When being thankful is hard as a special needs parent this Thanksgiving, stop trying to be grateful and take comfort in this mercy and compassion. When being thankful is hard as a special needs parent––and let’s not beat around the bush, watching our children struggle doesn’t lend itself to loud hosannas––how do we approach Thanksgiving? How do we cultivate gratitude without sugar coating the challenges in our kids’ lives? How can we be grateful when a child’s condition is going from bad to worse, and we can find nothing to be grateful for?

I stared down those questions more than once when our baby boy struggled to stay alive.

The first time was during my first Thanksgiving as a parent. By then our six-month-old had endured 2 major surgeries, a three week NICU stay, a week long PICU stay, two dozen early morning GI procedures, and an overnight hospital stay on Halloween weekend. I was sleep-deprived, grieving, and my breasts were sore after months of pumping milk for our tube-fed baby who could tolerate nothing but breast milk. The thought of being thankful for my child’s precarious state of health and the pain our baby had endured was unimaginable. Cruel.

I couldn’t do it.

The week after my thankless Thanksgiving, I did what proud, new parents everywhere do. I composed a Christmas letter, complete with pictures of our baby boy in his elf costume, to mail to the many friends and family members who had faithfully prayed for us since our son’s birth.

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