Pavement

RESTORING: Drawing on life experiences to restore yourself

Much is written about resilience and definitely parents of children with special needs need plenty of it. One key to developing resilience is to allow the very experience of our journey to be healing (turn dross into gold). I’m not talking about only for our child and what helps and heals him or specific treatments and “interventions.” I mean how we derive healing for us and as a result grow strong. Nothing worth having is easy.

Being a parent is hard work. Mother is a big, lifetime job. All of us need to be resilient. Remember too: all of us need healing.

Life experiences an

d situations hold the potential to provide healing if we allow them to. We unlock potential in our child and in ourself if we make these experiences mean something to us.

Coming to terms with my experience of our son’s difficult birth and facing the consequences—to the extent that we knew what the consequences were going to be—was a gradual process and ongoing. There are no crystal balls for anyone.

For me the birth of our daughter after our son’s diagnosis was a healing force for our family and helped me grow into and accept the person I am and the person my son is. But it’s because I made it that way. Writing books and helping others helps me. This is why I do it. And my life circumstances depended on it and made it possible.

Our role as parents means we are witnesses, storytellers and also characters in the scenario. At multiple junctures we have assorted feelings about our child’s circumstances and the role we play, both positive and negative.

Examining and exploring our feelings helps us separate how we feel about our child from how we feel about our child’s diagnosis or situation. (This is very important and effective for parents because when answering questions and filling out forms, a clear and dispassionate description of our child supports and encourages a doctor or therapist or teacher to do their best on behalf of our child.)

There are processes—experiments—that can help: Take the time to consider the following path:

  1. Give yourself permission to mourn.
    Explore, “What did I hope for?”
    Recognizing loss and allowing ourselves to experience emotions that are ours alone is a first step to healing.
     
  2. Give yourself permission to celebrate.
    Explore, “What do I have?”
    Detailing our unique joys and gifts that our child represents is another step to healing.
     
  3. Make a timeline of life.
    Retell—to a trusted friend or in writing or to your rabbi or priest—the birth story of your child and the major milestones you faced and worry about facing.

In these efforts we need to make lists and we need to make time (which we don’t have) but only a few minutes. Like so many things, simple measures can be profoundly effective. I will detail one of them in my following blogs.

Laura was the Chair of the Board of Resources for Children with Special Needs before it became INCLUDEnyc. Her son Seth is perpetuating the family tradition by serving as a board member today, as well as her daughter Haya on the Junior Board. Laura expands on these self-care ideas in a chapter entitled “Restoration” in her recent book Uncommon Voyage: Parenting Children with Special Needs—A Guidebook. You are invited to join her community of support on Facebook, Twitter, and at uncommonvoyage.com.