Laurie Wallin is at DifferentDream.com today. She’s sharing from her heart about the special needs grief she’s experiencing this holiday season. She also shares five strategies to help her (and you) ride the waves of grief that accompany this season of joy.
5 Tools to Overcome Special Needs Grief
Holidays have a different feel for us as special needs parents. There’s always a hint of grief, whether simply in the fact that our child can’t stand unassisted to place that ornament on the tree, or their mood disorder prevents participation in the school holiday show.
Or, sometimes, it’s acute. Something that’s dug a hole through our sense of joy and wonder this season. Those can sneak up on us when we least expect it.
Do You Have Any Pictures of Your Kids?
This happened to me the other day, suddenly. In the middle of a meeting where we discussed things that seemed safe – topics seemingly unrelated to the tender place in my heart. A friend asks an innocent question: “Do you have any pictures of your kids?”
“Of course I do!” I reply, pulling my phone out and scrolling through snapshots filled with grins and antics that animate life in a family of six.
Except in the photos it’s only… five.
Screen after screen I scroll through faces. Dozens of images… and she’s not there. Has it really been that long?
And the tears ambush me. Hot and bitter. I curl over, laboring to breathe through grief that blurs images in my hand. Where is she?
Where is my little redhead?
She’s in a center for children who hurt deeper than their families, doctors and specialists can manage to heal. She’s in a place that’s not home. As we unpack decorations and bake pies this holiday season, she will miss more photos. She’s already missed so many. She’s missing our life… and we’re missing hers.
Your Grief May Surprise You, Too
As holidays unfold this year, your grief may surprise you like that, too. In the middle of a mall. In a meeting at work. Driving down the street past a favorite place. A reminder that the pain isn’t really gone. It’s just waiting for a little air to breathe. One small crack of a window and it floods in again. In those ambushed moments, we can still see good this holiday. We can fight the despair with powerful tools that strengthen grieving hearts.
5 Tools to Overcome Special Needs Grief
- Get a grief buddy. Take a friend to coffee and ask if they’d be your “I feel like crap today” friend. Someone you can email or text or just call and know they’ll listen and won’t need you to smile and have it all together. And someone who loves you enough to tell you it’s time to get up, give the kleenex a break and let the good in too.
- Find a comforting book, CD or Scripture passage for this season. Read it every morning as you awake, allowing yourself permission to cry, question and sometimes just feel numb. Choose to trust that resource to inspire and strengthen you… to fill in the gaps the tears leave behind.
- Go for a walk. Plan some time each day to get your heart pumping, whether it’s a walk around the block, vigorous house cleaning, or popping in that exercise video for 20 minutes. Endorphines released in your body will lift your mood and allow you a healthy way to expend the grief energy that sometimes feels overwhelming.
- Invest in others who are struggling. Give an evening to a battered women’s shelter, collect shoe boxes filled with personal care items for poor kids abroad, write letters to service men and women deployed across the world. Others are grieving this holiday, too. As we reach out, we remember we’re not alone.
- Plan quiet moments in your holiday busyness. The grief will surge, so give yourself space to let it. Make a 6 week calendar and plan events through the end of the year with your family, making sure there are days – even stretches of days – that are unplanned. Just allowing space in your schedule keeps away the stress that exacerbates a broken heart.
This season may feel different for me, my little girl, our family. It may be different than normal for your family too. But the joy that marks it can still be ours – real, deep joy and peace – when we let ourselves do what we need to care for our hearts.
How Do You Ride the Waves of Special Needs Grief?
Is grief part of your holiday season this year? What tools help you cope? This is a safe place to share your grief and the strategies that give you strength to go on. Laurie and I would love to hear from you. You can also visit Laurie at her blog, lauriewallin.com.
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