Moving from Painful Comparison to Joyful Acceptance as Special Needs Parents
Moving from painful comparison to joyful acceptance as special needs parents is healthy. Guest blogger Kristin Faith Evans, mom of 2 kids and a mental health therapist, offers her best advice about how to make the transition.
My daughter, Beth, made the big transition to middle school last week. I sat next to her as she joined her first virtual classes of the Fall. With her compromised lungs and fragile immune system, COVID has continued to prevent her from attending school in person. She seemed happy, but I wanted so much more for both of us. Her first day of sixth grade felt anything but joyful for me. At least at first.
Comparing Increases Our Suffering
Later that day I began scrolling through pictures on social media. I found myself staring at other moms helping their daughters pick up their schedules and decorate their lockers. Sadness and irritability rose to my cheeks. The loss and grief stung.
But I’ve learned that comparing my life to others only causes me more pain. This verse has proven true in my life. “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30, NIV). The more jealous I am of other moms, the more miserable and bitter I become. When I compare, I’m pushing away my emotions and struggling with reality.
As Marsha M. Linehan explains, “Rejecting reality turns pain into suffering. Refusing to accept reality can keep you stuck in unhappiness, bitterness, anger, sadness, shame, or other painful emotions. Acceptance may lead to sadness, but deep calmness usually follows” (2015).
Validating Our Painful Emotions
I’ve found in counseling clients and through my own experience, moving to acceptance is like beginning a journey. We take our first step toward joy by naming our painful circumstances and validating our emotions.
Try this exercise:
- Name one painful emotion that you’re feeling today: _____________.
- Say to yourself, “It makes sense I’m feeling this way considering ____________________.”
- Allow yourself to feel those hard emotions.
Once I realized why I was in a bad mood, I sat down and allowed myself to cry. Validating my experience allowed me to release my bitterness and sadness. I felt relief.
If it helps you, receive God’s compassion and peace. This verse always brings me comfort: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18, ESV).
Moving to Joyful Acceptance
The next step in moving from painful comparison to joyful acceptance as special needs parents is turning to look at our circumstances with new eyes. I encourage you to begin with one moment today. Work through the exercise above. Then, turn to gaze at what truly is.
Once I acknowledged the painful reality that Beth is unable to attend school like other girls her age, I was able to see that she’s enjoying learning. She’s healthy and loving life. Expressing gratitude for the gifts in her life changed my focus. I felt joy, and I discovered new blessings.
Accepting our circumstances allows us to begin cultivating meaning in our lives. Going through this process will not take away our loss, but it can help heal our pain, bring us peace, and free us to experience joy.
How have you discovered joy in acceptance?
Reference: Linehan, M. M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Manual, Second Edition. New York: The Guildford Press.
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Kristin lives with her husband, Todd, and their two children in the Nashville, TN area. As an author and mental health therapist, her greatest passion is walking with others on their journey to deeper emotional, psychological, and spiritual wholeness. As both her children have rare genetic disorders, Kristin especially loves supporting other parents of children with special needs. She hopes that you may find encouragement and support through her two websites and blogs, www.KristinFaithEvans.com and www.SpecialNeedsMomsBlog.com.
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