Monday, February 25, 2013

Please Don't Tell Me How To Feel

Having a child with special needs is a process. We grieve and struggle with acceptance, though it does not in any way mean we aren't thankful for our children. It simply means that we must grieve the loss of the expectations we had of a life with a typical child, and learn to navigate the struggles that come with having a special one.

No one expects to have a child with severe disabilities or medical issues, so when it happens to you, you feel like your world has been turned upside down. Adjusting to your new world takes time; how much time depends on the individual. For many, it's a lifetime process.

Grief has been described as coming in waves. At first they come fast and furious, but in time they usually begin to slow down though you still never know when the next one is going to hit. So as grief does, never completely leaving you alone.

The five stages of grief have been described as denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They say we don't necessarily enter each stage in that order, and often move in between the stages over time. I know for me personally, this is true. Even once you accept what has happened, you still fall back into the other stages from time to time.

This is why I ask that you never tell me how I'm supposed to feel. And I don't mean it to sound harsh. I know people just want to help, and are maybe even trying to help themselves make sense of our situation, but it doesn't help us. The process is far too personal and so inconstant, it just isn't possible to know how someone *should* feel. And if we're feeling far from what you say we should be feeling, it can only make us feel worse.

We don't have control over this process and there is no single prescription for dealing with it. We are going to be sad at times. We are going to be angry at times. We are going to be happy at times. But we cannot predict it. All we need is an ear to listen when we feel like talking, a shoulder to cry on when we feel like losing it, and a voice to help us cheer when we feel like celebrating.

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