Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Letting Go of What I Cannot Hold
In the course of dealing with my son’s substance abuse issues, we have worked with a counselor. On more than one occasion, he has told me that I have to get myself ready to let go of my son. I heard those words and I thought to myself, “well, duh, you little whippersnapper. That’s life. The time comes when we all have to let go of our children.” I have an older daughter, so I have some experience in letting go. I have a daughter who is a freshman in high school, and I know the time is flying by, and soon I will have to let her go as well. I thought the counselor meant letting go in terms of not smothering my son, of allowing him to grow up---in the normal sense of letting go of a child who is well raised and prepared, as much as one can be prepared, with some semblance of a firm foundation under their feet.
The young counselor spoke to me in a tone of urgency that I could never quite understand. Now I think he meant I have to let go in terms of letting go of whatever dreams and hopes I may have once had for my son. In other words, this will not be a joyous process of letting go. It will be a sad letting go, as in turning him loose from the nest and allowing him to fall if he cannot or will not fly (metaphorically speaking), the kind of letting go that comes from me realizing I can no longer carry my son’s weight. It is a letting go that knows my child lives very close to the edge, knows I may lose him in the pit, at least for a time. It is a letting go that comes from me finally realizing that I can not save my son, no matter how many hours I spend sitting with him while he passes through the shakes of coming down off of God knows what, no matter how many times I listen patiently to the stories and the promises and the regrets, no matter how hard I love him and try to hold him tightly in my hand.
But I am not quite there yet. I want to let go him with love, not with a heart filled with anger and resentment. I want to let go with the knowledge that my job is done and not with a sense that I am giving up.
And when I have let him go, though I will still love him fiercely, I will remember that it has never really been me who held him all along. He has been in stronger hands than mine from the beginning.