As discussed in our last posting, the topic of grief can be a difficult proposition for people. Yet, it is an important hurdle for parents of children with special needs to rise above. Thursday night, March 15, 2012, author Jolene Philo was gracious enough to be our guest on #SpnMin TweetChat*. Jolene has put much research into this difficult topic for both Different Dream Parenting and A Different Dream For My Child. Not only does she report her findings, but she approaches the subject with great sensitivity. Here’s a smorgasbord of some of the wise nuggets Jolene shared with us Thursday as well as a guest post from her own blog:
- “Death of a child is one cause of grief. But grief follows any loss, & parents of kids with special needs experience loss, too.”
- “Parents of kids with special needs lose the dreams they had for their kids’ lives… Parents have to give up those dreams and embrace the life their child has. Grieving the losses is okay, necessary even.”
- “My son is almost 30, living a full life, about to become a daddy, & when I least expect it, the grief comes.”
- In response to the question of defining what “grief” is, “The best definition I’ve found is that grief is our emotional response to loss of any kind.”
- “Elizabeth-Kubler Ross’s 5 stages of grief apply to death of loved ones and to the death of dreams.” What are those stages? “The 5 stages of grief are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance… People can bounce from 1 stage to another in no particular order, too… Kulber-Ross’s final book “On Grief and Grieving” is a wonderful resource. She explains all this better than I can… Kubler-Ross wrote “On Death and Dying” to help people with terminal diagnoses grieve… She wrote “On Grief and Grieving” for the people left behind. It is very insightful. Again, it applies to parents like us. “
- “Also, people raising kids with special needs never experience closure, which parents who lose children may achieve… There is no end in sight for parents raising kids with special needs. So grief occurs over and over.”
- “Have any of you read any of Nancy Guthrie’s books? Very helpful, biblical support for grieving parents… 2 of Guthrie’s 3 children were born with a genetic condition that led to death before they were a year old… Go to http://t.co/v4ShtOQV to see all her books. Some are for adults, some devotions for families, some for kids… All her books are theologically sound, too. Deep issues, but easy to read… Guthrie writes about the death of children, but her insights apply to those raising kids with special needs, too.”
- “Guthrie talks quite a bit about churches not being patient with sad people… We want people to grieve for a little while and then get over it. But the grieving process after a death lasts 5 years at least… And of course, grief for parents raising kids with special needs lasts a lifetime… Yes, others do tire of it. Or else they forget about it. They assume that once the crisis is over, so is the grief… Another problem is that people just don’t understand the grief process or its duration… Yes, but Guthrie would tell you churches all too commonly don’t do well in this area.”
- “If the grief becomes incapacitating, then we need help. If it is harming our relationships with the living, get help.”
- “Our example of reaching out to those grieving can be a powerful learning tool for others… We can stick by grieving parents and families for the long haul. Send cards for birthdays, anniversaries of sad dates.”
- ” I’ve heard that sense of kids thinking they’re the cause of everything called ‘magical thinking…’ We as parents need to talk to kids and assure them they are not the cause, nor could they have prevented what happened.”
- ” Good post on topic today at Friendship Circle: http://t.co/96BC9YIG“
Aside from her own wisdom, Jolene Philo graciously shares the insights of other writers on her blog. I highly recommend, Guest Blogger April Brownlee Says, “It’s Okay to Grieve”. Browlee likes to think of herself as an ordinary mom living an extraordinary life with husband Bill and their three children–daughter Reagan, daughter Catie, who lives with Noonan Syndrome, and son Ryan. April holds a degree in journalism and spent the better part of a decade in the TV news biz before becoming a professional fundraiser for a major national non-profit. Her post examines the grieving that comes when we live with a child who has special needs.
With fabulous, thoughtful resources like these, we can become better at facing grief in both our own lives and the lives of those we serve. You would do yourself and your ministry well to pursue excellence and sensitivity in this essential area of shepherding.
*To see the transcript of the #SpnMin TweetChat on GRIEF in its entirety, please visit our Facebook Notes.