One of the hardest aspects of being a special needs family is accepting the reality that this isn’t something you’re going to “get through”. I’ll be honest, it really bothers me when people make comments like “you’ll get through this” (referring to stress of special needs parenting) because I know I won’t.
To get though something implies that there is an end. Getting though means that one day this will be in our past and we’ll have moved on. If you say you went on a hike through the forest that means you eventually left the forest. So telling a special needs parent that they’ll get “through this” is a lie.
Special Needs Parenting is Permanent
The hard truth of special needs parenting is that this is our life. Until God calls us home, there is no getting though it. When your child has special needs it’s not like a sickness. We don’t bring our child to the doctor, get some medicine and become cured of the special needs diagnosis. No, we bring our children to the doctor (so many doctors) to try to manage their conditions to give them the best quality of life possible. We know the doctors don’t have a cure, there is no light at the end of the tunnel here in this life.
Luckily for me as a Christian I can hold onto the hope that healing will come someday.
“It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in the brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.”
~ 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
Learning to Cope
Even though I have this hope, it doesn’t make the struggles of special needs parenting any lighter. It is an extremely difficult calling on your life. In fact, the stress that comes with the special needs parenting can lead to PTSD.
Since there is no “getting through” this, we must learn how to cope or deal with the stress we face every day. In fact, I would argue it’s the most important thing we do as special needs parents. We need to acknowledge that special needs parenting is not a stage in our life we will work through. We need to determine the best possible way to deal with life the way it is, because our child’s disabilities are not going anywhere. Keeping our mental health in check is extremely important, we need to find healthy ways to cope.
This will look different for everyone. The first step however, is to make sure you grieve the diagnosis of your child. Next, I suggest you find things that are therapeutic to you. Find ways to squeeze in some self care each day. Finding ways to fit some respite into your schedule should also be a top priority. Maybe for you it means getting your nails done or meeting a friend for coffee. Others might find a support group helpful. Personally, I’m trying to figure out if we can hire someone to come clean our house every other week as a way to take one thing off my to do list.
As I said earlier, the stress associated with special needs parenting can be so great it can lead to PTSD. Depression and anxiety can also be common for special needs parents. If you find yourself feeling this way I highly encourage you to seek professional help. Although it’s hard, don’t be ashamed to admit you are struggling. The demands placed on our lives everyday without ceasing are incredibly high. Since we know that we will not be “getting through” special needs parenting, we need to do what it takes to keep ourselves healthy both mentally and physically.
Do not, I repeat DO NOT let anyone make you feel guilty for taking care of yourself. That includes yourself, there is no place for mom guilt when it comes to special needs parenting (I’m talking to myself here too). You have enough on your plate already, don’t become your own worst enemy.
At the end of the day (or in the middle of it when you want nothing more than a nap) remember that you’re amazing. What you do day in and day out is done out of love. I know you wouldn’t trade your special needs child for anything. You carry yourself through each day with grace and compassion. You are strong and determined. Your child adores you. Even though you feel invisible most days, you are loved and cherished.
“For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength” Philippians 4:13