I didn’t say to accept negative behavior – for anyone who is wondering – there is no justification for angry words or actions or passive aggressive conversations or hurtful ways of behaving. Those things will always be wrong, requiring humility and repentance to turn from them, and forgiveness to make things right with the people we have wounded.
But negative emotions are different from negative actions. Emotions are feelings caused by our circumstances, and while we cannot allow our life to be determined by them, we have to acknowledge our anger. We have to honor our grief. We can allow our emotions to lead us to places in our hearts that we must face for the work of wholeness to take place in our lives.
Talk to someone about how you are feeling, preferably not someone who is in the transition with you because they have their own set of negative emotions. It has been crucial for me to find women who are not connected with our transition, friends in Sweden, friends in Germany and friends in other places, to whom I can vent. Irrationally. Negatively. Anything I want to let out, I let it out to them, they are a safe place for these negative feelings. I am angry because I don’t want to move. I am so sad. Life with kids is disappointing and discouraging. Find safe people who can handle the full weight of your emotions but who do not try to fix you or explain your emotions away.
Accepting my negative feelings and acknowledging them to someone else is the door to letting those feelings out of my life.
For those of you who are parents, I want to tell you to expect negative – very negative – emotions and behaviors from your kids during a move. When we moved from Switzerland to Sweden, Big Boy was only two years old. We moved everything out of our apartment, and the boys and I stayed separately at a new place for a week while Husband went to Sweden to start unpacking. Big Boy woke up five to seven times in the night almost every night, and this is after he had been sleeping through the night for well over a year. He woke up more than our newborn did. I was blind with fatigue and frustrated out of my mind. I wish I could tell you I was gracious and patient. I was not. I did not realize how afraid and unsettled he must have been, he had lost his only home and watched his physical life get packed into boxes, and he was apart from his Papa for the longest stretch ever in his life.
This move we’ve dealt with tantrums, defiance, all kinds of controlling weirdness with food and sleep and many other things. Yes, there are certain behaviors we cannot tolerate. But our kids need their fears acknowledged. My sons need to know that they can be sad about leaving their home. They do not need to move on. Right now, it is time to grieve.
They need to hear me give words to their emotions when they do not have the vocabulary for it yet, Are you sad because we are not in the yellow house anymore? You are angry because you don’t have your toys here. You don’t want to say goodbye to your friends. You are sad about leaving Sweden.
And they need to hear me honestly express my own emotions about this move. I was getting ready for our going away party by hanging up lanterns when Big Boy came up to me. He was distressed because he had accidentally broken one of his shoes. But I could tell it was something else, he was falling apart completely. We had set out a table of our things that we didn’t want anymore for people to take, and he had asked me several times that afternoon why people were taking our things.
I pulled him into my arms and said, Are you sad because there are things here that we are giving away? Do you feel afraid that we won’t have anything left for us? Are you sad because we are saying goodbye to our friends and to Sweden?
He nodded yes to each question and sobbed in my arms. I held him, and I cried, and I told him the only thing I could, Mommy is so sad, too, buddy. I’m so sad to leave the yellow house and to say goodbye to Sweden.
Now it’s your turn: Is it difficult for your accept your emotions? What can you do to help yourself feel your feelings?