Anna is a mother of two beautiful boys with cognitive and physical challenges. She used to be an artist but gave it up to focus on being a full-time mother soon after her children were born. Five years ago, both of her parents died within a few months of each other and she has never allowed herself to grieve for them.
In a rare moment of self-reflection, Anna poured her heart out:
“I am so tired. I feel like I devote my life to caring for my boys, teaching them the skills to manage their lives, to help them be successful. I am so sad that they have to struggle. I am afraid that life will always be hard for them.
I have moments of uncontrollable grief and anger. I am disappointed that this is how my life is. It is not what I expected. I am anxious and edgy and most days I don’t even recognise the woman I have become. I feel so alone.”
Can you see how Anna identified with her feelings, how she absorbed them in and let them direct her choices and behaviour?
What would happen if she accepted them as valid and observed them as the passengers in her bus with important messages for her?
A familiar face. What is Exhaustion signaling to me? I have a need for rest. I can’t keep giving when my own tank is empty. I need to take action to fill up my own reserves so that I can give from a place of overflow, peace and genuine love. I need to play, laugh and bring joy back into my life again. I would like to explore how I can do that.
Hello Sadness, you are an old friend. What is Sadness trying to tell me? I have a need for control, that when things don’t turn out the way I had hoped or expected, I feel frustrated and sad. I need and want to trust, that everything is happening as it should, there is a reason for it all even when I don’t understand what it is.
Eek! What is Fear trying to tell me? This is confronting! I have unmet needs for safety, empathy and hope. Perhaps I could talk to my husband, my friend or a counselor to help me move through this.
Hello Grief and Anger
They are best friends who sit together on the backseat of my bus. As soon as they try to take over the driver’s seat, I make sure they sit down and be quiet! If I listened to what they had to say, what would they tell me? I have a need to mourn my parents. To mourn the life I thought I would have. To mourn parts of myself I have lost or buried. I want to create a safe emotional and physical space to do this.
She sits right up front on my bus and likes to pass comments to me all day long. What does she signal to me? I need peace of mind and stability. I need a sense of empowerment, that I am not a helpless victim in all of this. I want to explore some strategies I can use to bring those into my life. I could start doing my art again, which always used to relax and centre me.
And hello Loneliness
She sits by herself by the window, watching the world go past. I know what she wants to tell me. She needs support, companionship from people who understand what I am going through. She needs nurturing and connection. Perhaps I could join a support group with other parents with similar children.
A few months later, Anna described the biggest revelation she had from listening to her feelings:
“I feel so much calmer. SO much calmer. I now have a deep acceptance for how my life is, all the struggles and the many joys. I see those joys now. I don’t wish that my children were different, I am able to accept and love them just as they are and I recognise the innate strengths and talents they have that will help them in life.
I spend time being creative every morning before they wake. As I have started enjoying my life more, our relationships have changed - we laugh and play! We are enjoying every day, (well most of it!) and I feel a new sense of hope about the future. My truest self has taken the driver seat in the bus, I have a fondness for all my passengers and we are on this road trip together!"