to live my life and not wallow in guilt and regret.
I almost cannot read this thread for the pain of it. For almost 4 years since the death of my mother I have been cycling in and out of grief, mourning, depression and despair. I keep trying to climb out only to fall back in again. When I fall back I question my whole life. Actually, even in better times I do that. No success or achievement gives pride or solace or the sense I lived well. No hurdle surmounted gives a sense of self worth or self-confidence. Just despair and self-doubt and wondering where all of this pain will lead and wanting it all to just stop, already.
I find myself remembering the work of Erik Erikson who described and named stages in adult development as a series of challenges to be met or not.
I believe that this is what makes our pain with our kids so impossibly difficult. Because their challenges dovetail with our own developmental challenges. I am remembering now an article I read more than 35 years ago: "Parenthood as a Developmental Stage", the thesis, this: it is not so much the problems we have with our children. It is the challenge presented to our core selves by their crises.
This is what gives our circumstances the profound power to either grow or fell us. This is why my life (and yours, and yours) has been so hard, and feels so rotten. The despair, I think, in better moments keeps presenting me with an opportunity to overcome. And why my life seems to serve up more and more of the same. Until I learn. Or not. What does not kill me makes me stronger. But sometimes the cure feels deadly.
So most of us are in Erikson's stage 7 or 8. Stage 7 from 40 to 65 years is about creating and building and raising (our kids, our careers, a relationship.) For those of us who feel we have failed with our kids or lost them, we are unable to resolve this stage in the normal way, I think. We may feel both mired in the problem and personally as if we do not "work" as people, as mothers.
Only to be hit at age 65 by stage 8 which centers upon reflecting upon our accomplishments and seeing our lives as "successful." Failing this we "feel guilt about our past, or feel that we did not accomplish our life goals, we become dissatisfied with life and develop despair, often leading to depression and hopelessness." Which pretty much describes me and how I feel.
Can we not see how the circumstances with our kids only reinforce and intensify this despair? Am I alone in this?
We come here to CD not just for counsel and advice. We come here personally stuck, drowning, despairing. It is so easy to feel that I momentarily "work" as a person by giving a smart reply to a post, momentarily forgetting that a mother is drowning in her grief, her sense of self battered and seeking as much or more a loving word, a hand, a hug, and a way to see herself and her life as meaningful, as worth it, as well-done and well-learned.
The reality is I do not believe I work as a person. I feel that any sense of accomplishment belies the truth: that I have failed and my life has failed. My dreams have failed. I do not work as a person or a mother. Or as a daughter. Any sense I ever worked was a fantasy, an illusion. That is the feeling.
Of course all of this pain can lead to a deepening of spiritual life but in the moments and hours and days of despair, when I fall back and back, I wonder if there will ever be a safety net for me.