Parenting Truth #2: Healing Happens When We Welcome Tears

I had to break some hard, hard news to my sweet, sensitive middle girl last week, and it was rough. The whole time, I had this thought running through my head. “Tears are good! Tears are healing, and exactly what she needs right now.” Everything in me wanted to cheer her up, and skip the hard part, but I kept holding it back, and let her cry.

This is new for me. As I shared in my last post, I’ve been putting myself through” parenting school”, and situations like this are my homework. Before, I would have jumped right into all the positive ways to view the situation, but I’ve been reading an AMAZING book called Parenting Without Power Struggles, and it’s about making room for your child’s feelings, which is making a ton of sense to me.

It has to do with the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Far too often, we get the message in our society that not all emotions are acceptable, and we don’t allow room for grief. Or another issue is that our kids get stuck in the angry and bargaining phases, but what they really need is to move past into the depression stage, where they will allow themselves to feel sad instead of mad.

“Our challenge as parents is to interpret for our kids what we sense is contributing to their anger. We need to try to speak on behalf of the fury underneath our children’s words or behaviour….This sometimes means gently guiding children to the Wall of Futility when they’re frustrated, so they can offload their feelings of discouragement or disappointment and move on to adaptation.”

The Wall of Futility means the point at which a child moves past anger, arguing, and bargaining, and moves into hurt and sadness, which is the true cause of all the other emotions.

Susan Stiffelman writes that as long as children stay in the arguing phase, they can’t move into dealing with the sadness, and therefore can’t adapt to difficult, painful, or disappointing experiences.

When we respond to their anger and arguing with logic and reason, we KEEP them in the stage that doesn’t allow them to grieve. And once they hit the stage of grieving, it is healthy and GOOD for them to get it all out in the open, without us trying to cheer them up right away, or even shaming them for their sadness.

If we respond with gentleness and compassion, even when they’re angry and arguing, and try to nudge them along to feeling the sadness and tears, they will get over the hardship sooner.

When they hit the stage of sadness, it’s super important for us as parents to welcome it, and hold space for it – to allow our kids to feel all the sadness, and to let them know that all the feelings are safe with us.

Just a couple of hours before reading that, I made the exact mistake of skipping over the healing tears. One of my kids came in upset, and I thought I was using good parenting when I immediately went into “Let’s look at this from a different perspective” mode.

It did not go well.

When I picked up my book later that evening, I could not believe how accurate this is! I completely missed the opportunity to draw out the hurt and disappointment, and it turned into a long, drawn-out, angry discussion about how my child felt it was NOT POSSIBLE to see things from a different perspective.

If course it wasn’t!! My timing was terrible.

I love how Stiffelman refers to it as “Act I” and “Act II”. Act I is all the outpouring of emotion, and it is most definitely not time for dealing with the problem. The kid should not be quiet, or reasonable, or see the bright side. They should just get it all out.

Once they have emptied out all that emotional angst, had a good cry, calmed down, and finished Act I, THEN it is possibly time for the logical thoughts of Act II – if the parent first asks the child if they’d like to hear a different perspective.

I tried this recently, and was told most decidedly that my child did NOT wish to hear my perspective. Since I’m new at this, I ended up telling her anyway, which went very badly. I reminded myself that I still need some practice! We’ll try again next time.

But all of this makes so much sense to me – I’ve seen it go the wrong way many, many times in the past, and wish I would have left more room for all the strong emotions to get out.

Growing up, I wanted to be a “good girl” so much, I ended up stuffing a lot of things inside. I wanted to be quiet and compliant, and didn’t want to cause any problems. I believed the best way to do that was to hold it all in. The issue with that is when the pressure eventually builds up too much, everything just explodes.

Janet Lansbury says that three year olds are often seen as having issues with emotions, because they cry and scream in the moment, but she said in reality, they are actually incredibly healthy emotionally, because they don’t hold anything in. They let it all out, and move on.

