Weeks had passed since my adult daughter had moved to a new city, and each Sunday that she missed church brought me the same concerns. Would she ever return to church? I tried everything I could think of to get her there: encouragement, logic, pleading, acting as her personal alarm clock, prayer, fasting, even calling her bishop. Since we lived 2,000 miles (3,220 km) apart, it was difficult for me to attend with her, but I even tried that!
I continually imagined that if I could just tweak the situation a little, my daughter would reestablish her spiritual trajectory. I felt I just needed the right person—her visiting teacher, her bishop, a friend or family member—to be placed in her path to say or do just the thing that would steer her back. But nothing was working. My head spun with worry, and my heart filled with guilt and anguish that I had failed her as a parent.
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Many others share my experience. When children leave the gospel path, it can be very difficult for parents who remain faithful to cope. One mother was so upset by her daughter’s choices that she said it felt painful to breathe. A father shared that he felt his children were rejecting him and his way of life. A young mother worried that her own young children might someday question themselves out of the Church.
How do we cope with these painful feelings when family members choose to leave the Church? There are several things we can do.
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Recognize Our Children Are Also God’s
When her teenage son started questioning his beliefs, one mother became overwhelmed with feelings of guilt and failure. While thinking of how she could have parented differently, she received a merciful impression: “He is not only your child. I love him even more than you, and I’m not feeling guilty about him or any of my other wandering children.” From that moment on, this mother was able to let go of the guilt and focus instead on what a lovely child of God her son was.