08 Feb Good Grief
Things aren’t always picture-perfect. Sometimes things can just suck. For many years I went back and forth between trying to suppress the feelings of sadness and disappointment and feeling overwhelmed by them. But as you can imagine, that can be an exhausting back-and-forth.
I tried to force myself into optimism. I pushed an inauthentic positivity that only made things worse. Now on top of the sadness, I had a hefty dose of guilt to lug around too. Why was feeling these awful things? It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Wow! What an awful person I must be…
The journey of parenting a child with special needs is a uniquely personal one. Never did I imagine my heart could soar so high or sink so low all at the very same time. Whenever I hear Mark communicate, I know I’m present at a miracle. Yet when I see him struggling with pain—pain I can’t fix or lessen—I can’t help but wish things were different. That’s not me loving Mark any less. That’s me being human.
I have selfish moments, too. I wish my older son, Nate, could have the experience of a more typical sibling relationship. Instead, the relationship between my two children—though chronologically only 1 year apart—is more like that of a parent and child. Mark knows that at only 10 years old, Nate is still “second in command.”
I long for the child I wanted. I wanted to watch a child grow and develop into a competent adult. Instead, I’m watching Mark slip further and further away each day. Instead of talking about what books he likes to read, I’m helping him feel the difference between when he’s soiled his nighttime diaper and when it’s still dry.
It’s been a journey, a long journey, to realizing that it’s okay to feel. It’s okay to ‘fess up to less than ideal emotions and thoughts. The problem isn’t the thoughts themselves, but rather how we respond to them and what we do after we drag them out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Grief doesn’t just happen when we lose someone we love. Grief can take many forms. We grieve when things don’t work out the way we’d planned. We grieve when we experience the loss of something we’d hoped for or expected. Our first inclination may be to shove this grief deep down, to deny its existence, to feel shame for even feeling it let alone naming it.
But grief can be good too. When we allow ourselves to feel the pain and experience the hurt, then we can eventually move past it too. Acknowledging and dealing with the grief of our loss—whatever it is—can help us better embrace the gift waiting for us in the present.