Saturday, August 22, 2009

Grief and coping: learning to say good bye to the child you did not have

Whether hoped and prayed for or a big old surprise, each child is a miraculous gift. Each one deserves to be wanted and loved, needs stability, kindness and understanding.

Never are we more human or dare I say mammal as when we give birth. Strong instincts takes over as we perhaps blindly rush into the life long adventure of parenting. This is not only true for birth parents; adoptive parents go through all this too and should not be excluded.

We all know how this story is supposed to go. Your darling baby boy or girl, in every way perfect, growing up, changing, developing, eventually not needing you so much, becoming strong, independent, happy people.

When we first realize that our darling bundle is different and has special needs, we are understandably terrified. Mourning that child you did not have is a necessary part of acceptance. Is it the most gut wrenching situation for a parent? Perhaps. It certainly is right up there.

The first realization is the worst and questions abound. “Will he ever be “normal”? Will we be able to mainstream him in school? Will he be teased? Will he have friendsl? Will he ever go to college, get married, have kids?” These thoughts and so many more rocket through your noggin at a dizzying pace.

Despair can set in; suddenly the sky isn’t so blue and the trees are just not as green. There is a pall over your world and family and honestly there is not much to be done. It is hard on marriages and siblings. There is a lot of self blame and guilt. Finances, patience and emotions are stretched. Depression is common.

Grieving for this child you did not have is understandable and probably just needs to happen to run its course. Although, it can last a long time. Each time you see your child next to a typically developing peer, the reality bites you hard. Another wave of grief fogs your stockpiled hope and gathered optimism. Bouncing back from that is a learned thing, only getting easier with time.

I wish I knew how to make it easier. Unfortunately, its just plain old not easy. But, we can try to be pragmatic if not completely optimistic. We can learn to be dedicated despite our fear. We can teach acceptance and tolerance to our families and our communities. We can do what ever we need to do to make our special child’s future as bright as possible and be thankful for what we have.

We can also forgive ourselves and our fate. We can learn from the challenges and revel in these uniquely beautiful children. We can learn to accept them for who they are.

There is a place in the world for each one of us, no matter what.


Henry's mom said...

So well written Shelley!

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, they are felt, I am sure by many of us. I know they are felt by me. Some days are easier then others but some days are just plain old hard.

I would love to talk again.


Holly said...

Beautiful post! It's so true, we love our kids for who they are, everyday! But sometimes their disability shines brighter than their smiling faces..

caroline said...

I am happy to come across you and thanks for expressing what is in my heart too.

I also have searched for a way to connect with other parents of special needs children, and have chosen to do it through video blogging using my background as a movement therapist. Maybe this can add to your world:
I will follow your thoughts through this blog.

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