We hope all of our lives. When we are young we hope that we will be able to go to Disneyland on our summer vacation. When we are teenagers, we hope that Taylor will like us back. When we become adults we start to hope for things like a good job, a spouse, children and a nice life. Once we find out we're expecting, we hope the child will be born healthy. We are a hopeful society.
But what happens to our hope if we have a special needs child?
If you ask me, our hope deepens & matures in a way that couldn't come any other way. Sometimes it is buried deep down & covered with despair.
Sometimes it's hard to come out of that despair after getting your child's diagnosis, but it is possible. Here are some tips to help you find your hope again.
Let yourself grieve. It's healthy. Just be sure you don't become so focused on grieving that it effects your child negatively. Your child needs you. So once you've grieved enough, muster enough energy into trying to make the best of it & be there for your child.
Serve your children, your spouse, yourself, your child's therapist, etc. Something magical happens when you serve, no matter what your current situation is. Sometimes it's even more magical when you are in the depths of despair yourself. When you focus on serving others, you forget about yourself. Even if it's just for a second. There is such a sweet happiness that only comes from helping someone else. You will benefit so much more than you ever could imagine. I know you're busy. Oh boy are you busy, but even if you just serve a little here and there, it will pay off. I promise it! And guess what... just because someone tells you to serve, doesn't mean you can't serve in your home. You're a mom (I assume so, anyway)! You serve 24/7! Service is in your blood more than you know it. But it will pay off if you keep your eyes open for ways you can serve at home or not at home.
(yes, even love those who give you those dirty looks in public and the neighbor who wrote you that nasty letter... well maybe...)
Love is something powerful, my friend. If you love those around you, they will love you back. Love can nurse even the worse of situations into something amazing.
You know the phrase, 'sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying'? That's okay! But guess what... there will be good days, too. And sometimes in the middle of those good days, your special needs child will do something really silly. And you just won't be able to hold it in anymore. You'll laugh. Maybe you'll even laugh 'til you cry. If your child is like me, it will be just at the time you need it the most. Enjoy this time. It's not what you expected your life to be. It's not what you expected for your child. But it's your life. You can make it good. Your child needs you to make it good. If they see that even in the midst of this huge trial, you still laugh & love your life, then that's a great lesson for them to learn. Not one that is all that common anymore, I'm afraid.
Learn as much as you can about your child's needs. Learn how to be there for them. Learn how to empathize with others. Learn anything you can. If you are open to learning, your life will be so much richer because of that. Your children will also benefit so much from that.
Whether you are religious or not, sometimes life gets hard enough to bring you to your knees. Let me tell you a little story. One day, my sweet Paige was getting so sad that I couldn't understand her. Her own mom couldn't understand what she was trying to say. I can only imagine how hard that would be. I felt so bad for her. I asked question after question trying to figure out what she was trying to tell me. Each question I asked, lead to her shaking her head no, which made her more & more sad each time I didn't figure it out. I was desperate. Because I ran out of ideas, I suggested to her that we say a prayer. We prayed & seconds later, I figured out what she said. She and I were so relieved. This ended up happening several times throughout the following months. It was such a blessing to rely on prayer when we didn't have any other options.
Make a Hope Jar
If you are really, really having a hard time finding hope, practice it. Each time you realize you're stressing or depressed, write a positive hope on a strip of paper & add it to a mason jar. If you're having an extra hard day, read all of the previous 'strips of hope'. If you practice something, it makes you better, right? So why not practice having hope?
When you have a child with special needs, you quickly realize how much the "little things" mean. We need to celebrate every single small step in the right direction. Every correct sound, every time they do something new, every time they do something right... celebrate! Cheer. Give high fives. Clap. Have a dance party. And my personal favorite... great, big, giant, squeeze hugs! If you are able to do that as often as possible, that will make your life a little bit more positive. Oh yeah, and don't forget to celebrate their effort... even if the end result wasn't what you were aiming for. That will help keep your child in good spirits.
Keep on Going!
Okay, this may be a dumb one. Obviously you don't have a choice, but to keep on going. But, I just wanted you to hear from someone else that you can do it. We all need a little cheering on now and then. Let me be your cheer leader right now. You have come this far & done this great. You can do hard things! You can make it through the day after a night of no sleep, you can be your child's speech therapist 24/7, you can conquer those horrible IEP meetings!
At the end of the day, it feels better to have hope rather than to be buried with grief. It might take time, but you can let hope be stronger than despair. You are not alone. There are so many other people going through similar situations. You are amazing!
I Linked up with It's All Special, Christian Mommy Blogger, Anything Goes and Wise Woman Linkup... you should, too!
What have you done to find hope?