Resilience ... I've heard the word spoken most days during my entire life. I've read about those with resilience. We are awe-struck with some who have resilience in the worst of times. Our country is a resilient country, though we haven't faced what some countries have faced. I also read much about resilience in children in articles about parenting. Resilience is a character trait we must model to our children.
This week in our home we had a golden opportunity to observe resilience. My husband is probably the most resilient person I have ever seen. His entire life has been one of resilience. This week was no different. Disappointment comes and he takes a few hours to process, and viola, he is back, sense of humor and all. He is my hero in so many ways, but I have to say his resilience is on the top of my list.
The burden of my heart today, however, is deciphering the common expression of "Children are so resilient." Though it may seem the case, please know that children are master imitators. They imitate who they are around. Children learn grief by how we grieve. Children learn good and bad from us, the adults.
However, did you know a child's frontal lobe of the brain is not even fully developed until after the freshman year of college? The next time you hear your voice say to a child: "What were you thinkin' boy?" Know that he wasn't. Thinking, that is.
The frontal lobe houses our executive functions (order in which we accomplish tasks), emotions, personality and more. My plea to all right now, and if I could shout it to the rooftops I would, is please know that children facing a tragedy, death, divorce, change or traumatic event may appear resilient, but they need help. They need tender loving help and time. Many need counseling. Just because a child appears to be coping appropriately, know that deep down there is a hurt that could express itself in destructive ways in days to come.
My daughter and I often spoke of people we knew in addiction situations. Before her death, my daughter conducted mini classes with her girls in a detention center. I helped her compile information on grief and she conducted a "group" on grief. She was positively astounded at the outcome. It was by far the very best class she had in the area of participation of her girls. Every single girl who had drug and alcohol addictions had a traumatic death in their family. Many teens, and I am talking a large number of teens, who turn to alcohol and drugs have grief in their past that was never properly expressed and processed. Please, I am not striving to create paranoia, only raise awareness.
Often, it is said that kids get into the "wrong crowd." Drugs and alcohol are often the result of the wrong crowd. But, let's dig a bit deeper here, my friend, and get help for our children before they begin looking for ways to numb their grief.
Another subject that is hard for me to approach is molestation. Molestation of a child that is not properly handled often results in drug/alcohol addiction and obesity. Not every obese person has been molested, but many molested children grow up to be obese, and there is a reason for that which I am not addressing.
Can resilience can be taught? Oh, yes! Coping skills can be learned. Help is on the way for anyone who asks, if they ask the right people. Many times, a family will need to swallow their proverbial pride and seek help. The cycle of abuse, addiction, molestation and coverup needs to stop today - with our generation.
My sweet daughter made a resource guide book for our area and handed me a copy not long before she died. She so wanted to help anyone in need. I have that in my office and I will guide you to the proper channels for help. I (God through me) help all I can, but I also know when referral is necessary and when others "majoring" in certain areas are the right choice. Thank you for allowing me my soapbox today. My heart bleeds as I watch children and adults trying to pick up the pieces from a great loss, then see them internalize it (pretend everything is OK) and then turn to drugs and alcohol and promiscuity to cope.
True resilience comes from God who equips us with his Spirit. One of my favorite verses is Isaiah 41:10 - "Fear thou not; for I am with the: be not dismayed for I am thy God: I will strengthen you, yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness."
The Hebrew word for dismayed is discouraged. Do not be discouraged, my friend. Help is on the way. The Hebrew (original language the Old Testament was written in) word for "strengthen" denotes that inward stamina we need to just go on. Then, the word "help" means that he promises to provide that outward help we need whether it be through people, a verse, a helpful word or whatever you need outwardly to cope with your present situation.
I can go through my day, though grief-stricken and heartbroken knowing, that inwardly, He is giving me what I need to put one foot in front of the other. Which, by the way, is an entirely different ballgame, with two broken feet at the present. God gave me insight when I broke the top bones on both feet. Insight I had never had, but needed at this time.
I understand what my clients and my late daughter's clients said when asked why they cut themselves. Cutting is an all too common problem among our young people. They say it feels good and relieves the pain. When I broke my feet the other day, all my attention went to coping with the pain and with the "doing" of whatever needed done. The pain was deflected from the gut-wrenching grief to my feet. I shook my head up and down to God. I get it now.
It was the same when I had lost three babies. The last baby was traumatic, and trust me, you don't want to hear that story. I was having nightmares and grief beyond anything at that point I'd suffered. Then, I was carrying my then 1-year-old down a flight of icy steps and fell. Grabbed him to my chest with both arms and hit each step right on the derriere'. Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce. It resulted in my tail bone being broken in two places. The problem with breaking your tail bone is they simply can't put a cast back there, ya know?
I smile now as I remember all my attention being given to coping with a baby and home to care for, plus dealing with my grief. Sometimes physical pain can be a gift. However, when our kids choose physical pain over dealing with emotional pain, there is a problem.
I'm not trying to over simplify a complex problem as it is much more involved than stated above, but having compassion upon our young or old people struggling with drugs, alcohol, cutting or sexual promiscuity is key to helping them break the cycle they are caught in as crazy as a tornado.
Step up. Speak up. Listen up. Sometimes, just listening is huge to a hurting person. Study the "how to" of helping. Seek professional help for yourself or a loved one, but never ever give up on anyone. Tough love may mean allowing one to suffer consequences of their actions, but then pray and know that God is working even when, and especially when, I think, you cannot see Him working.
(Kimberly Morgan, MA, is a wife and homeschool mom in Elkins. She also is a counselor at Cornerstone Christian Counseling and Kristin's Hope. Reach her at 304-637-1109.)