Archive for the ‘Loss’ Category

Sometimes I feel like being in a blended family makes you feel like you are living a bipolar existence.  This is more so when some of the other parties, namely Bert, try to turn things into something they are not.  It is this I believe that is the source of our most recent saga.

First, sorry I’ve been away for a while.  As we approached the holidays life was just crazy busy and no topics hit me with that “you can share something useful”  kick in the pants that makes me feel like what I have to say might be worthy to inspire, educate or get someone else to think differently about their situation.

So now on to what kicked me out of my writer’s block.  It relates back to the ongoing counseling of some of the kids from challenges we had this summer (“Expected Chaos” and “Dangers of Ineptness“).  In the interest of open disclosure I will say I am like a lot of men in that I feel that counseling is a tool not an ongoing service.  Like a man, I approach things in the world with “identify the problem, find some solutions, implement the solutions, move on”.  As I’ve talked with my friends it seems this is a universal guy view of counselors and over the last few months the overriding question I get from them is “when are they going to give you guys something to use so you guys can move forward normally?”

Sadly we are still trying to get there and a step in that process is what pushed me to get out what I feel and understand in this post.  Peter was initially working with a counselor for about three to four months who ultimately did very little if anything for him.  God has blessed us with a solution that makes the counseling of Peter and his sisters free of charge due mainly to the fact that Bert is on assistance and so fees are picked up.  If we were paying per session, my “man view” of counseling would have been pushing for a resolution much sooner.  In any event this woman eventually decided she was not equipped to help Peter (glad she wasted three months to get there, but herein lies a pet peeve of mine with counseling in that when they can have no goal, than means the counseling can go on forever providing said counselor with a steady stream of income) and she referred him to a place we wanted to go initially but had instead deferred to Bert’s desire to try this other counseling center.  It worked out because Bert went along without grumbling because it was not his ex who had suggested it but a third party.  Peter has basically had a handful of sessions with his new counselor but he seems to be opening up to this one where he would not really talk to the other one.  I get it, it happens.  Just wish the other bozo had not taken so long to understand that if your client is not talking and you’ve got no plan to get them to talk that’s not really a recipe for good counseling.

So feedback to my dear wife this week is what took what was pretty good holiday season with a good cheer and such as you can have with a house full of teenagers and in the course of 24 hours took her to state of frustration and worry.  At this point Greg and Peter’s counselors have not spoken to each other even after we asked them to.  This is the source of my wife’s frustration.  Completely warranted and it frustrates me to, because perhaps if they had talked a month ago like we asked she would not have gotten the comment she did that seems to have sent her into a tailspin.  There are two issues here, but let me stick with the one here which was actually the second issue.  Hope to not confuse you.

Since they had not talked and Peter’s counselor has no information on Greg and the assessment of the other counselor when asked what she recommended what we do to monitor the boys she made the ludicrous statement that we should never have the two of them together unless they are in “eyeshot”.  My friend said it best when he said that along with all the door monitors etc. is really a Fascist state and that this counselor should use her head and realize how unrealistic and stupid that recommendation is.  I understand she is just taking the ultra conservative route and not wanting to have something occur because she said we could use a more relaxed approach since she has no input on Greg.  My frustration on this is I feel what the counselor did was very unprofessional and borders on misconduct.  It is along the line of asking a movie reviewer, “Did you like Movie A or Movie B more?”

“I liked Movie A.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t see Movie B.”

What?  If you do not have enough information to make a recommendation then the responsible thing to do is to say that, not make some asinine statement that has no professional basis.  A more appropriate response would have been to say “I can answer that after I speak with Greg’s counselor which I will make every effort to do as quickly as possible.”  Instead what she did was launch a domino effect that sent my wife into a tailspin that was not necessary at all.  Pisses me off to no end.  I have to go in and meet with this counselor in a couple weeks in another one of her ill advised brainstorms, and I just hope I am past her incompetence enough to handle the circus appropriately.