Now of course, a world full of people acting like three year olds would be outrageously terrible, but there are healthy, mature ways to release emotions. What I’m trying to do (with my kids and myself!) is to encourage privacy to be mad, cry, write it out, draw a picture, whatever it takes to get it out. The emotions usually aren’t the problem, it’s the expression of them that is. So the goal is healthy expression and release of the emotions, rather than holding it all in.

Because this goes against what I’ve spent most of my life doing, I have to admit, it’s taking some time to make the switch in my mind and responses. But as I work at it, I feel such a wonderful shift within myself. I feel space opening up inside for my own emotions, and I feel much less frustration over my kids’ emotions.

It’s even helpful just to be able to identify what’s going on in my children – I can silently check off the stages in my head as I watch them unfold before me, and it helps me hang in there with more patience, because I know that as soon as we hit the grief stage, and the tears start, we’re almost there, and things will be okay.

It’s really hard as a parent to watch your child suffer, but it helps to know we can be a safe place for them, and the tears are a sign of healing.

Naming Our Pain

Ben and I deal with problems in very different ways.

I tend to talk about them and analyze for hours. I have serious, imaginary conversations with people in my mirror. I generally put a lot of energy into conflict.

Ben, on the other had, chooses not to think about it.

When he’s facing some tough challenges and I ask him how he’s feeling about it, he’ll think for a second, and then say, “Don’t know – haven’t really thought about it.”

And then carries on with life.

This last year, I decided to try facing problems Ben-style. There were some hurts and disappointments which I would normally have taken really hard, but I flexed my brain muscles, and didn’t allow myself to think about it.

I thought it was working out pretty well…until it caught up with me.

A friend asked about a difficult situation I had gone through, and not allowed myself to think about much after, and even though it was at least six months after the fact, I suddenly found myself crying. And crying and crying.

I was very surprised. I had no idea all that emotion was there.

Apparently, the Not Thinking About It approach works for Ben, but I was disappointed to find it didn’t go so well for me.

Now what?

Well, a few nights ago, I came across a strategy I like very much. So far, I’ve found it to be quite amazing, but we’ll see how things go with time.

The idea comes from the book Naked Spirituality, by Brian McLaren, and it involves naming our hurts and emotions before God.

Naked Spirituality

“Fr. Richard Rohr says it well: Pain that isn’t processed is passed on. Pain that isn’t transformed is transmitted. So we need to process our woundedness with God, and that processing begins by naming the pain and holding it — as we’ve been holding each of our simple words — in God’s presence:

Betrayed. Insulted. Taken advantage of. Lied to. Forgotten. Used. Abused. Belittled. Passed over. Cheated. Mocked. Snubbed. Robbed. Vandalized. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. Excluded. Disrespected. Ripped off. Confused. Misled.

…So, just as through confession we name our own wrongs and feel regret, through petition we name and feel the pain that results from the wrongs of others. And just as we rename our anxieties as requests to God, we translate our into requests:

Comfort. Encouragement. Reassurance. Companionship. Vindication. Appreciation. Boundaries. Acknowledgment.

It’s important to note that we are not naming what we need the person who wronged us to do for us. If we focus on what we wish the antagonist would do to make us feel better, we unintentionally arm the antagonist with still more power to hurt us. Instead, in this naming, we are turning from the antagonist to God, focusing on what we need God to do for us. We’re opening our soul to receive healing from God’s ever present, ever generous Spirit.”

Something happened to me when I read through that list of words describing pain and disappointment. Some of them perfectly described what I was feeling. By naming it, and taking the time to acknowledge it, I felt as though I was giving myself permission to admit I was hurt – to admit that something had happened which shouldn’t have happened.

I know there are many times when I mess up, and hurt other people when I make mistakes. I recognize the need to name and confess those things, too.

But I had never thought of confessing other people’s sins. I had no idea it would give me the permission to struggle – to allow myself to feel hurt and wronged, and not to try denying it.

But not to stay there! Rather, to name it, feel the pain, and then hold it up to Jesus. I love the second part – naming what I need from God, claiming the strength and provision I know He will gladly give, anytime, but which I don’t often take the time to receive, or even acknowledge my need to receive.

