Dear Dr. Norquist:
I have felt heartbroken lately. I have one daughter and she means everything to me. A few years ago she was diagnosed as having a rare autoimmune disorder that can attack the organs of her body. Often she is in pain and sometimes the pain is from her medication (headaches, stomachaches, and nausea). She has fallen behind in school and in addition she has many social pressures to contend with (being in the 8th grade).
I’m heartbroken to see her sitting at home in pain and often sad and angry about her situation. I try my best to cheer her spirits, but I feel so sad that her childhood is so burdened. I feel so helpless and overwhelmed. I did start her in psychotherapy (which, thank God, she was open to). What can I do that will be of the best possible help to her?
Dr. Norquist responds:
As parents, we want to protect our children from any and all pain and suffering. Their pain is our pain. This makes it extremely difficult to see and to accept that our children have their own life paths, just as we do. It is not our place to determine what their life path will be, or what obstacles and opportunities they will encounter. We can love, support, guide, teach, and serve as a role model for our children, but we cannot live their lives for them. We cannot take away their pain or suffering, or make life choices for them that appear to us to be less painful.
It must be terribly painful for you to see your daughter suffering so. I’m glad she was amenable to psychotherapy and that you have the foresight and ability to provide this service for her. Try to rise above your sadness and pain and see her from a higher, detached, yet loving perspective. From this place, ask yourself “what response from me would be most helpful to my daughter at this current moment?” Hold out hope – even when neither of you are feeling it. Allow her to feel her anger, fears, and anxieties without worrying about how you feel. Watch how you interpret and react to her situation, as she will imbibe your response.
She may also benefit from techniques that can help her to manage her stress, pain, and anxiety. These include guided imagery, yoga, massage, relaxation techniques, and any activity that she finds fun, interesting and enjoyable. Try to hold the light for her through these dark times so she can find her way to better times. Her pain provides growth opportunities for both of you.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2012 Chaitanya Counseling Services