My assessment, and I can’t read anyone’s mind last I checked, so it’s just what I have put together in my head, is that because of my wife’s fear or worry about Bert turning everything into a made up fallacy she has placed more power on this counselor that is really there.  We are not in some court mandated assessment.  This is personal counseling entered into voluntarily and therefore protected by all that is HIPAA.  At this point the counselor has Peter working through understanding that the first steps to inappropriate action by someone is usually talking about it.  This does not mean that if someone talks about it they will do it.  It’s the old version of I saw a bird.  I saw the bird fly.  Therefore all birds fly.  Yet we all know an ostrich does not fly but is a bird.  His action does not automatically cause the event.  The counselor explained that Peter is having a hard time making that distinction and that is making him hypersensitive to comments by others.  First thing this counselor has said that I agree with.  However I believe because of this worry about Bert taking the fact that natural youngster and teenage banter about sexuality and such occurs in a household somehow makes the household a problem.  Think back to when you were a kid.  Did you talk about inappropriate things?  How often?  As often as possible, right?  That’s the nature of childhood.  When I discuss with dispassionate folks they all agree.  It is when adults create meaning that is not there that it creates the crazy train.  Greg’s counselor has pointed this out to us, and for some reason it seems my wife feels that this counselor has jumped the fence and is somehow calling something what it is not.  I’m only seeing a overprotective counselor who spoke out of turn ad should have waited to say ANYTHING until she had enough info to speak with a grain of intelligence.  Instead she created propaganda that has taken on a life of its own in my wife’s head.

You see one of the other issues that has now expanded beyond reason is that because this counselor might be worried about Greg, what would in most cases be passed off as normal behavior is viewed with a lens of adult added angst.  From time to time when Greg and Bobbi watch TV they will share a seat and hang over each other.  They will toss legs over each other or Greg will lean on Bobbi’s arm.  When I discuss this with my friend he says his son and daughter so this stuff all the time.  My brother did it with me.  I think Greg likes the fact that he has a sister, even a stepsister, who’s first reaction to him sitting within five feet of her is not “get away from me, I hate you” which is what Greg has gotten from his two sisters his whole life.  Bobbi does not get upset when Greg leans on her in fact they are usually giggling and talking.  It’s just normal human interaction.  Yet because this counselor has raised the specter of not knowing Greg because she spoke out of turn this has turned a knob in my wife’s head that what if Greg is overly affectionate?  As long as he’s not groping people etc. what parent would not be happy to have their pre-teens not be happy in each other’s presence rather than loathsome?   Yet this is what our over-sensitized counselor-fueled existence has become, and all I can think is “STOP THE MADNESS!!!!”

I certainly do not want to stick my head in the sand, so I have sought other opinions.  As I said, friends are saying their kids do this all the time and we are being ridiculous and are being driven to this stupid view by all these counselors.  Again, I have a lot of guy friends so their solution is simple.  Tell the counselor we need to get to a point where we can go forward as normal because we have crossed the line into the territory of counseling doing more harm than good.  Given the tailspin this is moving us into I find it hard to argue.  Do we want to be dumb and unobservant no, but do we want to react to everything with the result that we eventually have every child in the house walking around in an inflated bubble and my wife and I never sleep or go anywhere because we have to watch everyone?  Hell no!  Peter is already expressing his frustration with the fact that his life is not as he would like because he is basically under house arrest and constant surveillance, yet if we listen to crazy counselor we are not being Gestapo enough!   How is that going to raise a healthy child?  You see Peter and Greg were upset because on New Year’s Eve while all their siblings got to party all night they had to go to their rooms behind their door alarms because the adult’s were going to bed and they could not be watched.  Think about that statement for a bit.  In hindsight it was perhaps ill advised for me to voice it out loud as the reason for their having to go to bed while the other’s did not, but it was the reality of our existence.  It was at this moment that I realized this has gone on long enough and something needed to change and then all hell broke loose with mouthy counselor not using her supposedly educated head.

