Recently I was asked to help a college student with a project for her class. She is studying Early Childhood Education at ECU and she needed to interview a family with a child who had a disability. Fifteen years ago my son was diagnosed with autism. We are that family.
Most of the initial questions were routine. How did you know that your son had autism? What services did he receive in school? How old was he when he was diagnosed? And then she asked one that really made me think. “What advice would you give other parents who have children with disabilities?” I sat in silence for a few minutes and searched my heart and mind for the right answer. My answer was simple, only four words:
It’s okay to grieve.
My son is amazing and I’m not the only one who thinks so. He has a great sense of humor and delights those around him with his quick quips and jokes. He is a talented musician and actor. He loves children and can be found giving them piggy back rides and wrestling with them on the floor. He has an uncanny memory and has always amazed us with the abstract things that he remembers, like what year a particular LEGO set was released or what year he last saw the Bimbo bread truck (2012). He is an all around great kid, and I celebrate all that he is. Hey, he even got a scholarship to attend our local university.
But in a Christian culture that tells us to be thankful and content with what we have, I’m here to confess that I have grieved for what I do not have.
I can celebrate who my son is, but what I grieve is the natural relationship that mothers have with sons. I see it between you and your sons. I see a joyful camaraderie as you share life together. I see your sons kiss your cheeks in affection. I see them give you hugs when you did not ask for one. I see them enjoying just hanging out with you.
Meanwhile, my arms are empty and my cheeks are lonely and my heart longs for an “I love you.” Just one.
Some may chide me for not being thankful enough for what I do have or may think that I am just feeling sorry for myself or having a pity party. No, that’s not it at all. My heart hurts. Over and over again, my heart hurts.
Through the years, grief has come in waves and I embrace it, feel the pain, and then tidy it back up and put it away until it demands to visit again.
IT’S OKAY TO GRIEVE.
That is my advice for parents of children with disabilities. But I think that it is advice that some of you may need to hear as well.
If your child is lost to drug addiction, it’s okay to grieve.
If your husband is mired in depression, it’s okay to grieve.
If you long for a husband, it’s okay to grieve.
If you could never have children, it’s okay to grieve.
If your father has dementia, it’s okay to grieve.
If you are estranged from your mother, it’s okay to grieve.
If your marriage fell apart, it’s okay to grieve.
If you lost a child to cancer, it’s okay to grieve.
If your husband has left you, it’s okay to grieve.
If you finances are a mess, it’s okay to grieve.
I believe that grief is a painful wound that cannot be eradicated by thankfulness or contentment or sheer strength. Give yourself grace, my friend. Let yourself grieve, my friend. I’m right there with you, my friend. It’s okay to grieve.
Here is a scripture that have given me strength and hope as I grieve: The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18 NASB
What about you? What are you grieving? Leave me a comment or send me an email at Lisa@CelebratingWeaknesss.com. It would be an honor to pray for you.
Do you know someone who has special needs children, or perhaps broken dreams? Consider sending them this email, or share the link on Facebook.
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