Parents of special needs children usually make their way through a journey of grief which may include the following feelings:
• denial • anxiety • fear • guilt • depression • anger.
Each person will experience grief in their own unique way. Each stage of your journey may not occur in exactly the same order as above.
Some stages may go away only to reappear when our child has a set back. There is no right or wrong way to experience grief.
Give yourself permission to talk about and express your grief in your own way.
Be sure to communicate to loved ones, friends, and family members that they need to give you the room and time to express your grief without passing judgment.
Quiet and compassionate support is what you need.
After passing through the grieving period many special needs parents might continue battling with an ongoing depression, because our lives are forever changed!
Most of our special need children will be dealing with lifelong conditions. It’s not like they have the flu, will take a pill, get better, and then life will go back to being all rainbows and unicorns again.
Setbacks may occur. Challenges may be frequent. Frustrations will run rampant.
Below are four ideas to help you through the special needs parent grief and depression cycle -
1. It is extremely important for parents and caregivers to make time for themselves!
I know from personal experience that this is easier said than done.
But sometimes just a few minutes locked in the bathroom while you read a page in a book or have a good cry is all you need to catch your breath and soldier on!
2. If your child is eligible for respite care please take advantage of it.
I know how hard it is to leave your special little someone with strangers even when they have been specially trained and finger printed for safety, but most states also have funds that can even be used to pay relatives and friends to watch your child so you can get away for an hour or two.
3. Participate in support groups. If you can’t get out to share with real life people that’s okay because there is plenty of online support available which is also very helpful.
Talking about our unique issues as special needs parents with others who get is essential for processing through to a healthy emotional life.
Firefly and Parent to Parent are both excellent emotional and informational online support resources!
4. Seek professional help, even if you think you are doing okay on your own or that your depression is not severe enough.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with consulting with a licensed mental health care professional.
In fact, there is everything right about it!
A professional can help you sort through and process your feelings and emotions and get you back on track to feeling better about coping with life as a special needs parent!
Some days you may feel nothing but despair and despondency, but I promise you that one day you will feel happy and hopeful again!
Although they may be different from what you had imagined, I also promise you that your child will someday experience triumphs, reach goals, meet milestones, achieve many awesome accomplishments and most importantly live happy, satisfying, and productive lives!
One day you will enjoy some rainbows and unicorns again!
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional or a doctor.
The above information is not to be mistaken as medical advice or medical treatment.
Please consult with a licensed medical doctor or mental health professional for treatment if you are suffering with depression.
Information for this post came in part from States of Grief for Parents of Children with Special Needs.