A passionate discussion with my reflection in the mirror may give me a private outlet for expressing what I truly feel, but it just bounces back to me, and doesn’t free me from the pain.

I want to rather hold it out to God and let Him heal it.

What do you think of the idea of naming your pain before God?

Reclaim the Day

Every once in a while, I think about quitting my blog, because I would feel like less of a hypocrite.

It might be better if I wasn’t publicly sharing my ideas and opinions that sometimes turn out really badly when I try to practice them for myself on a daily basis.

Take Wednesday, for example. I wrote this post on Tuesday, and believed it with all my heart.

And then I woke up on Wednesday, and it was a horrible day.

Ben was working from early morning till late at night for most of the week, and we barely saw him. We all took turns having the stomach flu. Nasty hormones also insisted on making a flamboyant appearance. I got an email regarding a speaking engagement in February, and really felt as though I was the last person on earth who should be considering even opening my mouth in a public setting.

Everything reached a breaking point on Wednesday.

As I was writing this description, Anika started reading over my shoulder.

She asked, “What was so bad about Wednesday….Oh, yeah. I remember Wednesday.”

When Ben came home late that night, I sat on the couch and bawled. I felt like the worst mother in the entire world. And that stupid blog post I wrote! Soaking in family moments, making happy days, blah, blah, blah. What an earth was I talking about?

And then wisdom and salvation came from two excellent pieces of advice.

As I sat crying on the couch, Ben quoted my dad’s wise words: Don’t look at the crops when it’s raining.

In other words, evaluating my life when I’m sick, exhausted, discouraged and frustrated is not the right time. Wait until everything calms down a bit. Things always get better. Until then, just hang in there and don’t think too much!

The other bit of advice came from that fantastic new book I’m reading, which you should all have added to your Christmas lists by now: Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Paine.

Just three little words: Reclaim the day.

Those words offer such hope, don’t they?

Some days just go really badly. Sometimes we make mistakes, and we need to give ourselves a lot of grace.

On days like that, I can be pretty quick to write off the entire day.

“We’re just having a bad day today.”

“I’m feeling sick today.”

“I’m in such a bad mood today.”

What’s with “today”?

Why not give  the day a chance? Leave some space for things to turn around?

I remember using this concept when I was in high school. Except I called it “Starting the Day Over”.

There were some days when I just felt yucky about stuff in general. I was having a bad hair day, my outfit that seemed like a cool thing to wear when I put it on in the morning somehow lost its coolness by the time I got to school, bad things happened during the day that left me feeling discouraged about my little teenage life.

So I’d come home, have another shower, redo my hair, put on a different outfit, eat some chocolate, and call my best friend.

Starting the day over. At 5 pm.

I cannot imagine myself going to such lengths to “start the day over” now. (There is no way I’m doing my hair twice in one day.)

But is it ever too late to start things fresh?

I’ve been trying to think of how we might do that around here.

Some time alone, or some fresh air.

going for a walk

Happy music, books and blankets on the couch.

A little pep talk and a different approach.

I have no idea how well it would work, so I won’t make myself into a hypocrite by sounding like I’ve got this whole thing figured out.

I’ll just say that “Reclaiming the Day” is on my mind, and I’m going to try it the next time I’m tempted to sit on my couch crying about the day.

So I will choose to get up and start over. I will be intentional about turning this thing around. And I will keep blogging, even if it means publicly exposing how much I still need to learn!

And now I really need your suggestions!! What might “Reclaim the Day” mean for you?

Navigating Summer

What a beautiful weekend. One of my favorite things about this new life of ours is that time doesn’t seem to rush by so fast. When we were living at camp, we would blink, and it would be August.

Living in Niverville makes summer feel about three times as long, in the most positive way imaginable. I am thoroughly enjoying myself. Unless we visit camp. Then I cry. Obviously, my emotions are at war with themselves, and just need a little time to get things sorted out.


This weekend was filled with wonderful things.

We picked flowers:

We worked on our deck:

And we enjoyed some time with people from camp:


The more time we spend here, the more I realize how much “normal life” (whatever that actually is), is a balancing act. How much time do you run around socializing, and how much time do you need to stay home and regroup? Or just do some housework for a change?

