Special Needs Parents and the 5 Stages of Grief

Special needs parents and 5 stages of grief and a wheat field with the setting sun in the background

Special needs parents is what we are. It is a badge we wear, more than a cross we bear. But in order to reach a point of acceptance you need to allow yourself to grieve.  You need to grieve the children and life you thought you would have. You need to clear ‘what if’ and ‘why me’ out of your life. And once you’re done, you’ll be able to enjoy your kids for the special gifts they are.

Special Needs Parents and the Denial Stage

Even though we suspected that our kids were different, it was a real shock when someone finally came out and said it. I remember my heart dropping and about a million scenarios rushing through my mind. It can’t be true? How can we have two kids with special needs?

After the initial shock, came quite a long period of denial. The teacher and the school were wrong. We even took our kids out of that school and sent them to another one. We tried to justify their behaviour as being something else. I trawled the internet, taking online tests until I got the answers I wanted. But when the second school told us we should have the kids assessed, the time for denial was over.

Special Needs Parents and the Anger Stage

There was a lot of anger, I must be honest. And this anger was often directed at the world as a whole outside of our family unit. It’s easy to get angry with the country for not providing more services for kids with Autism. And at therapist who charge exorbitant fees. Not to mention people who misunderstand the kids’ behaviour as disobedience and recommend punishing them. And even friends and family who sometimes don’t seem to understand what it means to have special needs kids in practical terms. We do still get angry but are now more informed and therefore more prepared for situations that cause anger and stress.

Special Needs Parents and the Bargaining Stage

In this stage, guilt is definitely the most powerful emotion that goes along with bargaining. And I find that it still slips in now and then when I’m feeling low. What did I do to cause this to happen to my children? Can I go back in time and correct it? I’ll do anything to have ‘normal’ children. Once again, I did lots and lots of reading on the internet to see what causes Autism. And as you probably know, this is a surefire way to make you go crazy. I try to avoid this now because what’s important now, is equipping my children for life. What’s done is done.

Special Needs Parents and the Depression Stage

As a person who tends to be naturally quite blue and pessimistic, this was a hard stage to get over. And it seemed to last a long time. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer task of raising my kids. How were we going to afford therapy, school and facilitators? Who was going to look after them later in life? Anybody who suffers from depression knows that this is not a state of being that inspires positive thoughts and actions. But as with all phases, it luckily passed.

Special Needs Parents and the Acceptance Stage

Lastly there is the acceptance stage and this is where we are now. We are special need parents and it’s OK. We have taken positive steps towards equipping our kids for life. This is why we are going to homeschool next year. Now we know how to handle meltdowns and the looks and comments that go hand in hand with them. We can calm our kids down when needed. Each milestone is a celebration and we marvel at what our kids are capable of. Our kids are hilarious and special and talented and lots and lots of fun. We have accepted they have special needs and have adjusted our lives accordingly. The acceptance phase is a great and I highly recommend getting here as soon as you can!

How was your Journey Towards Acceptance?

I would love to hear how your journey towards acceptance was or is going. Please drop me an email or comment below.

Special needs parents and 5 stages of grief and a wheat field with the setting sun in the background
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