You see we are in a never ending stream of counseling on this event.  Why? Because the counselors have no set goal.  Is that our fault?  Perhaps, but because of my regular lack of relying on others to handle my problems for me I have not had to deal with counselors a lot until I started marriage counseling before my divorce.  I went to a marriage counselor, who I felt was very good.  What was the result?  I got divorced.  Now I have this situation.  Excuse me for not being too upbeat on the success of counseling.  I think we need to get the counselors to set a goal for the two remaining kids in counseling and that goal is simple.  We want them both to understand how to interact with others appropriately and to live a normal life.  The counselors should then be able to articulate a plan on how we will get there.  Peter’s counselor at least has a semblance of that, but Bobbi’s counselor is continuing her clueless trek down “let me talk with Bobbi and bill the state” land.  I have been content to just leave it be because it was not costing anything but now there is a cost.   Our family’s sanity.  Am I going to demand a change?  No not right away.  I realize I’m really upset and venting, but I do think we are being stupid ad doing our whole family a disservice by not demanding some professional responsibility from the counselors.  After all if I went to anyone else for a service would I just tell them, “Hey I’ll just pay you every week without any end in sight and you just take my money and do whatever you want, OK?” you’d call me an idiot.  And you’d be right.  I want to have a discussion with my wife on what our family’s goal with this is and get off the incorrect assumption that we must just let it go on forever because of the source.  Sure the events of the summer need to be dealt with and they have been, are and will be.  If your kids used drugs would we send them to rehab forever?  No.  Would they perhaps do something again that made the go back?  Perhaps, but all we can do is give the tools to make a good decision and the guidance to know what that is and then let them get back to life.  Yet in this case we are not.  My wife and I have discussed the imposition of the door alarms and so have the rest of the kids so we acknowledge the problem, yet we have taken no action to solve it.  Who’s fault is that?  We need two big fingers pointing right back at us.  Will the door alarms ever be off, honestly because of Bert’s meddling, probably not, but we did tone them back from shrieking sirens to simply loud obnoxious ear splitting beeps a while back.  This is making all of us edgy and so is it a wonder that when we get a little shove from a stupid counselor who speaks out of turn that one of us falls off the edge?  No!

This leads me to the counselor’s first recommendation and what started the discussion that led to her dumb second recommendation that I have just beat like a dead horse.  They have been pushing for about a month to get the adults from the households with the three boys involved with this summer’s activities into a room together.  When I told my friend about this his first response was “I hope you said no way in hell!”  His reasoning?  Bert is totally incapable and unwilling to be anything but productive in that meeting.  He will monopolize that meeting.  My reaction.  He is 100% accurate.  With what just happened with my wife because of the other comment this week I am frankly terrified about how she will handle this session.  I understand the counselors are doing what people in that field try to do.  They think they are being helpful, yet this is the same counselor who when my wife said she did not want to be interviewed with Bert in the same room insisted that “this was the process” and then my wife went through it, Bert used his manipulation over her to make her feel hideous and she had to talk it over with her counselor over multiple sessions and was not her wonderful self for weeks.  Yet here we go into this again.  Are we stupid?  I’m beginning to think so.  Yet I do not know another option, because I am also willing to give it a shot but the only way we succeed in there is if Bert talks we all shut up and let him go.  He will lie, say things that are untrue, but we cannot react.  If we do he wins.  My concern is I will blow up in there and call the counselor the bumbling fool she is for calling this meeting in the first place.  She witnessed what happened with Bert and my wife, and she knows the other mom has similar issues with Bert.  The only one who can deal with Bert’s shit is me.  But what I can’t deal with and I am having a real time sucking up is some “professional” placing my wife into a situation that she is not at all comfortable with and demanding she do it with a smile.  God made it clear that a man is supposed to protect his wife.  I am prepared to do that to the death someday if needed.  My wife is the most important person in the world to me and the fact that she deals with this shit on a regular basis tears me up.  Even though I know it is un-Christian I pray for God to remove Bert from this world often and vehemently.  I then pray for forgiveness that I did that.  I do not understand God’s point in these trials and testing, but I worry that I am not doing what I should.  Should I be saying “hell no!” to this meeting?  If you were to ask me today, the answer I would shout from the mountain tops would be a resounding yes.  I need to pray on it and see.  I have almost no confidence; no I do have zero confidence, that this meeting will do anything of value.  My wife had basically said the same thing.  It would seem that then we are not very smart for proceeding.  Maybe we talk with the other mom and decide that way.

