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Coping with the Pain of Having a Prodigal Child

by stephanie reck  
12/29/2015 / Parenting

This Christmas was the toughest one I have had so far. I had these great expectations that I would see my son for Christmas, I mean I have celebrated every Christmas with him since he was born. Last Christmas was difficult, being it was the first year he brought his partner to our house for Christmas; but at least he came! However, this Christmas, he did not show at all. I just received one tiny little text, no phone call, no gifts, and no spending any holiday fun together like most families do. I waited expectedly all day on Christmas for him to show up, but when nightfall came I realized he was not coming, I wailed like someone had just died. You see having a prodigal you feel all the emotions of grief, like anger and depression, but this grief cannot be resolved.

I went through the motions on Christmas day, my heart was far from feeling like it had any joy. I would have random thoughts throughout the day that invaded me like a plague, thoughts that said the most awful and fearful things to me. I just wanted to crawl back in the bed and hide. To be honest, I want to hide most of the time. I can feel intense shame and disgrace for my only child to be in such shape that he is in. Many times, I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt and that I utterly failed my child. I battle dark thoughts more often than I would want to say concerning my prodigal. It is s battle, and a daily one. It is a journey that can make you feel as an outcast or even that you do not belong anywhere. Finding where I "fit in," is a challenge for me. Even at church, I am not sure what group to belong to. Having a prodigal can make you feel alone and at times even isolated. Sure, I have tried small groups at church and Bible studies but I oftentimes feel worse after going, after hearing about all the joys of having wonderful children and grandchildren. I have found that very few people discuss openly having a wayward child. So often prodigal parents feel that they are the only ones dealing with such children.

Every knock at the door and every unexpected phone call can cause my heart to race with anxiety and fear. I have developed great fears over the years in dealing with my prodigal, some of the fears are a direct result of terrifying things actually occurring, and some are a result of the unknown. Not knowing where my son is or when I will talk to him next, can cause such great anguish in my heart. It feels so abnormal to have a child that you cannot have a relationship with. I want so desperately to chase him, but I know it is time to let go. Letting go of your child and letting God have your child takes a tremendous amount of trust in God.

I miss my child terribly. I feel a loss in my heart for him. I feel I am wasting all this precious time with him. My child has been wayward for over a decade now, and I have waited and hoped all this time for his deliverance. I still believe and hope for him, but I must now find a way to live my life again. You see over the years I have been so burdened and heavy concerning my child's lifestyle that I stopped living. Yes, I am alive but not living. I don't enjoy what I used to and I have carried shame and guilt for his choices. I never meant to end up here, but the years of heartache and disappointment has consumed what I used to be like.

I am certain that this is not the way God would have me deal with this situation, but I believe for me it has been about survival. I have just been trying to survive under weight of pain. The truth is I have felt depths of pain that have been crushing. I have fasted many, many times, prayed daily, and begged the Lord to intervene. I have had others prayer for my son, but after a decade of praying, many of my prayer warriors have stopped calling and praying for my son. I can understand though, it can be discouraging when you pray for someone and those prayers don't seem to be answered. It is rare that you will find someone who will stick by you through the many years and tears of having a wayward child. I have found that many family and friends either ignore the situation by not asking anything about my child or not offer words of encouragement or prayer. As a mother having a prodigal child can be lonely. I often have little to say around other parents and feel a bit awkward as they interact with their children. I have to be careful because I can fight jealousy being around other parents with their children. I can also struggle with feeling like a failure when I am around other parents that have seemingly good children.

BUT this NEW YEAR, I am resolving with the Lord's help to live again and to have joy despite my deepest trouble. I know I can't do it, but I am believing with God's help I will be able to find a way to not only to survive but to thrive. I have to! I have spent enough years in grief. If you would like to join me in prayer for this upcoming year for our prodigals and to encourage one another please contact me @ [email protected] or find me on Facebook @

I would love to hear from other prodigal parents. Please share your story, your hopes, and your struggles.

Stephanie R. Reck, LMSW, LBT, BCCC
Founder of Hope Ministry
[email protected]
Hope Ministry, @2020
Author of, "Disciplining Your Mind 30 Days to a Better You!"

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