How Parents of Special Needs Children Grieve

Being parents of special needs children is naturally not the easiest of tasks, and it requires the love and patience of a saint most days. Imagine having your parenting plan and the dreams you have for your child crushed in one foul blow as you receive the devastating news – your child is disabled and will be in your care for the rest of your existence.

Parents of special needs children have to prepare themselves for a life-long adjustment – as well as the siblings.  During an overwhelming time, they have to practice tolerance; acceptance and most importantly love the child they didn’t expect they would have.  There are public groups that are very supportive and understanding of the needs of a child with a disability and their families as a whole. There are support groups on Facebook for parents of special needs children.

When a child is born with a disability, it changes the dynamics and routine within the home. Parents of a child with a disability will grieve and these emotions will flow over to the siblings. The grieving process is similar to grieving the loss of a child, and it is just as long.

Denial

This is the first stage that occurs when a person grieves. The utter disbelief that your child is disabled, and even more so – this is happening to you. You don’t want to believe your doctors’ words, you want a second, third and fourth opinion.

“This cannot be happening to me, to my child and my family”

 Anger

Anger is lashed out in all directions – the medical staff who were bearers of the “devastating” news, once a loving couple, are now at each other’s throats – at a time where they need their partners to support the most. There is even anger towards oneself “what could I have done to prevent this?”

This is a volatile stage – where no one really knows how to deal with the fears that pop up when seeing other able-bodied children. Just like tripping over your own two feet – it’s an automatic response and gives no warning or cues before it happens. One moment you have it all together, the next you are a messy ball of fearfulness and anger towards the present situation and the future.

Fear

There are many questions that can provoke this stage of grief, such as:

  • What will happen when my child turns 5, 13 and 21 years old?
  • Who will take care of my child when I am no longer here?
  • Will he/she be able to learn and be educated?
  • Will he/she be capable of loving and enjoying life like we had hoped and planned for them?

 Bargaining

 This is the phase where you think up the unthinkable. You grasp at every possible solution to this “problem”.

 “Maybe I should quit my job and dedicate my life to finding a cure”

“If I make more money I can contribute towards further research for a cure”

Depression

 This phase hits you in waves. One moment you are hopeful and the next, you only see a sky of dark looming clouds above – you hide away from the world, your friends and family.

“I’m a failure as a parent, I cannot do this, and I’m broken”

“Nothing I do will ever be enough – I feel hopeless”

Acceptance

 This is the phase that is highly beneficial for the child with a disability as the parent puts their first foot forward and does the work to raise the child. This is seen as a beautiful journey and not a nightmare. They see their child as an authentic human being, one that isn’t defined by any kind of stigma or ignorance. While they do have limitations such as sport, they may have a natural talent somewhere else that will have you beaming with pride. The disabled child has a purpose on this planet just like anyone else and if you do a little research you will find that these children are in fact “a little piece of Heaven”.

If you are parents of special needs children here are posts you may find interesting:

How do you help a sibling adjust to a special needs child

Would you abort a baby with Down Syndrome

The Ultimate Guide To Treating Autism

ADHD – 7 Facts You Should Know About Learning disabilities