I can’t do it! I’m so scared! Isn’t there anything I can do? How can I possibly let go when I don’t know what might happen if I do? Help!
Parents of a son or daughter who struggle with dangerous and troubling issues have a big problem. We can’t let go…we’re too afraid. Our teen-to-adult child may be impacted by one of these: substance use (alcohol or drugs), depression or some other mental affliciton, suicidal thoughts/attempts, cutting, an eating disorder, trouble with the law, a gender identity issue, chronic gaming, pornography, or some other heartbreaking behavior. Understandably, we’re a wreck. We want to let go but we’re too weak and don’t know when is the right time, much less how to step back and stop controlling.
Letting go could help us keep our sanity yet is most difficult to put into practice. I understand.
I’m one of those parents who didn’t know how or if I could…and I was too frightened to try.
The Opposite of Letting Go
Letting go is confusing and difficult. There are no clear guidelines. We long for the book that would tell us our next steps, including guarantees of the desired outcome: When _________________ happens, then do __________________.
If only life was that simple.
To me, letting go is loosening my grip, relaxing my hold, releasing control. This isn’t easy to do when the object is our child and they’re well-being is at risk. Letting go is even more difficult for those of us who have fallen into bad habits over a long period of time. We’ve always____________________.
I’ve found I can understand a concept better when I have a better grasp on what it’s not.
What is the opposite of letting go?
- Tightening our grip on something we want until our knuckles turn white, like a child who won’t let go of a toy.
- Demanding our way; insisting on certain behavior.
- Attempting to maintin control over something or someone because we believe we know what is best.
- Overly involved because we need a specific outcome or result.
- Over-helping; doing for someone what they could and should do for themselves if given the opportunity.
If you see yourself in any of these descriptions I have two words for you: STOP IT! (Watch a hilarious video clip of a skit from a Bob Newhart TV program about this. I had to share it.)
Step back, take a deep breath and RELEASE.
Releasing control doesn’t mean you don’t care. You aren’t being unkind or unloving. You will always be there for your son or daughter, ready and willing to do everything in your power to help them when they are ready to change and accept help.
When. They. Are. Ready.
Of course discerning when they’re ready can be difficult. At times, we may be fooled and taken advantage of. There may be occassions we decide to give our children a chance and wait to see what happens. If they weren’t ready, hopefully, we’ll learn from our mistake and make a better decision the next time we have the opportunity.
Give your child huge doses of grace–and yourself too. Keep reminding them how much you love them. You won’t abandon them. Your door will be open when they want help. Keep the porch light on.
Our difficulty in letting go is directly tied to our fears.
That’s what I experienced. Full of fear for my daughter’s welfare I couldn’t bear the thought of not helping or rescuing. I didn’t know how to stop. If I did, what might happen? I loved her so much . . . how could I let go of fear and worry for the child I would give my life for?
Learning to Let Go
For me, learning to let go happened in incremental baby steps (baby steps is a phrase I’ve borrowed from the movie What About Bob? with Bill Murray. If you need a good laugh that movie is sure to give you many.)
Letting go was a long, slow process of giving my daughter over to the care of God, allowing Him to work in her life as He saw best,and keeping my hands off. Letting Him be hands on.
Attending support groups regularly was also a tremendous help. I gained strength and wisdom from others who were further ahead of me on a similar journey. I learned from their example.
Faith also played a key part. Because I believe God is loving and good, I had confidence He loved my girl even more than I did. This filled me with great peace and comfort even though I knew there was no guarantee her life would turn out like I wanted. Tragic events did occur…and more could occur in the future. But I finally learned I had to release her into the hands of her Maker and get out of His way — for her sake and for mine.
We can trust what we can’t change or fix to a God who is totally trustworthy.
Because of His divine help, I’m no longer consumed by fear and worry. Sleepless nights don’t plague my life anymore. I quit trying to fix, rescue, and protect my daughter from painful consequences. I now understand that hard lessons could be exactly what she needs to bring about the changes I’ve prayed for. God is always at work and uses everything in our lives for good.
Dear fellow parent, letting go is one of the hardest but most loving choices you can make — for yourself and for your child. Look to God for the strength and courage you need. He’s ready and waiting to help you. I know this is difficult. That’s why I included a chapter (#9) on Letting Go in my book, You Are Not Alone.
Here are a few bible verses that encouraged me when I decided to let my daughter go:
Be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord (Psalm 27:13-14 NIV).
Casting the whole of your care (all your anxieties and all your concerns, once and for all) on Him, for He cares for you (I Peter 5:7 Amplified).
Book: Praying Your Loved One Home by Pam Jones Lanhart