When your adult child is breaking your heart

A few years ago a gentleman by the name of Larry Lake wrote of the heartache he suffered as a

A few years ago a gentleman by the name of Larry Lake wrote of the heartache he suffered as a result of having a child struggling with illness and addiction.

In the decade prior to his daughter’s diagnosis, Larry and his family had been attending to the needs of Larry’s wife who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Surgery, radiation, driving back and forth — it took its toll on more than just the wife. But what Larry noticed was that when his wife was ill, friends and family were waiting on the doorstep with lovingly prepared meals and a supportive shoulder; they somehow disappeared when his daughter was unwell.

The phones went silent, the meals stopped coming and the only support he could find were within the four walls of his home, and they were going through the same thing. He felt isolated and alone.

“There is this grief that consumes you when your adult child harms those people you love, nearly robs you of your financial savings because of their legal or health bills, or abuses their own children,” says Gayle*, who is trying to support her adult son through depression and drug addiction.

Yet she says the battle she faces with him is nothing compared to the reactions of some of her family and close friends.

“There has been blame; that somehow my husband and I are responsible for our son’s problems,” she says. “There is this assumption that it is our only responsibility to fix his problem, but the people who say that have no understanding of just how challenging it can be to help this troubled soul while trying not to overstep the healthy boundaries we have already created.”

Gayle says some family members have even completely abandoned her family because they don’t want to be associated with such a cycle of destruction. She has watched her son’s social circle diminish as his friends became embarrassed by the behaviour or were unable to cope with his struggles.

“As difficult as it is for me to be supporting him, I don’t think my struggles are as great as his.”

Gayle raises an important issue — do you ignore the challenges your child is facing or try and address it with them and help them through it?

Some parents go to great lengths to cover up their adult child’s emotional problems or misdeeds.

But if you frame your child’s problem as a medical issue, which is what it is if you are dealing with mental health conditions and substance abuse (drug addiction is classified as a disease in the same way bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are), you can be there to provide them with support. It was something Lynne* struggled with when her adult daughter tried, and eventually succeeded in, taking her own life.

“She was married, she had two wonderful children; I couldn’t understand what was going on to make her do something like that,” she says. “But it wasn’t about me.”

At the time Lynne says she had trouble acknowledging there was a problem. She says she also expected there would be this magic answer to remedy her daughter’s behaviour.

“I haven’t been perfect,” she says, adding that it is difficult not to blame herself in some way for her daughter’s actions even though logically she understands the problem was greater than all of them. “She was sick and I couldn’t help her.”

Sometimes loved ones want help, but don’t know how to ask for it; sometimes they need it, and won’t.

Have you ever been faced with a difficult family situation? How have you acted? Were you able to get support?

*Names have been changed to protect family relationships.
  1. lesley hazell  

    I can very much relate to this sad sad story. We have had troubles with our son for years an on off relationship because of his bi polar and addictions, he was married and it didn’t help that his wife didn’t like us because she didn’t like the closeness we once had and couldn’t deal with it. His marriage broke up and we resumed what we thought a good relationship between us and as he had one of his daughters with him we worried about his money and health struggles so the only solution we could come up to help them both was move lock stock and barrel interstate, cost us money we couldn’t afford to move everything, sold what we could to get into the house we rented together but my husband and I thought we can do this look after them until he gets back on his feet then we would go travelling. Well, we were with them for 4 days and he beat us both up badly and his teenage daughter laughed. We escaped that night grabbing what we could and luckily all our belongings had arrived by the movers, for the first time in our lives we were homeless but had beautiful friends who took us in until we healed and worked out our lives but that night we didn’t want to be on this earth any more but our friends gave our life back to us….our son told so many lies and didn’t admit to himself what he did to us and turned so many people against us. We havnt seen him since that day 18 months ago and sadly I never want to see him again until I find out he has got the help he needs but more sadly my husband never wants to lay eyes on him again for what he did to us…to say our hearts are broken is mild and I get sick of friends saying but he has his problems but hitting your parents is the worst thing you can do sick or not….we will get through and most days we do but some days we just struggle but at least we are still alive and have amazing friends around us who know what kind of parents we were when we question ourselves!!!!!!!

    • Mia Van Der Stam  

      Such a sad story- it must have been hell. Bless you

    • Extraordinary heartbreaking story. Hope u both in time r healing. U did your utmost to support your son.

    • I’m so sorry for your troubles! There is a web site I’ve been following for 3yrs now. It’s for moms of addict children..it has helped me so much! Please check it out. I too have been in your shoes.. but I still have hope with the grace of God!😂..TAM.COM..stands for “the addicts mom”

  2. Arleen  

    My now ex-husband decided to leave me after 39 years’ married. He wanted to be a ‘single independent person’. He was the type of person who didn’t speak to me to sort any problems. At my first Solicitor’s Appt. he said to me ‘are you aware, according to your husband, he separated from you TEN years’ ago’? News to me!

    Both our children always went to him about anything they wanted to talk about. I was the ‘invisible’ member of the household. I had no Degree’s, so they thought me ‘stupid’, & that I knew nothing. I’d had many responsible positions in various Companies’ during my career. I’d topped all my difficult, & complicated work exams, over many years’.

    Very, very long story short, the week the divorce was finalised my daughter stopped speaking to me altogether! Because of my son’s work, I hardly saw him at all, nor heard from him, & v.v. as I had no contacts’ for him at all.

    A few yeas’ later, a mutual friend contacted me, to say my daughter wanted to see me. I was in the mindset that I wouldn’t ever see my children again, their choice, not mine, so this came as a very pleasant bolt out of the blue!

    Turns out she was pregnant, having been married now over three years’. A GP had told her that she MUST let me know I was going to be a Grandmother!

    The situation is better now, & I saw BOTH my children for Mother’s Day, 2016, & of course, my grandchild.

    I was dealing with two other traumatic situations’ at the time, so having a third piled on top of me didn’t help one iota.

    Support for me came from friends, & others’, thank goodness.

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