Because Bert takes wicked advantage of everything with his sociopathy I believe my wife has added a lot of weight to this that is not there.  We recently read some excerpts from a book where the author said stop worrying about the worst that can happen because the worst rarely does, yet that is basically what is happening here.  I feel that we are letting some fear of what Bert could spin things into drive us into not demanding more from the counselors and instead taking a very passive attitude and into walking into situations that are set up for bad outcomes.

At this point however we sit at a point that my wife feels “there is a counselor with power for the county” which I feel is utterly false but she is so worried from this woman’s inappropriate statement without any of the facts she needed to make it that she will not move from that.  If we continue this way for the next few days I know my resolve will grow much stronger to say we are not participating in that joint waste of time.  The counselors have this hope that the changes they want Bert to make will be made through these types of meetings.  That is what is driving my wife and this other mom to agree though every ounce of their being does not want to do this.  They are being driven for their kids just as I am being driven for my wife.  Should I be the voice of reason?   The most dispassionate one in the bunch?  Should I stand up and say this has no chance of success?  The counselors will be disappointed but the carnage that I anticipate Bert wreaking in that room will not have a chance to take place.  If I felt one iota of possibility that he could be reasoned with and the counselors could get him to listen I would feel some hope.  As my friend said, “This better be the best fucking counselor the world has ever seen, or you are just headed into a nightmare.”  I think I’ve already established on a much smaller point that we are not dealing with that type of counselor here.  I’d really like some thoughtful comments on this one.  We’ve got a couple weeks before this meeting is to take place.  I understand that everything I’ve written says stop the madness.  Sadly that’s not always so easy.

Time marches on

Posted: September 11, 2012 in Family, Gratitude, Loss

I know I have followers all over the world.  For those of us in the US, today is a day of remembrance.  Eleven years ago airliners were flown into the World Trade Center and over 3,000 people would lose their lives.  Other planes were involved in other places like the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania and more people who saw that day begin and though it was just another day in their lives, died.

As a parent with children, the march of time is ever present.  This year I had my oldest child begin high school hitting another milestone.  I recall as a child of ten how I thought ahead to being thirty and how old I would be then.  Now well past that milestone, I feel older because I have a child in high school, just as I will feel when I have a child in college, a grandchild and on and on.  Milestones in an individual life.  Milestones I hope I reach, but milestones which God never promises us.  It is on days like September 11th, a day which was just a point on a calendar until eleven years ago, but that suddenly changed the world, such as December 7th, July 4th, and July 20th that we take stock of our lives and remember and look forward.

It is amazing to think how much has changed in those eleven short years.  Driving into work today with my 7th grader, her response to what she was doing on September 11th, 2001 was “crying”.  As an adult my head immediately jumped to what most of us were doing, which was crying for the devastation, loss of life, the sheer horror.  When I asked her more, she quickly brought me to earth of why she was crying.  “Dad I was 1.  I cried all the time!”  For all of my kids, they will have no direct memory of that day, yet it will impact them forever just as those other days changed the world as well.

When the planes hit the towers, there was no Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.  Even internet news sites like CNN were very primitive.  I was just at work when the news began, and I distinctly remember someone bringing out a TV, not a nice flat screen which was years away along with HDTV, but a big bulky box and plugging it in and connecting the cable to get a good picture to see what was going on in New York.  Someone in the office had been paged and found out from someone else when they called them, on a phone…. With a wire…. Attached to the wall.  Yes cell phones were still quite new.  No one knew what a text message was.  They were still years away.    Kids in school were brought together and big 25” tube TVs were turned on in the cafeteria and they watched together.  Today all their phones would be buzzing with texts and calls and tweets moments after someone heard.

Today is the first anniversary in the second decade after this event.  I wonder how it compares to other such days in history.  What was it like on July 4th, 1787?  How about December 7th, 1952 or July 20th, 1980?  Do we now, eleven years after a momentous event even begin to truly grasp or understand what an effect this will have on the world?  Could an “American”, a still new term in 1787 really see what the country many of them were still alive to remember fighting for the birth of understand what future Americans would do in the course of the world?  Could they see their descendants waging a world war to stop the tyranny of a man who was responsible for the extermination of millions?  Or that someone from the nation they started would walk on the moon? 

