When Our Adult Children Suffer

I can’t imagine how you are hurting…

I wish it were me instead of you…

If only I could take your pain…

Recently I heard  a speaker express the anguish of living through the dark journey of  mental illness in her children. For years her two daughters suffered and thus created immeasurable pain for this beautiful mama as she watched, helpless to free them from the prison of their diseases.
Our Children's Pain is Our Pain
We want to rush to alleviate our kid’s pain as quickly as possible–but is that always the best option?
She and I shared similar questions–though not as many answers— we shared the journey.
How can we support without smothering?
How can we nurture without being a nuisance?
How can we be a helper and not a hinderance when our kids are in pain? 
Americans want to avoid pain at all cost.
We believe pain robs us of our plans for the day and often our dreams for the future. Naturally we want to help our kids avoid pain any way we can.
The broken glass on this picture depicts the further pain Jake and Rachelle suffered. After surviving this crash and going on to build a family, their home was flooded twice last year. This photo that hung in their bedroom reminded them of God’s faithfulness–although the picture frame succumbed to the flood water.
When our daughter Rachelle and her husband were only two months married they were hit by a drunk driver who was driving a LARGE mobile home moving trailer.
The PAIN was physical (Jake received a pelvis fractured in over 20 places and a torn kidney) mental (this would delay their school and work careers) and emotional (they lost their newly conceived first baby in the wreck). The pain was unbelievable. It interrupted their lives and destroyed hopes. Watching their sorrow was excruciating.

What could we do? 

What could we say?

When my husband, Ted, went to see the remains of this car the wrecker told him how sorry he was for Ted’s loss. “No. My daughter and her husband survived,” Ted responded.                        “Not in this car they couldn’t have,” the wise old demolition expert remarked.


There were no words from well-meaning friends that eased the pain. But often their presence encouraged Jake and Rachelle and therefore encouraged our hearts as well.
As adults in a cruel world we acknowledge that pain is inevitable, and when handled well, it brings growth and maturity. Pain can give needed perspective to our self-focused lives. But how can we apply all those “life lessons” to those who hold our hearts in their hands?
Timothy Keller in his best selling book Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering reminds us that our response to suffering should NOT be passive! Keller states four activities we should pursue during suffering:
  • WEEP

  • PRAY


  • HOPE


We must weep to acknowledge the true loss and the pain we are suffering with our kids.
These are not STEPS but activities that go on simultaneously or one at a time while we grieve the pain of what is happening in our lives.
These are the same essential steps when the pain is inflicted on our adult children. We grieve. We wail. We admit the pain and the suffering. We reprioritize what is most important. And we hope.
Knowing that the suffering produces a good work in us might comfort us AFTER the pain is gone… but during the tragedy we give ourselves permission to GRIEVE.
IT IS TRUE: PAIN is always easier to bear for ourselves than to bear while watching those we love so dearly suffer. 
But, as we see growth in our own lives through pain and suffering—we must long for that growth and strength in the lives of our adult children as well. 
Sometimes— that growth comes at a high price. 

Author: Dr. Johnnie K. Seago

Johnnie Seago is a national conference speaker who is passionate about building leadership in families. As the mother to eight adult children, she desires families to learn to connect and communicate to build a community of support. She extends her leadership and team building experience to schools, businesses, and civic groups. Johnnie’s messages equip leaders to: Find their strength in the design God used to create them Find their purpose for which God created them Partner with others for support in reaching goals Commit to the dreams God has placed on their heart Become accountable for their success as leaders Johnnie’s ministry to families includes: Helping families transition from childhood to adulthood Teaching parents to communicate with their adult children Working through difficult situations as teens become adults Providing resources and ideas for productive grand-parenting Johnnie and her husband, Ted has been married for 40 years. They live in the suburbs of Houston, Texas on a lake where they enjoy boating and water sports and the occasional day of floating and reading.

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