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Bridging the Chasm, Rebuilding a Family

This inspiring letter was written by a mother named Kathy who sought help from Catholic Charities Multisystemic Therapy (MST) Program to resolve the complicated relationship with her daughter. Kathy wanted to share her story of success and accomplishment and also her appreciation of MST.

"This story doesn't start out with the warm and fuzzies. It starts with pain, tears, anger, worry and frustration. It starts with a mom and a daughter on opposite sides of the fence - a very high fence that was smack in the middle of a huge chasm. I was convinced we'd never reach each other and frankly I had already begun to give up. I was in a place of pain, and whenever pain takes up residence in your heart you carry it like a curse. I couldn't figure out how we got so far apart, so fast I felt as if I were screaming into a void.

The MST program was first suggested to me by my daughter's middle school counselor, but I was convinced it was a lot of hype and very little help. There was nothing they could tell me to do that I hadn't already tried. How were these people going to make anything happen? And if they thought they were going to tell me what I'd done wrong, if they thought they were going to judge me, they had another thing coming! No one was going to tell me I was a bad parent and that was that.

Meanwhile, that chasm was growing wider and wider and my daughter was so unreachable it was as if I had never known her. It was heartbreaking, devastating and hopeless. And I'd begun to lose myself in the absolute sadness of it all. I cannot describe the ache that was centered in my chest- the sleepless nights. The nights I did sleep I had nightmares of my daughter lost in the darkness and crying for me. I would search for her, trying to find her; waking up with tears on my cheeks. I felt like a failure at motherhood and that is a very personal and gut-wrenching battle that never gets easier to bear.

I saw my precious little girl drifting further and further away and then the fear set in. Crippling anxiety-ridden fear, scared to death I'd lose her and very aware that I'd begun to lose myself. I again cannot express adequately what that feels like other than to say it's like standing on a cliff that's beginning to give way. You feel the ground beneath you crumbling and there's nothing to grab on to. You are frantic to find purchase but you know it's only a matter of time before you lose your balance and fall. It's terrifying and constantly living in that state takes a toll on every single reserve of strength you may have. And my strength was fading fast.

In desperation, I agreed to the MST program and decided the only way to truly benefit from it was to throw myself into it and throw out any pre-conceived notions I may have had. I needed to be one hundred percent committed and willing to do whatever it took to be successful. I had to open the door and be willing to face whatever was on the other side.

And thank God it was Brenda on the other side. Thank God it was someone who not only came armed and ready to fight, but someone who personally invested herself into this painful and scary world that my daughter and I were dwelling in. She never hesitated for a second. She just jumped right in the middle of that chasm, took my hand, looked me in the eye and said, "You are not alone, you are not a failure and I am going to help you get your daughter back." And I am very thankful that she didn't take one look and run screaming for the way out!

Was it easy? No it was not. It was hard work. But the miraculous thing I discovered was my motivation to keep going. The very person who was convinced it wouldn't work was beginning to see that I was the vehicle to make it work. I was in the driver's seat and Brenda was my passenger, encouraging me, pointing out road blocks, guiding me to detours, navigating the journey with me and giving me the tools I needed to build a bridge to my daughter. Any time I got discouraged, she'd gently steer me back onto the road, reminding me that the work I was doing was important and critical to my relationship with Shyloh and that she was naturally gong to resist the changes that I was incorporating.

You see it's not so much the kid that gets the attention in this program, it's the parents. We learn first how to gain confidence then we learn what works best through trial and error and then we apply what we've learned directly to the wounds that exist in order to begin a healing process between us and our child. It's difficult work to do; to be sure you are taking away a world in which the child is firmly in control and replacing it with a world in which the parent takes back that control. Just like it took some time for your situation to get out of control (After all - it's not like the kid woke up one day and said, "Gee I think I'm gonna turn into a complete and total nightmare!") It takes time to mend the damage. That's largely the reason why MST is so successful because your worker sticks with you during the most difficult transitions and keeps you grounded and committed throughout the process. They don't give up and they don't allow you to give up. 

You cannot stand over a flower and scream, "GROW!" It needs nurturing, constant tending, sunshine and yes, some rain in order for it to bloom into its glorious self. The MST program helps parents till the soil and prepares it for new growth. We become gardeners of change and sometimes growth can be painful. MST lends you the knowledge to assist the growth despite the difficulty. It gives us direct access to the possibility of change - real, true, lasting change.

Most importantly, MST gave me back my hope, hope that the bridge is strong, solid and able to keep me connected. The other thing MST gave back to me: my daughter. When I think of where we were compared to where we are now, I am overwhelmed with gratefulness. This program not only assists parents, it rebuilds families. It is absolutely an important, vital and necessary program for parents who desperately want to reach their children before it's too late, before they become a statistic, before they lose them forever.

This grateful mother will be forever in the debt of the MST program and this hopeful mother thanks the heavens above that such a program exists."