At camp, the whole summer was busy, but it was all busy in the same direction – you just give’er till the end of August, and then you collapse a little bit.

Now we have choices, and I am starting to understand how tricky it is to be intentional with time.

So good luck to all of you as you navigate through your wonderful summer in the best way for you and your loved ones.

I’ll be back tomorrow with a special little announcement about my next blog series!

The True Color of Christmas

My grandma always, always made pink sugar popcorn at Christmas.

My mom always made it, and now we make it, too.

Pretty much, in order for it to truly be Christmas for me, there must be pink sugar popcorn.

What’s that you say? Pink is not a Christmas color? Pshaw.

Who has the authority to say that Christmas is red and green?

I say it’s pink. And it’s Grandma’s fudge, and her animal cookies.

Every time I make treats at Christmas, I think of my grandma. And I always, always remember a certain story my mom used to tell me.

My grandpa died shortly before Christmas many years ago, before I was born. My mom wished so much that we could have known him, so she told us stories and little tidbits to make him seem more real to us.

And she told us about that first hard Christmas without him, about how Grandma rolled out her Christmas cookie dough while her tears rolled down her cheeks.

To me, that mental picture of Grandma crying while she baked, that sums up Christmas.

Our culture bombards us with the “meaning” of Christmas. Even in spiritual ways, I feel this pressure to feel a certain way, to do certain things and act a certain way, because this will make Christmas come alive. I will apparently feel joyful and peaceful, and there will be wonder and love at Christmas.

Those are very wonderful things, but the truth of it is that Christmas does not make real life disappear. And for a lot of people, Christmas still means there will be pain and suffering, and disappointment and loneliness.

I completely believe that the message of Jesus enables us to rise above all of that.

But I also know what it’s like to feel so beaten down that it’s just plain hard to rise anywhere, and to feel connected with that message. Or even to connect with Jesus.

And there are people who don’t feel joy or peace or wonder or love. Sometimes Jesus feels far away.

But there’s this: Emmanuel means “God with us”. And I believe that He’s with us whether we feel Him there or not. He is there even when we don’t feel connected, and when we don’t “feel” Christmas-y.

He was there in the pain and the sorrow of that sad Christmas for my Grandma as she went through the motions of making things special for everyone else, even when she probably didn’t feel like it.

We’re told that the colors of Christmas are red and green. But I say the color of Christmas can be pink. It’s the memories of my strong, brave Grandma, and it’s real life.

Sometimes we go through the motions today because we have hope that things will be better tomorrow. And sometimes we have to do that even at Christmas.

Ben always says, “It is what it is.” He is always reminding me to accept things the way they are, rather than trying to force emotions, or force things to happen the way I want them to. We take what life hands us, and we do the very best that we can, and then we offer all of that to God.

And then He comes along, and He heals, comforts, forgives, restores, and He is with us.

Peace, love, joy and wonder are definitely possible at Christmas. But crying some tears, and feeling tired under a heavy burden is a reality, too. And that’s okay. Because we’re working on it. We’re learning how to find the peace that passes all understanding. I was working on that in November, I’m working on it in December, and I’ll be working on it in January. Christmas does not always feel miraculous and magical.

It is what it is.

So if this Christmas, you’re not “feeling” the way you’re “supposed” to feel, I want to offer you some encouragement. God is with you, even if you don’t feel Him.

He will give you the strength to keep going, and it’s okay if you haven’t gotten everything figured out by Christmas.

There’s no right or wrong way of doing this, or feeling this, because it is what it is.

Your Christmas might be pink, or purple, or orange. And it will be good, as long as you remember that He is in it.

Choosing to Forgive

Can’t get this post by Ann Voskamp out of my head. I read it a week ago, and it still stays stuck there. If you love amazing Corrie ten Boom stories, or you ever struggle with forgiveness, then you should check it out!

I struggle with forgiveness. I spent years thinking that I had forgiven when my emotions were right and at peace – I hadn’t officially forgiven until my feelings weren’t hurt anymore. And saying “sorry” was important, but I didn’t say “I forgive you” out loud very often.

