Kirsten Panachyda

Writer, Speaker, Singer-Songwriter

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Tag: parenting

My Boy from Before

Missing my Kid
Artist:Giotto

I miss my kid.

A few months ago I did a ten-part series on the worst pains of parenting a kid with mental illness (you can find that here). There was one I left out, not because it didn’t belong, but because it seemed like it needed its own space.

The mourning over the kids who used to inhabit our lives aches in us. So much can be stolen away: laughter, silliness, moments of growth, flashes of new insight. The “awww” moments of peeking in on them while they sleep. The messy, chaotic, normal interactions with siblings full of play and squabbles. The way they enjoyed their hobbies or sports.

When Nicholas was really sick, he seemed gone from me. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the boy who was there. I did, fiercely. He was still mine. But the Nicholas from before mental illness seemed to be present only in briefly glimpsed shadows. Sometimes I spent long hours looking at photographs of him and other times could hardly bear to think about him, my boy from before. It wasn’t that he had grown up and moved away. He had not died and left this world. He was just gone.

Sometimes when I left visiting hours at the hospital, I would get back in the car and turn on songs about loss. Volume up, almost to pain, I would sing along with force and rage. I would get to the end of a song, press repeat, and sing it again. I wrote one too:

“In a paper gown in the sonogram room
The door clicks shut and I wait.
If I stay in bed, can I keep you safe
Or am I losing you today?
Four months later I hold you close
As I meet you face to face
Glad I brought you this far
But every mama knows
She’ll lose her baby someday…”

I’ve heard that being being a parent helps us understand God’s heart toward us. I find this true- the protective, do-anything-for-you, unquenchable love that I have for my kids echoes the love of God. My grief over my boy from before also echoes this love. When Israel had turned away from their God, He yearned over them:

“When Israel was a child, I loved him,
and out of Egypt I called my son.
But the more they were called,
the more they went away from me.
They sacrificed to the Baals
and they burned incense to images.
It was I who taught Ephraim (Israel) to walk,
taking them by the arms;
but they did not realize it was I who healed them.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love.
To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek,
and I bent down to feed them.”
‭‭Hosea‬ ‭11:1-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

God understood my heart. More, I had a window into His.

Dear friends, maybe you are grieving your gone-but still-here kid. I pray God will comfort your sore heart. If I can pray for you, please let me know in the comments or through my contact page.

Book Homes

A part of one of the dozen-plus bookcases in my home.

Books have always been one of my great escapes. I was the kid who brought a book to the Superbowl party. My math teacher routinely confiscated books during class (I wasn’t as sneaky as I thought), and returned the stack on Friday. When I spent months in a hospital with Crohns Disease at age 14, I slipped away from the pain and homesickness in the deeper home of my books.

Three decades, my heart was in a hospital again, a piece of it anyway, the part that is called Nicholas. Books came to the rescue again. I went back to old favorites, because I needed to make sure they would do their job- uplift me, rather than bring emotional upset. My emotions were already plenty upset.

Here is some of my reading list from that time:

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, and then all the sequels.
At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon, and then all the other Mitford books
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Although I preferred to read to escape, I also read to help me with the steep learning curve of parenting a kid with mental illness. There are many, many books for this. Some that helped me the most:

You are Not Alone by Dena Yohe
The Novelist by Angela Hunt (this is fiction exploring the parent’s heart when a young adult son first develops a mental illness- creative and healing)
Stop Walking on Eggshells by Paul T. Mason and Randi Kreger

Full disclosure: I also watched a lot of TV. I remember watching many episodes of Bones, which ran in 3-4 hour stretches during the times in between visiting hours. All those experts and interns became my TV friends.

How about you? How do you escape and soothe when things are overwhelming?

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