I think, I don’t know, but I think, parents who are fortunate enough to deliver their kids to the college of their choice, driving or flying them there, going to Target and buying them all the stuff they need for their dorm room, touring the town the kid is going to be living in, seeing the room, the hallway, the bathroom, the dorm, the campus buildings, all that stuff, I think the parents have that butterflies in your tummy feeling of expectation, fear, and excitement. I know they grieve, feel that sense of loss, but they also get to call, Skype, FaceTime, IMessage, or private message with their kid whenever they want.
When your kid is picked up at 6:30 in the morning, the sun straining against the clouds of May gray to shed some light on the situation, by three strangers and a therapy Chihuahua named Chiquita, the butterflies in your tummy are vultures ripping at your insides. The fear is wrapped in, around and through, “What the fuck am I doing?” “Is this going to work?” “What if this doesn’t work?” “How am I ever going to function normally again?” There is no excitement, only tears, and grief, and remorse, and regret. You don’t get to call, or Skype, or FaceTime or IMessage, or private message your kid whenever you want. You get a phone call 10 hours later from a staff person from the wilderness therapy program which was referred to you by the long term residential treatment center because there were no beds open, and frankly, girls who go to wilderness do much better in treatment than the girls who go directly from home to treatment, and this place is amazing, they do great work, she’s going to be in very good hands, you’re saving your daughter’s life. And the very nice, very supportive, very compassionate staff person on the other side of the line three states away says, “She made it! She’s had her physical and drug test, we out fitted her with her gear and 30lb pack and she’s in the field with her group and staff.” 13 hours from pick up to drop off.
I’ve talked to other mothers of girls sent off to wilderness or long term residential treatment centers, girls who have attempted suicide multiple times, whose cuts are so deep into their thighs and arms that recovery from that kind of self-harm is unimaginable, drug addicted, alcoholic, sexually out of control girls, bulimic, anorexic girls, our babies, our little pig-tailed, happy go lucky, life of the party little girls. And though the outward signs of addiction, dysfunction, mental illness, and emotional disturbance may be different, we mothers agree on this: the sense of loss and grief is so pervasive that our recovery from that seems impossible. Getting out of bed is a Herculean effort, putting on a face of ok-ness to get through the day, taking care of the other kids, bringing some sense of order to a family who has lived in crisis, chaos, and confusion for years, seems beyond what we are capable of. We walk on this tightrope in the liminal space precariously perched between what was and what will be. If you’re lucky you have a God, a loving, gracious, healing, creative God, that holds you to Her breast, comforts and consoles, with every breath. A God you can walk hand and hand with who illuminates each step with an abundance of grace you need more than anything, because what will be is untenable, and hope is a foreign word.