I saw a post about grief being shared by some special needs mamas today. I'm guessing that each one of us mamas--those raising a special needs child and those raising typical children--have probably had to work through the stages of grief at least once in her lifetime. I know I have.
I wrote about grief a few years ago sharing some personal thoughts and experiences of mine in that post. I chose to write about the topic after hearing it being discussed on a television show. I wasn't looking for a lesson on the stages of grief when I turned on the show to drown out some of the emotions I'd been dealing with. But a lesson is exactly what I got after reflecting on those stages long after the show was over:
As the show continued, a character quoted Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and the Five Stages of Grief. Hearing those stages hit me. They hit me hard. So much for relaxing, I thought. Instead of paying attention to the rest of the show I was thinking about Ronan, wondering about his life and also brainstorming this post. I contemplated Kübler-Ross’ model. It suits more than just for those who have suffered a loss through death. The five stages, although not always experienced by every individual, nor followed chronologically, made sense to me. As the parent of a child with special needs, especially knowing that my child was typically developing for a period of time, it does fit the criteria of a terminal loss. I should note it’s not so much the physical death of a child I was reflecting upon because, thankfully, my son lives and breathes. But his abilities and his disabilities remind me daily of loss, loss of what he can do and what he can’t do. Sadly, our community has witnessed deaths resulting from issues with autism. But my original thoughts about Ronan’s great needs and of what could have been, and later what should have been had I known more – yes, those. They exist. They are true. They are real. They are unfortunate. And for many, these issues could have been prevented.
Grief is not an easy subject to talk about nor an easy emotion to work through. I've been mostly successful in moving through the stages and cycles of grief as I experience them, but not without support, extra prayers, and the will to get through them. I don't have one set strategy for each stage (or for the others that Mary mentioned in her comment after my post) but I am thankful that when I start to feel overwhelmed, when I sense a feeling of depression coming on, or when I think that giving up seems loads easier than pushing through, I at least recognize that things are getting bad.
Knowing that I've hit rock bottom isn't the best feeling in the world nor the best place to be, but when I hit that dark and dismal place, I recognize it. Not only that, I know that I will soon realize that after hitting rock bottom, the only other direction I can go is up.
Looking up gives me resolve to get up.
To do something.
To try again.
To always remember to try, try again.
A process, grief and all that comes with it is one of the hardest emotions I have had to work through. I know that I very likely will experience grief several times as a mother. I know that I will learn from it each time I experience it. I also know that no matter what brought that grief on, I will always try, try again. That seems to be my motto: try, try again. With all that we've had to handle, it's a good one to live by. It's one that I don't plan on letting go of any time soon.
If you have any strategies for what's helped you through the stages of grief, please share them in the comments section below.