Our son has a past, a very painful past. Every human person experiences pain, but some lives are more painful than others. I wrestle with the concept of suffering. Our culture tells us to flee to every diversion possible, our faith tells us that we can unite our suffering to that of Christ for the salvation of souls. While I truly don’t comprehend the Catholic position, I accept it on faith; I accept that human suffering when joined to Christ’s is efficacious for our salvation and the salvation of all humanity.
Which leads me to the topic of Bubba and the Art of Grammar. Two and a half years into our history as a family we are getting into the nitty gritty of our son’s history. Homeschooling has changed the dynamic. Violence surrounds his academic history and has left in its wake an ocean of pain. Avoidance has been his tool of choice, his survival mechanism, his go to position when his pain became intolerable. What else is a kid to do if the person who is supposed to help is inflicting the pain, what’s left but to avoid the topic, stuff the pain down, disassociate, deny, deny, deny?
The problem with emotional pain is that it does not heal in isolation. Stuffed down pain bubbles up to the surface in our son’s case when he encounters the trigger of recollection. School. Academics, the learning curve of mastering new material take him right back to the worst parts of his life, and there he is with oceans of pain crashing over his head, pulling him down into the undertow, dashing him against the rocks, swirling him around in the chaos, alone without a life preserver to help buoy him up, without a tether to hold to find his way back to solid ground.
At site school he had 101 options for distraction when the waves of painful recollection pulled his pain up to the surface and threatened to pull him down under. Home schooling allows me to parent full time, to begin to help heal, and for us right now this is the point and my highest priority.
Emotional pain management, that’s my job as a mom right now. It can be a daunting task and there isn’t a road map. So here we are this child, my husband and I going way off road.
I work to stay in tune with him to recognize when the waves are crashing to hard when he is becoming “dysregulated” as the therapeutic community says. In therapy speak I’m “co-regulating”, helping him manage and identify his emotions, staying with him in the pain and offering that tether to keep him connected to keep him from tumbling out into the ocean of pain that is so deep and profound.
The idea isn’t to continue to avoid the pain, but to manage it in small doses. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Like last week when I got swept out to sea and pulled under like a lifeguard with a drowning victim climbing on, pulling them both under to drown. In retrospect I don’t think it was any coincidence that happened on a Tuesday when our Parish has Adoration.
I spent a good hour that day in our Church loft weeping like Rachel for her children. Weeping for my son, weeping with a greater appreciation for the depth of his pain, weeping for all children and adults who suffer with invisible wounds so profound yet so often disregarded, weeping, weeping in the presence of God.
Perhaps one day he will feel safe enough to consider the reality of his suffering rather than splitting off that part of his life. Perhaps one day he will be able to “offer up” his pain in union with that of Christ for the salvation of souls. Perhaps this mother son dance will help him heal. Perhaps, in God’s time, he will be a strong man tested by fire, a warrior for Christ. This is my prayer for my son.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. I trust in you, help me to trust in you. Amen.