So, you’re going along with life, enjoying the “normal” that we all sometimes crave, and suddenly it bites you in the rear. Grief. That sorrow for things passed, melancholy caused by an empty space in your heart.
True, we all face that mourning when we first realize something is wrong, or our child is first diagnosed, or when an injury changes our child’s life forever. In those times of life people will support us for a time in our sorrow. But once we have worked through that grief, we expect to have a floor under ourselves again. We expect life to move on, move forward, and to have closure with that sadness.
But it seems to me that special needs is the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to grief.
I personally hate it because of the discomfort. I call it “going back to the grieving place”. I am usually dragged back to that place I despise at a time when I least expect it. The sorrow can be brought on by life’s sweetest moments as well as life’s worst. For instance…
- My son having a major bleed where he needs to be hospitalized makes me grieve afresh.
- Slowly looking through old photos of my now teenage children when they were little can bring tears to my eyes, wondering how we ever made it through all of the challenges.
- Noticing the increasing differences between my Aspie daughter and her neurotypical peers as they mature and she remains the same breaks my heart wide open again.
- Hearing that my eldest daughter sat out of her gym class because of her joint pain saddens and frustrates me. We still don’t have a definitive diagnosis or adequate treatment for her.
- Life transitions where we need to train a new educational team always tends to leave me melancholy.
We parents spend so much of our time and energy working on acceptance, inclusion and normalization for our children. It seems that when we are at a crossroads, we are once again forced to face the fact that our child is not like the typical child we once dreamt of raising. Certain things put special needs or chronic illness right in-your-face all over again. We must again admit that we are broken and imperfect as parents, in need of help. Like a tearful toddler that has once again fallen and reaches out for its daddy, we cry out to our Abba Father in hopes of comfort.
Know that this is normal. Grief is a journey, a process. Every person does not follow the exact same path. It often feels more like a maze or labyrinth than a straight A to B voyage. That’s the nature of loss.
I searched God’s word to offer you an example of grief revisited (since we KNOW there is nothing new under the sun). What I ran across was Jacob’s sense of loss from Genesis.
Jacob tore his clothes in grief, dressed in rough burlap, and mourned his son a long, long time. His sons and daughters tried to comfort him but he refused their comfort. “I’ll go to the grave mourning my son.” Oh, how his father wept for him. (Genesis 37:34-35, MSG)
What this tells me as a Christian is that such mourning has existed since the beginning of time. It also tells me that there are occasions when the load is so heavy, we, like Jacob “go to the grave mourning” or find ourselves revisiting sadness over certain things for years.
When you find yourself in the grieving place once again, dear parent, be gentle with yourself. Recognize it as a predictable part of raising a child with special needs. Allow yourself time and space to work through your feelings. Also, know when and if your sadness needs the additional help of outside resources like a counselor.
Revisiting grief may feel awful, but if we know that it is just a necessary, passing phase, we can feel more reassured. It helps to know that we are not alone on this journey.For further reading: Guthrie on Sad People, Safe Churches, Collin Hansen, The Gospel Coalition, August 4, 2010; States of Grief for Parents of Children With Special Needs, Kristin Reinsberg, MS, LMFT, AbilityPath.org.