But Ben always said it – right after I said sorry! I was always amazed at how quickly he could get his emotions to cooperate! Until one day, when I asked him about it. And he told me that his emotions had nothing to do with it.

He said that he chose to forgive me. He said the words out loud, and the emotions caught up later, after he had made the decision to forgive.

Forgiveness is a choice, not an emotion.

I’m still working on that one, which is why Corrie ten Boom’s story hit me so hard. If anyone would know about choosing to forgive, it would be her.

So you should go read it, and then we’ll all have a very beautiful weekend full of forgiveness!

Last Day!

Emotions are running a little high around here. (Not just the positive ones.) It seems as though it will be a tough task to inspire Team Dueck to finish strong.

But we had a lovely time at the beach.

Thanks so much for all the encouraging comments in the last 2 weeks! I would have loved to respond to them all, but….I didn’t have time. Catch up with you next week! When we will all be back to normal…

Aren’t you glad I’m not a trucker’s wife? 🙂

Insecurity and the Ultimate Time Machine

I am discovering that insecurity can be the ultimate time machine.

It is amazing how I can be going along, living my somewhat normal, somewhat mature adult life, and suddenly one little event, or one conversation, can hit a sensitive spot, and instantly I am transported back to junior high.

This happened to me just yesterday. Ben and I were talking about some issue that I was having, just something small, but suddenly what Ben was saying cut really close to one of those sensitive spots, and before either of us quite knew how we got there, I had flared up like a mad hornet.

Ben very delicately tried to suggest that I go spend some time praying and figuring out what the real issue was, because it was obvious that our conversation had struck an old, deep root.

I knew he was right, which was very annoying in that moment, and I went off to sulk/pray. (It’s very hard to stay sulky for long when you’re praying, by the way.) And I was completely thrown off guard by what I unearthed as I tried to pull up all the roots of that old, nasty issue.

Those kinds of things can hide really well, and disguise themselves in such a clever way that we don’t always know what we’re dealing with.

So guess what I discovered? As I was praying, and asking God to heal me of old hurts and insecurities, He brought me back to grade seven. I carry loads of baggage from grade seven. It was a bad year for me. It was the year that I learned just how cruel girls can be to each other, and I have a ton of emotional scars to prove it.

Ben’s words had hit on those scars. That sensitive spot brought me right back to lunchtime in grade seven, when I sat alone day after day, because the group of girls I was trying to be friends with would quickly shove their uneaten food into their bags and rush away as soon as I sat down at their table. Sitting there by myself felt like a public announcement to everyone around that I was unwanted, rejected, alone.

I love being alone at home, by the lake, going for walks. But to this day, I do not like being alone in a crowd of people, because it makes me feel unwanted. It’s that old public announcement that no one wants to be with me, even though in my head, I know it’s not true.

The worst part of it is that it’s very hard to reach out to other people when my hands are too busy carrying old baggage.

photo © 2010 Anthony Masi | more info (via: Wylio)

So I worked through some baggage yesterday. I did some unpacking. And the most interesting thing happened as I prayed through all that junk. For the first time since grade seven, God gave me the perspective of what it was like for those girls. I had never thought about them or about what they were going through. Little things kept coming to mind that now as an adult, I can see and understand that I did not, back in junior high.

I can see that they were hurting, too. They were also insecure. They hurt me out of their own hurt.

And don’t we do that all the time? Trying to understand things from the other person’s perspective helps us to see that most of the time, people are not trying to be mean. They don’t try to hurt us. They are just experiencing hurt themselves, and it makes all of us a little dysfunctional.

Everybody has junk that needs to be healed and loved away. We all have these roots that lead to something deep, and with all those roots around, someone’s bound to trip on them, and yank a little at the sensitive spots.

I don’t really know how God heals it, but I’m just going to ask Him to, every time a sensitive spot gets hit. I want to give it to Him over and over again, and I’m guessing that with time, those spots will start to heal.

