After the initial shock of knowing your child has been self-harming; the fear and anger often mix together and create a rollercoaster of emotions.
It can lead to many complex feelings which can be hard to unpick, and possible some you might be ashamed of perhaps…
There were times I felt very sad, moments I felt deeply fearful of their harming and what it might lead to, there were nights I didn’t sleep because of anxiety, and shamefully, there were times I felt flipping darn angry.
I felt angry that my child came from a good home and yet still did this; I felt wildly angry that they didn’t feel they could talk to me when I had worked so hard over the years to be available to them; I felt angry that our home didn’t feel safe for any of us anymore; I felt angry that my daily life had changed dramatically now….
I didn’t let those emotions show to my child as that wouldn’t have helped any of us, especially not my vulnerable child, but I realise now, I felt vulnerable. And that made me feel angry.
As a counsellor I know that anger is a secondary emotion – it covers a much deeper feeling that often can’t be expressed. For me, I realise now, it was feeling out of control. It was tinged with a sense of failure that I hadn’t kept my child well and safe.
In order to move on and to help my child move on, I had to be able to forgive them and let my anger go. Living with a bubble of frustration and resentment inside didn’t aid my child’s recovery through self-harm, nor did it help me to be a supportive parent. It’s not wrong to feel cross with your child – teenagers can be hard work let alone a teenager struggling to communicate their feelings – so feeling cross is natural.
Forgiveness, however, isn’t natural. We have to work at it- every time that bubble of anger raises itself; acknowledge it, name it and push it away until you are on your own. On your own, or with a trusted friend or counsellor, get that bubble out – talk about it, don’t feel ashamed, and work on recognising the need to forgive your child as well as yourself.