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Peace when children leave your religion

POSTED February 6, 2018 3:10 a.m.
In this edition of LIFEadvice, coach Kim answers a readers question about the loss and pain she feels about children who choose a different religion.

Question:

I just read your article on adult children rejecting the parent’s religion and I agree with what you’re saying, however, my heart is still hurting. I understand my pain is all about me and that I need to just love them, but I can’t help resenting my son and his wife for causing me this pain. He is my only son and I resent his wife taking him away from the way he was raised. I find myself resenting them and not wanting to hang out with them. I don’t want to feel this way, but my heart is so sad that there will not be baby blessings, baptisms and temple marriages for my grandchildren. I'm just not sure how to bridge the gap, stop grieving and feeling so emotional about it. Thank you for any thoughts on this.

Answer:

First, we want you to choose a perspective about why we are on this planet. Most people feel we are on the planet to do two things: 1. Learn, grow and become the best version of ourselves we can be and 2. To love and serve others and try to make a difference in their lives. We find these two ideas are consistent with most religions and life philosophies.

If you think these two ideas feel like truth to you, you might consider seeing life as a classroom. This philosophy means that everything that shows up in your life is there for one primary reason — to help you learn to love at a higher level.

We believe this experience might be in your life for that very reason. It has the potential to stretch you out of your comfort zone and teach you to love, forgive and accept people when it’s harder to do. It’s easy to love and accept people that are the same as us, it’s much more challenging to love those who are different. It’s especially difficult if their choices trigger fear of loss in you.

We want to make sure you really understand what a “fear of loss experience” is, as we define it. We believe there are two simple core fears which cause most of our suffering.

The first is the fear of failure and you experience this whenever you feel you aren’t good enough, or get insulted or criticized. This fear causes suffering, insecurity, stress and sadness as it makes us feel inadequate. This fear is easier to understand since you experience it to some degree every day.

Fear of failure experiences give you wonderful opportunities for growth. They can help you practice not caring what others think of you, getting your self-esteem from your intrinsic value instead of your appearance, or trusting that all human beings have the same value.

Fear of loss is also a wonderful classroom opportunity for growth. Loss is triggered whenever this moment or event (that you didn’t want to happen) is taking away from the quality of your life. If you get stuck in traffic, on the way to a big meeting, and you hate to be late — you are having a loss experience.

You can feel loss whenever people mistreat you or take from you, but you can also experience loss when life itself doesn’t turn out the way you wanted it to. You can feel robbed by life when you don’t get blessings or experiences other people get. Whenever you find yourself in self-pity around what you have been dealt, you are having a loss experience.

This is the most important part of this article we want to make sure you get this point – Life isn’t fair and no one gets the journey they wanted. They get the journey that fosters their growth best.

If we always got what we wanted, we wouldn’t grow, and that’s the point of the whole thing. One of the best things you can do for your mental health is to throw all your expectations about how your life should look out the window now.

Life is not going to meet your expectations. It’s going to be messy, ugly, painful and even embarrassing at times. It’s going to include some wins and some losses and sometimes it’s going to pull the rug out from under you completely. If you haven’t had those experiences yet, they are probably still coming.

We are not telling you this to scare you, because life is also going to be rich, wonderful, sweet, beautiful, amazing and thrilling too. The point is it’s going to surprise you and if you stay attached to your expectations, about how it should look at each stage, this is only going to create misery.

Instead, we recommend that you choose to trust the journey, the universe, or your higher power that it knows what it’s doing. Whatever interesting twist or turn your life has taken, that you didn’t see coming or didn’t want, it has a purpose for being here, and that purpose is always to serve you.

Having your son leave your religion is definitely not what you wanted, but it’s not as bad as a lot of other challenges you could be having. Talk to some people who have a child with cancer, or a child that died, or people who have a host of other awful challenges that life can throw at people. The truth is that you still have much more to be grateful for than you have loss.

Here are some things you can do to feel better about your situation:

  1. Be grateful. Every day make a list of things you are grateful for in your life. This list will always be longer than the list of what isn’t right. Focus on your blessings every time you feel loss pain.
  2. Find people to serve, who have it worse. Or even make a list of all the losses you could be having that would be worse than this one. Get rid of your self-pity around your situation and understand it does you no good.
  3. See the universe as a wise teacher and trust it knows what it’s doing. Choose to see life as a perfect classroom that is providing the exact lessons you, your son and his family need to learn the lessons they need to learn.
  4. Let go of the picture of what you thought life should look like. That was a fantasy and when you stay attached to it, think about it and wish for it, you create suffering. Choose to trust life instead.
  5. Focus on how this could make you better, wiser or more loving. This is the most positive thing you can do. Focus on becoming a better you (not on fixing anyone else). This experience could make you more trusting, more unselfish, more faithful, peaceful and unconditionally loving. This is probably the whole reason you are having this experience so it deserves your focus. Every time you want to change your son, work on changing yourself instead.
  6. Let go of the idea that you are right and they are wrong. Understand that from another person’s perspective your right is wrong. It’s all perspective and you must honor every person’s right to believe what they believe, and have the same value as you.
  7. Love unconditionally. This means sincerely loving, giving and serving without any comments about your disappointment, feelings of sadness, or fear. For this to be sincere though, you really need to stop being afraid or sad. You must hand your fear over to your higher power and trust (that in perfect love and wisdom) everything will be fine. When you do this you actually release your son from needing to please you.
  8. Release your son from needing to meet your expectations. This means you must need nothing from him and only be there to give love to him and his family. You don’t need them to please you or live a certain way for you, because you know you are safe, whole and cared for all the time. You are lacking nothing. If everything that shows up in your life is there to serve and bless you, then you are not deprived in any way. There is no loss if all is perfect.
Just play with this idea and see if it changes how much pain you feel. We find it completely changes loss experiences for us. We realize this idea (that you always get your perfect journey) is not something we can prove is true, but you also can’t prove it’s not true. This means you can, and actually have to, choose a perspective.

You can see yourself as at risk of having your life ruined, being taken from, robbed or deprived if you want to, but it will only create suffering. Or you can play with seeing yourself as whole, blessed and well. You could actually believe you can’t be deprived because the whole universe is conspiring to bless and educate you all the time. If it is always for your benefit, it’s not a loss. From this place of wholeness, it is a lot easier to love others unconditionally and let go of the pain.

Play with it and see how you feel.

You can do this.

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