dealing with difficult people with love.
You can read this post back here for a little history. Reading the history may help you decide if this post can help you or not. I fully believe that there are times when when you have to move forward in life without certain people in it, be it family or friends and there is nothing wrong with that if it is a decision that is made prayerfully and calmly. This isn't about holding a grudge or being right. This is about personal mental health and weeding out people who want to keep you in the trenches with them.
It's always hard to pinpoint a low point and it's cause but this time it seems that it's just a perfect little storm. My birthday is coming up (aka a holiday where family (the born into kind) should care and celebrate you but will disappoint you once again) and recently a friend who is dealing with some family boundary issues asked me how I deal. Just those two things along stir up enough wind to start a mini tornado. And before long it's full blown.
The truth is, it's a process. When you've made the choice to move on in life without certain people you have to move forward with purpose. It's not like you can flip a switch and walk away. You have to take each step with meaning and prayer. Looking back only to affirm your choice and at times reevaluate it.
For me, with the situation above, I know that that door will never be open again. I've already been through time and time again of reevaluation and I've reached the point that I know what the answer will be. I have said good-bye to the family I was born into forever. It was a choice 33 years in the making. It was not made rashly or in haste. It was not made easily or in anger. I got to the point in life that I basically had two choices.
Choice one: continue as is and choose to participate in a cycle of hurt and dysfunction that was as predictable as the moon cycle. Making this choice also meant choosing it for my kids and husband as well. Choosing this option gave permission to others to continue to hurt me and my family. Going in this direction meant a course of roller coasters, unpredictability and serious lack of boundaries.
Choice two: walk away. Not an easy choice to make. And in some cases this is a temporary one. In my case, it has reached the point of permanency. I am as close to an orphan as once can be with parents who are still living. Sometimes you will make this choice a few times. Sometimes it will work in redirection. Sometimes it won't. But making this choice protects my kids, which is my ultimate goal in life.
And it's not like you wake up one morning with these two choices before you. There is also a process to get to this place as well. A process that includes setting boundaries and trying everything you know to get those boundaries respected. There will be appeals and pleas. You will have to try everything your heart says to try, in LOVE, so that once you reach the place of the BIG decision you can look back with affirmation that you did what you could, when you could, in every way you could.
If you have left no stone unturned, you can move forward in a much healthier fashion. You can know that you've done the right thing. The second choice is not a choice made in haste. Haste will only lead to doubt and more hurt. There is also a place when you have to stop looking for stones to turn over however.
Once you've made the choice to walk away, I have found a few things have helped.
Support. An outside party that knows the situation and can help you look at it without emotion. Often these situations are so steeped in a mixture of pain and love and misery and grief that it leaves us blind to reality. I know for me personally, there have been times when I have had to ask my husband what to do because my emotions have so clouded my thoughts that I can't think straight. I know that Doug and I have the same goals for our family, that we both understand the situation and the players in it and that he was part of the decision process. I know I can trust him to think clearly in any emotionally hot situation. I can follow through with what he says because of his position in my life. You need someone like that on your team.
Prayer. I've prayed more times than I can count for help with noticing triggers and stopping them from getting through. I've prayed for clarity and love and patience. The decision I made is not about hate in any form. I pray for those I've walked away from and it's more powerful than you can know. I don't wish them harm, I just need them away from me. God will answer any plea. He will give you direction, we just have to be willing.
Awareness/ know your triggers. I guess this is what you would call it. Know your triggers and say them out loud when you see them. I've done this and now I have people in my life will head them off for me before I have a chance to remember them. For example, Mother's Day is usually a big trigger for me. I've had friends email me weeks in advance telling me that they are praying for me in this area. I will know that something is in the horizon and tell Doug (or someone) about it so that I am not alone in dealing with it. The enemy loves us best when we are alone. Keep in mind that triggers don't have to be big and ugly. A lot of times they are just the opposite, for me it is often the site of healthy parents and grandparents interacting with their kids that cuts me the deepest. I want that and can't ever have it.
Approach. I have learned that this process is a lot like the grieving process. There are many steps and levels you must move through to get to the proper place of good mental health. It will not help you to skip ahead or ignore feelings. Additionally, you may need to revisit these steps (in or out of order) for an indefinite period of time.
Here they are:
1) Denial (This is where you try to pretend like nothing is happening and are hopeful that ignoring the situation will help someone. This is about as effective as asking Santa for a new car).
2) Anger. (I still have serious bouts of this. I am sometimes angry about: parents who don't care, about being alone in this world, about connections that my kids won't have, about what I DON'T have, more specifically what others DO).
3) Bargaining (Part of the above where I talked about doing all you can do. Sometimes you NEED to get it out of your system so that you KNOW it won't work.)
4) Depression (This is big and I struggle with this a lot. On a daily basis my feeling accepted by anyone is very delicate. Even right now I am going through a stage where I feel like no one really cares about me. Where I have tried so hard to form friendships only to have them not be reciprocated. Talking and praying helps this but it IS a process.)
5) Acceptance. (I am here most of the time. That doesn't mean I don't have to go back and examine some of the previous steps but at least now I know the final outcome. That at least helps with the process and my progress.).
Some things to consider...
Guilt. Guilt and love do not mix. Where there is love, guilt should not be. It's a tool for bringing you down and should not be used in a decision making process. Guilt is a tell tale sign that the enemy is near.
Scripture. People will try to use scripture against you. My favorite is "honor thy mother and father". It has been thrown in my face more times than I can count, almost to the point that it feels like a threat to me. To that account I say, honor comes in many forms. For me, I honor them by being respectful in my speech about them, by being truthful in that speech and by not engaging them further. I won't play the scripture game because I know that the author of that scripture has been with me in the process.
Be stingy with who you talk to about your situation. People love to interject themselves in drama and will jump at the chance to be part of yours and direct your life for you. They don't usually have your best in mind. I can only really talk in depth about this to my pastor and Doug and a select couple of friends. Everyone else I tread carefully with because I learned that eventually they like to tell me how wrong I am and want to make me understand why I am wrong. They don't get it. Usually because they have no concept of a family so dysfunctional or they don't think I have tried enough. Their intentions start out good but to many of them "family is forever" is like the eleventh commandment.
I know that is a lot to swallow but as I began to form my response to my friend, I just got this overwhelming feeling that others need to hear these words as well. I hope this helps you not feel as alone and maybe gives you a bit of direction. I know this road is tough but when tread with care you will come out on top.
I'll see you when you get there. xoxoxo