Even in the midst of your grief and loss, however, open your eyes wide and look for the gift. There’s something to celebrate in every life and with every child, no matter what challenges lie ahead.
How to Save Your Family: Love Your Child—As is
As your emotions move through various stages, keep your head and your heart aimed towards one thing: to love your child, as is. That’s how God loves us. He loves each one of us completely, in spite of our hidden defects and obvious flaws, and most especially when we feel most unlovable. He will help us love our child the same way. No, you’re not a bad or faithless mom or dad because you’re sad, angry, or scared about what the future holds. That’s normal. Lean on Him and accept the strength that comes when you acknowledge your need for the Lord’s help.
Acceptance doesn’t wipe out negative emptions. It puts them in context. Joy, like sadness, ebbs and flows with time. Even though you love and fully accept your special needs child, you may still experience moments when you realize anew that their child won’t reach certain milestones. Attending a niece’s wedding or a nephew’s college graduation, for example, may renew your sense of loss. Acknowledge it, fortify yourself, and keep going.
Acceptance also doesn’t mean that you stop fighting for your child. On the contrary, love will stir you to become your child’s fearless advocate. You may discover strengths you didn’t know you had.
Seek support and involvement in the special needs community. You need the company of parents who know exactly how you feel, and you will benefit from the networks and resources that they will share. The Special Olympics, for example, provides a wonderful experience for children with special needs—and offers a fantastic opportunity for siblings and family members to help others. Many churches also offer specialized ministries that help your child learn about God in a supportive environment. One of my favorite's - Capernaum - is a ministry for young adults with special needs and can be found through www.YoungLife.org And an organization I love that has a website families can visit for encouragement, tips and even to share their personal stories can be found at www.ChosenFamilies.org.
Although receiving a special needs diagnosis may mean lost dreams, it doesn’t mean lost love. Love—the deep, forever kind of love—takes root and grows most richly in the soil of difficulty and pain. And the fruit of that love ripens sweetly. Sarah’s mom discovered that loving her daughter meant loving her “as is,” rather than wishing for what might have been. Sarah is a different gift from the one her mother imagined. But she’s a gift wrapped in love, mysteriously revealed one day at a time. And for that, Sarah’s mom is truly grateful.