The wake up call that changed our relationship


Just when we think life is going smoothly, we often get another wake up call. I have been feeling so much happier and more fulfilled than at any time in my life. The nightmare of the past few years is over and I have emerged much stronger than ever before.

I am, in my own small ways, fulfilling my life‘s ambition to help make the world a happier place. My children all seemed settled and happy, then out of the blue things changed. The apparently happy relationship of a son ended unexpectedly and threw him into a great deal of pain.

In a previous blog I recounted the layers of the onion that I had peeled away and now it was time for another as I witnessed the intense pain of a much loved son. He had been through a great deal as a child with a bullying father and a mother struggling with emotional instability. He was always loved, but being the most sensitive of my three children, he was always aware of the insecurity in our existence.

He began showing some disturbing behaviour in his teens but went on to complete a PhD in Environmental Science. I was immensely proud of him but now we realise that he was mirroring my experience by creating a skin over his pain and not dealing with some demons. We have had some long discussions and whilst I can see my own part in his suffering, I have let go of my old feelings of guilt and self blame as I reflect that I did the best I knew how to do at the time.

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My son had accused me in the past of not listening and I thought he was wrong. I always listened – or did I? Recently I had a big wake up call and I felt a desire to share it – maybe it might help others..

I was walking with a neighbour when she recounted an experience she had when receiving counselling on how to work with her addictive son. She mentioned the LEAD concept, and whilst I had studied such programs and thought I knew them all, this particular time it really resonated and this has changed completely my relationship with my son.

So what do these letters represent? ‘L’ is for Listening and I reflected why my son felt that I had never listened. It came to me that in the past as I listened, I was always jumping ahead to see how I could ‘fix it’ so the quality of my listening was poor and really I was only ‘hearing’ not really ‘listening’.
The “E” is for Empathy. Really and truly putting myself in someone else’s shoes! This time I really could do that, but had I really achieved this in the past when he had reached out to me?
The “A” is for Ask – ask them what you can do – or what they would like to do… it is NOT “A” for Advice and oh how good I have been doing that over the years!
The hardest one of all is the “D” which is for “Detachment” – being able to stand back from the problem.

I shared this with my son and told him that whilst I could not turn back the clock, I can be there for him in a different way and this has given our relationship a brand new meaning. I was also able to share the knowledge that no one can really help you with the pain. It is horrible and gut wrenching and you think you are never going to feel ‘normal’ again – but one day you can wake up and realise that it has gone and life will go on in a completely different way.

What have you learnt later in life that has changed how you care for loved ones? What was your wake-up call? Who do you rely on for emotional support and vice versa?