"When hope dies, action begins." — Derrick Jensen
I have been without my youngest daughter in my life for over nine years, and I know a thing or two about hope. When a beloved child removes themselves from our lives there is an avalanche of emotions — grief, bewilderment and shame.
Beneath all these there is always hope that our child will return to our lives. We are suddenly living in a space of waiting that is filled with desperate hope. It feels like hope is all we have.
Side note: Here are the horoscopes and self-care. Post continues below.
The thing is, hope can be like being locked in a room when someone else has the key — someone who has walked off with it and may or may not ever come back. So we have to make a choice. Remain a prisoner to hope, or set ourselves free and move on with our lives.
I spent the first few years of estrangement writing letters, emails and sending gifts — then waiting for a reply. I was so hopeful. I always thought, "This time. This is the time. This will be the thing that opens the door." The anguish of hearing nothing back was too much to bear.
So, finally, I gave up on hope. That does not mean I have given up on my daughter or the possibility of a reconciliation. What it does mean is that I replaced hope with a willingness to accept my experience as it is. Hope required that I want things to be different. Acceptance enables me to relax into what is.
Michael Schreiner, a Seattle-based counselor, and the founder of Evolution Counseling, writes, "It’s easy to confuse the idea of mindful acceptance with unhealthy states of being, like giving up, complacency, or settling for less."
I have had quite a few parents react with horror to my stories of how I have reclaimed my life, expressing disbelief that I could "give up" on my relationship with my daughter. It seems to them that by moving on, I am saying I either don’t care, or don’t want my daughter to come back.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
But after several years of hoping and praying for a return and reconciliation, I discovered that hope is exhausting. There is a weight to hope that becomes a burden to carry after a while. Hope, very often, depends on the action of someone else. Hope relies on circumstances beyond our control to suddenly turn in our favour. There is very little within our control in hope.
In his article The Problem With Hope Michael Schreiner, says, "Everyone knows despair is a dangerous thing, but hope can be just as dangerous, it’s really just despair in disguise, since if the hoped for circumstances don’t appear, then sooner or later that hope will dissipate and despair will take its place."
When we hope for something to happen, with the expectation that we will be happy when it does, it prevents us from being happy in the present. Expectations are often at the core of our pain, and hope is an expectation for something to happen the way we have imagined it. The problem is, many times we are disappointed.