The uphill battle of life… In the last week three moms I have spoken to have said they are way beyond their tether. They have been through traumatic events and suffered extreme loss and pain and just like all moms they were crumbling under the effects this would have on their children’s hearts, let alone their schooling. Now I am not talking about disastrous days where boys are boisterous, energy is low, cars break down and it all seems a bit much… this is more in the line of marriages collapsing, bankruptcy and giving up a home, losing a child, terminal illness… shattered hearts and just how on earth do you go on.
At this time of year especially, when homeschool posts abound: Back to school, hope and dreams for another school year and folks are blogging their plotting and planning; there are great first days back at school and not so great first days back at school. These moms are nowhere near any school and feel like their world, not to mention their school is collapsing around them… easy enough to say, “Put those kids in school,” but for some folk and I speak for ourselves as well, there isn’t another option… homeschooling has to work and in times of great tragedy it is easy to lose heart and to let those little voices of self-doubt enter our heads.
Se7en + 1 Things That Have Helped Us in Times of Tragedy
- Lose the Guilt: You know what needs doing but you just can’t get there. Grief is a strange phenomenon you can feel fine for years and then be struck so low for something that came to pass – really years ago. Years later you will hear a phrase or a word and be thrown straight back into the midst of grief – that’s how it works. So many friends have said they wish they had stopped and taken the time to cry, I think that is great advice… don’t bottle up your pain with the idea that you are saving everyone from your emotions… you aren’t. Tears are the companion of grief and not something to be afraid of. Those tears will get out, maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow… but they are there and they won’t be squashed down forever. You cannot pretend that all is well, when clearly nothing is well… slow down and tell your kids. My kids would rather I told them that I was too devastated to get off the couch, than I pretended everything was normal and then snapped at them.
- Take it Easy on Yourself: It is so easy as mom’s to fall into the trap of “burden carrier,” and we must keep going no matter what and for months we can wind in and out of this mire of beating ourselves up because we aren’t doing enough. There are times in our lives when doing nothing is more than enough. It isn’t forever, it is a season. Your children are in this life with you and while they grieve and experience painful events they appear to bounce back so much more easily than we do. Don’t believe it, they need time out too. If your family is struck by a tragedy and you are just not coping with the workload, then chances are your kids won’t be coping that well either… It takes time to recover, let them have the time too.
- It is Easy to Think That You Have Nothing To Give: I firmly believe that families grieve together, it is unusual for us to face an incredibly painful event in isolation. Though we might think we are alone, we usually aren’t. When one of our children lost a friend due to illness… we all lost a friend. Nobody was up to anything for a time. And that is okay. I think one of the blessings of homeschooling for us has been we have been able to take time off school and learn a lot about life. While we haven’t tossed our children into the waves of family tragedies, we certainly don’t shelter our children from tragedies that have struck friends and relatives. In times like this, I might not be giving my children history lessons, or math instruction, but I am giving them comfort and someone to draw alongside. There are times when none of us have been up to much, and that is okay… because it is only for a season.
- Get Help: So many people offer to help… “let me know if you need anything”… I know you wish they would be more specific but they aren’t. If you need help with the laundry ask for it, if you need help with dinner ask for it. I know it can be awkward to ask for help… but the more specific you are the better people will respond. If you need your kids to go and play at friends for the day then find the friend who can do that for you. I can’t think how many friends have said please can we leave our kids with you for the day, while they deal with an emergency.
It isn’t every day and to be honest, my children welcome interruptions and a little shuffle in their routine… yes school happens a little more slowly as we adjust to new numbers, and sometimes with many many kids visiting for the day – normal school has to be thrown out of the window. That doesn’t mean you have to do nothing, it just means that the school you had planned is going to be a little different. I would so much prefer that our school day was disrupted to help a friend out than to hear months down the line that a friend really needed a day off and couldn’t ask for help. It does take courage to ask for help, but you will be surprised how many friends are willing to help.
- Find Someone to Talk To: Get yourself an anytime friend, someone you can call or email “anytime…” and they will stop what they are doing and be there for you. I have a couple of anytime friends, we very rarely chat about everyday life, but when disaster strikes they are the first folk that I turn too… it works both ways. While I can expect my family to understand my deep sadness, I cannot expect them to be my emotional ear, especially when they are dealing with their own aches and pains. I find I really need an impartial friend who is near and dear to me, but isn’t necessarily part of the family. Your anytime friend may not be the people that you think will be good listeners, they may be someone totally unexpected. Different folk in different seasons can be extremely helpful. I have to say, whoever they are, don’t be afraid to call them.
- Do Just One Thing: I think we get so caught up in getting everything done and the level of overwhelm can just be alarming. To be sure you do not have to provide your children with an entire education this very year. We are so caught up in the “everything now culture” that we often forget that our students are with us for years. Even before disaster strikes this is something that really worries homeschool moms. Now is the time to let crazy expectations go and just try and do one thing. Just pick one thing that you think you can manage and then try it. Your kids will survive for a while without doing all the reading and all the math and all the science experiments. I know in difficult times I have chosen just one book to read to our family, one chapter a day and that is all… there have been times when even that was too much. In fact there were times when my one thing was to step outside and sit on the steps. I reckoned my kids were outdoors playing, I was alongside them and that was my one thing… you can go smaller than that too… your kids will learn despite you… if they play computer games, if they page through library books, if they chatter with friends… they will be learning, and I will say it again, it is only for a season.
- Find Time for Yourself: I know this sounds impossible… my husband works all day and often nights, I am surrounded by early-rising-little-people and never-ever-going-to-bed-teens… and that is all the more reason to find space for yourself. I have learnt to find space within a crowd/our family. I can take my kids to the beach and they all are engaged and playing and I can just sit and stare into space. When my children were younger I would go to the library alone and choose their books… Even a cup of tea, just for you, can feel pretty sacred. This year we started really little ambles in the evening… to the end of the block and back. The kids were busy looking at things my mind could wander. It has grown in to something bigger but it began as a very small step of getting some fresh air for me.
- This is a Season it is not Forever: I am not for a moment saying that grief goes away, when you survive an ordeal it really aches and a part of you will always ache… but you do get better at living with that ache. You won’t forget everything that has happened and bounce back into life as it was before, we are changed by a crisis, we are different because of them and our lives and perspective will be different too. You will find months, years later, when you just can’t face the day – so be it, collapse. That’s okay. You are a human person, a frail one at that… we don’t expect perfection from those around us, let’s not expect it from ourselves either. If you find yourself sinking way too far into the pit of despair, then their is no shame in getting professional help. Sometimes problems are poured on us thick and fast and when things appear to be totally more than we can cope with, another thing lands on our plate… if you do need professional help then get it sooner rather than later, because impartial help may be just the help you need.
And the Se7en + 1th…
Your kids will learn from your family trials, maybe not your traditional school classes. When we walk through the different seasons of life with our children alongside they get to join us on the journey. We are teaching them the path to take and how to handle difficulties that are bound to strike them as adults. Oh yes, your children are learning… maybe not how to spell ten new words for the week, but life is a lesson and the more help they get along the way when they are younger, the easier it will be for them when they are adults.