We see the changes that have occurred because of the event we remember today.  We can speculate about what will occur with the policy changes, the world impact fifty years from now where this event will be invoked.  It is a day to remember and cherish the family you have and the people around you.  It was a crisp blue Tuesday morning eleven years ago, just like it is today, that thousands of people left their loved ones for the last time but did not know it.  In the last couple weeks two people in our office were diagnosed with serious illness.  Both not very old, still with a lot of life ahead, but that changed with a few words in a doctor’s office.  Time marches on, events will continue to unfold.  God promises us nothing in the area of how long we shall be here, and expects us to live for His glory every day.  Don’t waste today on something you will regret later.  Help someone, do some good, love someone, and lead the way.  Those who are no longer with us because of that terrible choice by a little over twenty people eleven years ago can no longer do that, but we can.  Take advantage of that.  What will you remember today?  What will you do with what you have learned?

What is lost?

Posted: October 26, 2011 in Divorce, Kids, Loss, Parenting, Recovery

I for one always hate the phrase, “You don’t understand how I feel. You’ve never xxxx.” In this particular case the xxxx would be replaced by “been divorced”. In many cases I like to think most of us can understand more than someone gives us credit for. With a divorce however, now that I have been through it, I do feel it is more relevant than for other circumstances like “You’ve never had kids” or something like that.

In this entry I want to focus on a particular issue that from the outside looking in leads to most of the reinforcement we get from out never-divorced friends and family. “You’ll be good in no time.” “Get over it.” “It’s no big deal. People get divorced all the time.” This issue that is not properly understood is loss.

Most people understand the obvious outward things. Through the divorce we lost a spouse. We lost income. We usually lose savings and/or assets. The well wishers looks at these things we lost and think well, you may have wanted to lose the spouse even if you were not the one initiating the divorce. After all, if they do not want to be with you and behave miserably because of it, good riddance, right? The other items are just material things and can be replaced over time. Sure they set you back, but life is hard, so you didn’t expect a smooth ride did you? In many cases those feelings might be very accurate in how we process those things.

For those “never have beens” they look at us and do not understand what is going on. That’s because they think the losses are limited to that short list, and for some divorced parents that may be the limit of it if they are not really involved are short-sighted and narcissistic. For the rest of us there is a litany of things we are processing. If you are new to this process, just thinking about getting divorced, or recently divorced but not knowing what’s going on, I hope this helps but some things in perspective.

A big one is the loss of the dream. Did you sit there on engagement day and think, “One day I’ll be divorced”. If you did and you still went forward, then I just shake my head in sadness. When you had your children, were you thinking about how the visitation scheduled would look when you divorced? We all enter into a marriage with the best intentions and the belief that it will be forever. I’ve yet to hear or see a set of vows that said, “Till boredom do us part”. Even those that might feel that way seem to at least embrace the fantasy I guess. Getting divorced shatters that dream. We have now failed where we made a covenant not just in front of man, but with God. As a Christian I struggled with this and took a long time to understand that I did my part to stay true, but a marriage is not fully in one person’s control.

You lose the future plans. Unless your marriage ended very quickly, you most likely had conversations late at night about how you would grow old together, where you would be, what you kids would be doing and any myriad of other futures. The longer you are together the more serious those discussions become. Early on you talk about the trips you will take. Later on it is about what you will do in your golden years. You probably saved for at least some of these future plans. A divorce shatters all that by dividing the savings, eliminating the person you were going to do those things with, and replacing them with tremendous hurdles that may seem or may actually be insurmountable. Many studies show that a divorce is the single most stressful thing and individual can go through in their life and in this particular case I feel you have a big part of that reason. This loss for many can never be corrected. Especially if you are in a long-term marriage (15+ years) it is virtually guaranteed that your status of retirement will be different than if you had never been divorced. That’s a big issue to deal with and it takes a lot of hard work. I believe the only way you can make it through that is with help from Jesus. If you do not have that grounding you will be pulled back to the worldly as the sole measure of value and you cannot ever replace what the divorce took. No matter how successful you are, you would have been that way if you stayed married and you still are missing everything you lost in the divorce, so the plans are forever altered.

