Family Mirror

After my husband passed away twelve years ago, I knew I needed help. I was left alone to raise two children who were five and seven years old. I began counseling to help me work through my grief. I had to make a lot of changes all at once. Essentially, my whole life had collapsed in one fell swoop.

I moved back near my family and started working at a regular day job, as I had been working as a freelance writer. It had taken me four years to build up, from a few occasional assignments for the local city newspaper, to having steady work from a regional business paper and a personal finance web site, along with a wide variety of other assignments I pulled in with some intense marketing efforts. My two biggest clients fell off just as my husband was dying, the regional business paper closed down, and the web site changed their focus and brought in a new editor with his own stable of writers. I was in no position to restart my writing business after watching my husband die of colon cancer, our two small children under foot.

Gaia Altari, "In my mold"My husband, Fritz, had been seriously ill for over a year. He had been struggling to pass normal bowel movements, thinking it was merely a long bout of constipation. He would not consent to being tested for colon cancer until he was so weak he could not even carry groceries. This had been a very strong, 160-pound man who looked young for his 55 years. Now he looked about 80 years old and weighed about 110 pounds.

I kept going to counseling myself, but could not find a way to bring the kids into some sort of therapy that would suit their very different needs as children working through grief. I was struggling to cover all the other bases, especially financial support for our little family. After a couple of years, I stopped going to counseling altogether. It was just too much with all the kids’ doctors appointments, dentist appointments, extra-curricular activities, parent-teacher conferences, and the seemingly endless list of duties I was juggling.

Besides, things seemed to be going okay. I had gone to a counselor through Hospice and then transitioned to seeing a local minister who offered counseling services. The kids seemed to have adjusted well to school; they had friends and were not showing any obvious signs of grief. I had gotten a better job. Overall, things looked good for us.

Then my kids began to hit puberty. It became clear right away that my daughter was in danger. I saw signs of risky behavior that I attempted to address on my own, to no avail.  She was staying out all night, hanging out with a guy who was much older, and it appeared she was experimenting with drugs. I called a crisis line especially for kids and they sent someone to our home to speak with my daughter and with me. They suggested a specialized counseling program that seemed to fit her situation, called Dialectical Behavior Therapy, or DBT. In the process of addressing these concerns, it became clear how many of my daughter’s deep-seated issues were cropping up from my own childhood. I had grown up in a dysfunctional family and made extra-ordinary efforts not to repeat the same patterns with my own kids. There was more to this than I could fathom, however, as I soon learned.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy required my full participation along with my daughter. She was also assigned a counselor and a psychiatrist, both of whom I met. I did not care for the counselor, but my daughter seemed to like her. The psychiatrist suggested putting her on anti-depressants, but I replied I would prefer to see how she responded to the DBT program, since we had just started it. He even admitted he did not have a firm diagnosis on her yet. It was around this time I was notified about a Child Protective Services investigation being initiated against me. I had taken my daughter to the emergency room one night over fear of drug use and spoke with a nurse about her behavior. He had suggested I place her into a juvenile justice program called PINS (Persons In Need of Supervision). Apparently, my unwillingness to place her in that program prompted him to call CPS on me. The CPS investigation prompted a program called Wrap-Around to be put in place, where a counselor came out to my home on a weekly basis to work with me and my kids. We also had a monthly meeting to assess our progress with a case worker.

For a long time I had studied esoteric arts such as Tarot, Astrology, and related phenomena. I knew I had to dig deep to get through this and help my daughter to make the best of the counseling and services being offered, while retaining her own sense of identity and independence. I was in a struggle for the integrity of my family and each of us as individuals, as well as finding ways to get help to improve our well-being. Luckily, the counselor assigned to help our family by Child Protective Services was not only sympathetic, but enthusiastically supported my alternative approaches to addressing my family’s needs. I told her I did not want my daughter put on medication before the counseling had even had a chance to take hold. I also began looking into dietary changes we could make that might help re-balance my daughter’s hormonal system. She went to a Naturopathic physician and changed her diet to avoid gluten and began taking supplements. The doctor thought her hormones were being disrupted by a gluten sensitivity, and this was a possible contributor to her behavior problems.

In addition, I intuitively decided to take my kids to see a Medium. My hope was to get my husband to help from the spirit plane, since he had been a strong and nurturing influence in their early years. As it turned out, the Medium hired my daughter on the spot to become her assistant, essentially taking my daughter under her wing. I began taking classes with this Medium, who is also a gifted Astrologer and Tarot reader. I continued to work with the DBT and the Wrap-Around counseling programs.The CPS investigation came back unfounded, but another one was launched. This time it was because my son was not going to school and his assistant principal reported me. I had another program called Multi-Systemic Therapy come in to work with us. The MST program focused more exclusively on me, although there were some discussions in which the children were included.

While I was involved in all of these counseling programs, I began to see that I had been too narrowly focused on providing for my children, and had neglected my own interests. I have always had a strong interest in personal development and community service. I took part in a program that had always interested me called “Alternatives to Violence,” and a friend with whom I served on a board for a local nonprofit introduced me to Co-Counseling. These programs both emphasized listening, and while I have always felt and seen myself as a “good listener,” I found new depths to my ability to listen, not only to my children, but to my inner self. I began to see how much fear was overshadowing my decisions and my perceptions. In my Astrology class, one of the women suggested I call on the Archangel Michael for assistance. He is the ultimate protector among the Archangel realm and I thought my children could certainly benefit from his help, if he were willing to help me. I thought it could not hurt to try. I found a prayer that called on him, along with some cards with his image that I placed under the children’s mattresses without their knowledge. Gradually, with intense praying and as all of the tools I was employing helped me to open my heart and change my perspective on the situation, I began to practice radical acceptance and found my need for control, along with my fear, gradually falling away.

My daughter had been telling me that I was a hypocrite and that I was trying to make her live the life I wanted instead of her own life. I stepped back and gave her more space, when I felt she was showing sufficient awareness of her own safety. It was a long, slow dance to rebuilding trust between us, but it began to emerge.

Slowly, my children turned the corner. My daughter has now secured a full-time job after having finished her GED. She still helps out the Medium on a consulting basis. My son is finishing up his education and preparing to apprentice with my father in his business, which involves programming and maintaining the computers that run assembly lines in large manufacturing plants around the world.

Many people had tried to convince me to put my kids into the PINS program, or place them in drug rehabilitation counseling. I chose to honor my own intuition and their free will. Things are looking miraculously better now than they did a few years ago for all three of us. I am not sure we would have had this good of an outcome if I had simply complied, or if I had found myself at the mercy of professionals who would have imposed other methods of dealing with our challenges on us.

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