s great but could Emma’s behavior be from grief or are we destined to go down the same road my family went down when I was a child?
I will never forget the first meeting with Amy. I feel like I could cry just writing this now. She has the most calming, non-threatening, warm presence and I immediately wanted to talk to her for hours. I knew that Emma would feel very safe with her. After that first meeting with Amy we felt a sense of relief but also knew we had a lot of work ahead of us. It was a little overwhelming because I knew I would have to really examine myself and my parenting, but I knew we were at least headed in the right direction. Emma met with Amy once a week for about 6 months. It was a rocky six months in our house to say the least. As time went on though we learned so much about Emma, ourselves, our own childhood, and our style of parenting. Talking with Amy I felt inspired to become a better parent.
Despite my fear of ruining my daughter, she helped me to believe in myself as a mother. My parenting style I wouldn’t say completely changed but rather grew and still continues to grow. I honestly don’t know where my family would be today without Amy’s guidance. After a period of time, Emma’s wounds healed and mine did too. We still have to work on our relationship together but it doesn’t feel like we are just spinning our wheels. We can actually see the positive results of our parenting.
This year, about two years after our difficult time with Emma, our youngest daughter, Elizabeth began going through a really awful time. We had an idea of what was going on but because she wasn’t able to verbalize her feelings, just like Emma, we didn’t know for sure. She was seven and was incredibly defiant and super, strong willed. I didn’t know what to do with her and I was sure that what I was doing was only making things worse. This time though I felt such comfort knowing exactly where to turn. Unlike with Emma, I didn’t doubt that things would ever get better. This time I knew with work and time things would be ok. Actually, I knew things would be better than ok. Instead of feeling like a failure as a mother, I actually looked forward to Amy’s help. Every child is different and I needed help parenting my strong willed baby. Elizabeth also needed help in trusting herself and other people. This experience with Amy and Elizabeth has been very different than with Emma. Talking with Amy inspires me to examine the way I parent Elizabeth and my other children. We are still In the process of learning what works for her and what doesn’t but I know that we will be ok, not only ok but a much better family than before we sought Amy’s help.