You lose relationships. Like it or not people choose sides. People are uncomfortable. People do not know what to do with you. I have heard some churches requiring that divorced women drop out of groups they have been involved in for decades because it would be inappropriate for a single woman to be involved. I’m not sure if the stories are only about women because men’s groups let them stay, or because men just don’t stay involved that long. I feel it is very wrong for a church body to take this stance as this is the support that is most needed at this time, and pushing them away just makes the loss more profound. Even your own family may choose to support the ex because of past relationships and what happened in your divorce. Friends may pull away. This is one of the losses that I think is hardest for most “never have beens” to understand and see. We all like to think people are more capable of compassion than they turn out to be in many cases. As we experience the loss of relationships we do not share because that just lowers us further, so it’s hidden.

In many cases you lose belief in yourself. This can be the most devastating and the most insidious depending on how you process it. The one person in the world who loved you just tossed you aside. Are you that terrible? Are you that unworthy of love? It can tear you up. It can cause you do doubt everything about yourself. Are you good enough at work, or is that all just a façade too? From a Christian perspective you could not hold a marriage together. That failure can tear at you as you heal.

You lose your children. I challenge any one who says “kids do fine” after divorce to find one valid, tested circumstance where that is the case. Any study I have ever seen shows children are impacted in every single case and are worse off for the divorce. In most cases it is for all the reasons cited above. They suffer the same losses, but they have the added burden of have zero control. They did not choose to get divorced, we did. They did not chose how their lives would change, where they would go to school, how much money they would have to be raised, go to college, we did. It is rare that the family home can be kept for any length of time any longer and so who choose to sever their relationships with friends by changing schools? We did. But the real loss, is except in rare circumstances you share custody in some way. That means you are not with your kids as often as you were before. Events will be missed. I don’t care what happy, misguided divorced parent tells you that having two Christmases is better, nothing shows that to be true. Your children will almost never have the combined guidance from both of you together, at the same time, as they would in a married household. I never understand the parents that walk away and never talk to their kids. They choose to lose their children. But for many divorced parents, they lose them even while trying to keep them. Before I get all kinds of comments that I’m off base here, I do not mean that the kids want nothing to do with you, or that something else horrible happens. I mean that even in the best divorces, the realities of two households create a loss that cannot be avoided. And even if one parent has sole custody the time they can now spend with their children is lessened by picking up the added responsibilities left by the impacts of the divorce and the removal of another adult from the household. Even if they remarry the situation is not fixed, it is just different.

There are other losses as well, but these are the big ones I think that are important to focus on. I hope sharing a bit about these helps those of you on the cusp of why you need a recovery group and a support system in place to get off the fence and not just walk, but run, to find them. I believe having a strong spiritual foundation, or building one if you have not had one, is the best way to move through this process successfully. It is in service to others that humans shine. Asking for support is not weakness but shows strength, especially to your children, who have a model for their lives that you are not required to go it alone as an adult. Knowing when the burden is too much is important.

I think a great explanation of this comes from the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud. In Galatians 6:2 it says “Carry each other’s burden’s and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” The Greek word for this in the original means “excess burdens” or as Dr. Cloud explains, it boulders; things no one can carry on their own. In verse 5 it goes on to say “each one should carry his own load.” The words in English are different and in Greek they are too. The Greek means “cargo” or “the burden of daily toil”. Think of it as a knapsack, says Dr. Cloud. The losses in divorce are a boulder. Asking for help in that circumstance is not weak, it is intelligent.

For these reasons, I feel very strongly that Scripture, and an understanding of it, helps us push back against the pressures of secular society. Especially in the American culture we are always taught to handle things ourselves. But God himself leaves us rules that say that is not the case. Who are you going to believe? I for one know who’s direction I will follow.