There are five stages to the grief cycle. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and after talking to a friend recently I decided it may help if I explained how much this really affects the parent of a child with a Difficult Mind.
There is a constant grief involved when parenting a child with the Difficult Mind.
Before I go any further I want to say a few things very clearly. First, I only speak for myself, this is my experience. Second, having a child with a Difficult Mind is not the worst kind of grief but it is still grief all the same. Third, we have learned to live with this kind of grief and we still find there is much joy to experience.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Denial. When your child looks completely normal there’s a great sense of denial when it comes to their Difficult Mind. Maybe you’re just making it up in your head. Maybe your child is just having a bad day. Maybe it is the environment or school or living arrangement. To get past the denial stage there has to be a deep recognition of truth. Truth for me took the form of a written diagnosis after years of struggling. Instead of relief, it was that one small thing that carried me from denial into anger.
Anger. Anger tends to be a reaction to pain. Realizing that your child is going to struggle for the rest of their life is painful. It is not hard to be angry at the world when you realize every single day of your child’s life is going to be a struggle. But anger doesn’t move you forward, although it may motivate you to bargain.
Bargaining. This is where I ended up when I thought I could gain back some control. If we just do more therapy. If we just buy more tools. If we just adhere to a stricter schedule. This is also where reality begins to set in, no matter how much you do your child is still hurting.
Depression. Extreme sadness. Sadness that can’t be explained in words. For me this was the part that was both the hardest and the easiest. Once I reached here and could really pain and hurt for my son I was also able to begin to see things clearly so I could get to the next place, acceptance.
Acceptance. This is the stage I’m still working on. The place where I am able to say without shame or guilt or fear that my son has a neurological condition and needs help. This is the place where I say and understand that there is no cure for my sons struggle. This is where I say with conviction “My son is the way God made him to be and we will celebrate that every day.” In acceptance, there is hope.
In hope there is comfort. Comfort for my mothering soul. Comfort that eases the heart and makes the day-to-day struggles manageable. Comfort that helps us hope and see the joy.
There is one more thing about the cycle. It’s called the cycle for a reason, it happens over and over and over again.
Having a child with the Difficult Mind means that you experience the grief cycle pretty regularly. Every day you hope that you will take one small step toward whatever milestone you’re trying to reach. Those things that come easily to other children but are a struggle for our son is what usually ignites the grief cycle for me. Recently I have seen it creep in as we try and conquer things like potty training, simple self-care and minimizing violent outbursts and toddler like tantrums.
We will reach these goals. And we will celebrate. I will then realize that there are many, many more of these kinds of milestones ahead. When I focus on the difficulty of the simple things they can become overwhelming and grief sets in, again.
I stand here today believing in hope, fighting against the potential grief and choosing joy. Humans, regardless of their struggles and seasons are magnificent. I choose to celebrate my son’s magnificence.
Today, I believe in great miracles. I will celebrate the small victories with my son as if they were big ones. I will focus on today and not worry about tomorrow. For today is what I have and today is what my son has.
“Hope and sorrow in at all there’s rescue and there’s not.”
There’s rescue: In the past and probably in the future I have had the great support of family, friends and counselors. Grief is best fought when surrounded by hope, even if that hope is not my own.
There’s not: There are so many unknowns that there are many hard days. Days where I wonder if my son will ever have friends, ever fall in love or ever know the joy of having his own family. But these are only days ahead, none of them are today.
Today I cling to hope. By holding on to hope and declaring it loudly my child, my son, receives the gift of being dearly loved, even in the midst of grief.
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