Parent Support, Residential Treatment, Wilderness Therapy

When all else fails try writing letters to your kids.

Our son was now in the woods and there would be no opportunities to talk with him until a one-day visit half way through the program and then the day we were to pick him up. The only telephone communication to us was a weekly update with his therapist and a session with the family therapist. I was a concerned, not understanding how we, he and I, were going to “get better” without talking.

In 2015 Gretchen Schmelzer, Ph.D published The Letter your Teenager Can’t Write You. It was part of the introduction packet Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness provided to me. I read it and then cried, maybe bawled is a better descriptor. I felt like I let my child down because I just didn’t see it, I didn’t see all the pain until we were too far in. It was then that I understood the real work was going to be accomplished through our letters.

I was desperate to connect with my son. I wanted him to know how much I loved him even though I “sent him away”. I loved him fiercely and just wanted it to” be okay” for both of us. I am going to share the very first letter I wrote to my son on May 26, 2018. He had been in wilderness 7 days. This particular one, I am sharing the entire letter, I can’t say that I will do that with any or all of them, but I think it is very appropriate, to understand the power of the written word over the verbal conversation.


My Son:

As I sit to write my first letter to you while you are at Blue Ridge Therapeutic Wilderness (BRTW) I am not sure where to start; I guess I should first tell you how relieved I am that you are safe, and how much I love you.  Each day I wake up and the first thing I do is look at my cell phone to check the weather.  I do this because since the moment you left this house, I changed the weather on my phone to reflect the weather at BRTW.  By doing this I feel connected to you each day, continuing to love you and look after you, even if it has to be from a distance.

In the two weeks prior to you leaving, a lot of things were said between us, granted not in the best way, usually yelling; but they were important things.   I hope you were able to “hear” what I was saying, I feel they were important things that are worth repeating, so……  I want you to know….

  • I will use every ounce of energy I have to continue to help us no matter how much you try to push me away. My help may not look the way you want or expect it to, but I will not give up on you, or us ever.
  • I will spend every penny I have on getting and using the tools we need to help us, which right now means BRTW for you.

I do this because….

  • I love you to the moon and back and beyond.
  • I know that no matter how you act towards me you love me too.
  • I know you have the most loving heart of any almost 15 year old boy I have ever met.
  • I know you are compassionate, kind, and love little kids.
  • I know you have a wicked sense of humor.
  • I know that you are an affectionate teenager, always willing to give or take a hug.
  • I know that you are a talented artist both with drawing, and writing songs and lyrics.
  • I know that you are strong, both in your body and mind.
  • I know that you are not perfect, no one is.
  • I know that we all stumble and the stumble does not define our futures, we do.
  • I know that you are human; and sometimes being human is scary, not just for you, for all of us.
  • I know that we all need help at different points in our life dealing with the scary.

The truth is, I do not like my own “story” right now, and I am scared.  So I am choosing to work hard here at home to learn how to change my story.   I have been doing the assignments that Kayla and Jeremy have given me.  I am trusting the process that they have laid out for me.   I have started to journal to try to figure out how I feel, what I feel, and what I need to do to change my patterns.

I suspect I have rambled on too long already, but I want to remind you of something I said to you in the darkness of your bedroom a couple of nights before you left….Before you can expect others to like or love you; you need to like and love yourself first. I know that you are worth both liking and loving, my hope for you is that you can see it too.

Love you to eternity and back.                 Love  Mom

Today I encourage you to hug your child for no reason other than he is yours.

1 thought on “When all else fails try writing letters to your kids.”

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