It's never too late to begin the healing process from childhood sexual abuse. It's never too early to fall in love with the person God created you to be. Long ago someone made a choice to take away your innocence, but today that someone can't touch your freedom to heal.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Wisdom of Tears: When to Cry with Our Kids, When to Cry with Our Pillow

I remember it well, weeping in her arms over a lost love—a high school breakup. I poured my woes out onto her shoulder. She listened. But when I pulled back to wipe my tears, my pain paused. I saw her eyes. I noticed her tears.

My mother was crying with me. And her tears gave me comfort.

A burden carried. Together.

I struggle to keep my mouth shut when I listen to a mom convey a painful story involving one of her kids and she quickly adds, “But she didn’t see me cry. Yep, I saved that for my pillow.”
Photo courtesy of David Castillo/

I want to say, “Cut! Can we rewind here? Let’s chat. Tell me, how did this help your child?” Not that I’m an authority on this. I’m not. I’m a mother who was once a child. That’s my experience. But I like to think about these things. And I have a question.

Is it always good to hide our tears from our kids?

On that fateful day in high school, when I thought my love life was over, I know my mother’s tears helped. She cried, but remained in control. Her tears were for me, not about her. I felt so loved. Heard. Treasured. She centered me.

Then she spoke words of encouragement with a summery, “This too shall pass.” And I moved forward.

Many years later, my husband and I adopted a daughter. (Obviously, my mother was right. My love life wasn’t over.) And I sought wisdom on adoption. Somewhere I read that between the ages of eight and ten, our daughter would begin to understand the intricacies of adoption—that there was loss involved in her adoption story. She would grieve.

And grieve she did. I’d find her in various chairs, at different times, off and on, throughout the next several months, all curled up. Tears rolling.

“What’s wrong?” I’d ask.

“I miss my birthmother and birthfather.” She has apraxia of speech and struggled to converse, but she found the perfect sentence to convey her feelings.

“It’s okay to cry,” I said. “I’m so sorry you hurt. You can cry as long as you need to.”

And time passed and so did her tears.

I don’t remember if I cried with my daughter through that time. But I’m sure I cried for her. She hurt, so I hurt.

But Anna was just beginning to move from concrete thinking to the abstract, from knowing she was adopted, to understanding what adoption means. My tears could have confused her. Children can see our tears and assume they are responsible for them. So they stop their tears in order to make mommy happy. And then they don’t get to be children. They choose to become comforters and bypass their need for comfort.

So should we always hide our tears? I don’t think so. But with each child and in each situation, we need to ask, “Is this a time to cry with them or for them? Will they understand they didn’t cause the tears?” Then we pray for wisdom.

And if a few tears fall freely, before our child can understand them, we can be quick to explain, “Mommy’s crying because . . .”

And smile.

The Rise and Shine Movement is committed to allowing children to have a childhood, so one day, they are free to be adults. Allowing our children to grieve is one way to achieve this.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Skin Horse Lied: The Wisdom of Motherhood and Grief

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'
Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Image courtesy of donnaspoons/


When you’re real you don’t mind being hurt? Excuse me, Mr. Skin Horse, but I think you are perfectly wrong. Because I’ve got seven children who love me. REALLY love me. Plus, I’m real. I. AM. REAL. And I mind being hurt.

I don’t know about you, but this momma thing isn’t for sissies. When my children hurt, I hurt. When they cry, I feel pain. (Well, unless it’s a temper tantrum or something manipulative, then I feel peeved.) But when something happens that hurts them or someone wounds them with words, I hurt too.

There is an old saying, “A mother is only as happy as her saddest child.” I don’t know who said it, but she didn’t lie.

So what’s a momma to do when sad happens? What’s a momma to do with sad?


I know. You wanted a different answer didn’t you? I want one too, but I’ve searched for years and can’t find one. So I’ve learned to grieve.

This hasn’t been easy for me. I come from a long line of stoics who hid their tears, picked themselves up by their boot straps, charged on through pain. And they taught their children to do so too.

Perhaps it was the Great Depression, the World Wars that molded and shaped their survivor mentality. Or maybe it’s all they truly had time to do. I’m not sure. I just know, it doesn’t work for me. And my eighty-six year mother admitted recently, “I’ve learned to cry. I do a lot more of that than I used to.”

We didn’t chat about her admission any further. We didn’t have too. She’s a woman of few words, and I understood her comment. I’ve learned to cry too. Not to wallow, not to wail, but to recognize each sadness as it comes, acknowledge the loss, sit in its presence, and allow the tears to fall.

Tears heal.

So at this point in my life, as I parent for the second-time around, I can relate to the Skin Horse. Several of my joints are loose, many days I feel shabby, and I certainly don’t mind being real. Yet, I still mind being hurt. But now I know what to do with it. And that’s no lie.


Next week. Should we cry in front of our kids? The Wisdom of Shared Tears: When to Cry for Our Kids, When to Cry with Them
If you would like to continue to read Carolyn's hard-earned wisdom on parenting, please subscribe to her new blog, Wisdom from a Second-hand Mother: A Momma Parenting for the Second-time Around. Click here. Tamar's Redemption will be under construction soon and designed solely for survivors of sexual abuse and those who love them. Thank you.
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