And my time-machine trips back to junior high will stop. I’ll be able to travel lighter, without all that baggage, and my hands will be free more often for reaching out to others.

How about you – where does your time machine take you?

Learning How to Put My Trust Where it Belongs

There’s a verse that I memorized as a little girl that sticks with me still. “What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.” (Good old King James, it’s got to have the “thee” in it!)

A couple of weeks ago, that verse came back to me again. I was sitting in a waiting room, about to be called in to see the doctor to receive some test results. And I was scared.

See, I’m really good at worrying. I’ve been practicing my whole life. And getting test results is something that can freak me out. So as I was sitting there, nervous and scared, with that verse was stuck in my head. I tried repeating it to myself, hoping to get my mind in the right place, and trying to stop worrying.

But as I said, “…I will put my trust in Thee,” I suddenly realized that it was a lie. My trust was not in God as I was sitting there. There are lots of times when I don’t put my trust in God. There are terrible, hard things in this world that I am just plain scared of, and I can say that I trust God, but sometimes I don’t. I wouldn’t feel the way that I do sometimes, if I were actually trusting Him all the time.

So I sat there trying to figure out how to learn to trust God. How do you?

And then it hit me – the verse says, “I will put…” – not “I will magically discover that my trust is already put in Thee.”

I was feeling like a very bad Christian because I was not trusting God. But I suddenly realized that it’s a choice I need to make over and over again. With every situation that comes up, I need to once again say, “God, I will put my trust in you. I will choose to put it there.”

Beth Moore says that if you don’t feel something, live as though you are a woman who feels it, and the feelings will eventually catch up with the actions.

When I am worried or scared, I will choose to put my trust in God, even though it doesn’t want to be put there, and eventually, if Beth Moore is right, the feelings will follow. And if she’s wrong, it’s still a good idea, because I will be acting in obedience to God, even when my emotions haven’t quite caught on yet.

As I choose to act the way God wants me to, I will be growing my “trust muscle” – I’ll get better at putting my trust where I want it to be, rather than allowing my emotions too much control in my life.

What about you? Is there an area in your life where you’ve allowed your emotions to make decisions that they have no business making?


This week, I’ve been thinking a lot about emotions.

I spent years believing that I was a very emotional person. My sisters have always been the  cool, calm, and collected type. And then there was me.

They were busy pursuing careers in nursing and business. I was busy flying off the handle.

I was always “the emotional one.”

It took a long time and a few counseling sessions for me to begin to realize that the way I saw myself was not completely accurate.

See, my counselor told me that everyone has the same amount of emotions – it’s impossible to have more emotions than the average person. I may just think about them, analyze them, and communicate them a lot more.

Great. That made me feel weak – I have less control over how I communicate my emotions than other people.

And that idea of myself also stayed with me for a long time. Kind of depressing.

What’s bugged me the most is that there are things that I feel pretty passionate about, and I long for so much more in this life – more of God, for me and for other people.

And when I make dumb choices that bring me away from all that I long for, or I see other people making those choices, I usually end up getting really frustrated and angry.

Then I make Ben listen to me rant and rave, and get all worked up, which really doesn’t help anything.

And I end up sounding really critical and judgmental, and things just go in a bad direction.

But this week, a friend told me something that could possibly change my life.

She said, “When you don’t know what to do with sadness, it can become anger.”

And something just clicked.

Since then, I feel the truth of this again and again. The longing for change and for more of God is good. But when that doesn’t happen, when wrong choices are made, I feel…sad. I really do. I just never recognized it before, and skipped right ahead into being frustrated and mad.

I’m noticing what a huge difference there is between sad and mad.

Sad makes me cry instead of yell.

Sad makes me hurt for someone and what could have been, instead of looking down on them and judging them.

Sad can make me quietly carry a heavy burden, instead of making me say or do things in the heat of the moment that I will later regret.

Somehow, sad is leaving me a little calmer, and allowing some extra head and heart space to realize that I need to bring my sadness to my Father. It was never a burden that I was meant to carry, sad or mad.

I like it. I think I’ll keep giving it a try.