Mountain Horizon

A Mother’s Worry

Tracey Columns

It’s fire season again and out here in the West, the fires have begun. Here’s a post for the families of these courageous and sometimes very young firefighters.

Dear Tracey,

I am awake every night with worry. My 20 year old son is spending his first summer as a fire fighter. It’s something he’s wanted to do since he was a little boy. I always hoped he would out-grow it but he didn’t.

He’s in Montana and never checks in. My husband says that’s normal. I try to keep this in mind but I feel such dread. I can’t seem to keep myself from watching the news or searching for information on the internet.

I know I can’t change his mind. I gave up trying last year when he moved out after we’d had a terrible fight about all of this. I felt awful but I just couldn’t seem to keep my opinions to myself. We patched things but an empty house is a terrible thing.

How do I live with the fact that my only child is in harm’s way each and very day?

Worried Sick

Dear Reader,

My children have done a few things in their lives that gave me worry lines. (One daughter worked in rural  Zambia after first learning how to fly a plane. The gray hairs practically popped up overnight!) I offer this to let you know that I can understand how unsettling your son’s career choice must be for you.

However, like it or not, we parents need to reach a point with our children where we let them go and live their lives. I think you are there. Your son’s decision to move out was a very loud statement. Clearly, he felt ready to be an adult.

Your worry may be compounded by your empty nest. It’s quite an adjustment when our children leave home. Take some time to understand how this may be adding to your worry. See if you can separate out the issues and then, handle each one separately.

There’s no magic elixir that will take away your worry. (If there was, mothers throughout the land would be gulping it down by the gallons!) However, I believe there are some things you can be doing to help you cope with your son’s decision:

1)  Recognize that your worry isn’t serving you any positive purpose. When it hits, repeat “this isn’t serving any positive purpose” to yourself over and over again. Breathe deeply and focus on just this statement. The worry will eventually pass.

2) Keep a  journal. Learn to write down your worries, no matter how small and insignificant they might be. Now, review each one. If there something you can actually do about one of your concerns, do it. If not, shift your focus from your worry and get busy.

3) Practice self-care. By this I mean actively engage in taking care of yourself. Eat well, get exercise, address your social and spiritual needs, and finally, surround yourself with positive people

4) STOP watching the news and scouring the internet! This only feeds the insatiable Worry Monster. I know this will be difficult but doesn’t help in any way. Come up with other things you can do when the urge hits – take a walk, call a friend, talk to your husband, read a book, do anything that will help you resist the temptation to make yourself feel worse.

5) Have some fun! This may sound absolutely impossible. (It may even make you feel little guilty. But you wouldn’t be doing anything wrong if you had a little fun.) Know that enjoyable activities, laughter, even just a positive little stroll through town will all lower your body’s stress hormones.

Promise me that if this degree of worry continues, you will seek professional help. There is no reason for you to suffer this way. A trained counselor would be very beneficial in helping you adjust to both your son’s career path and your empty nest.

Best of luck and my heartfelt thanks to your son and all of the others who dedicate their live to the safety and well-being of others.

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