How did you feel when you heard the autism diagnosis? What ran through your head as the doctor uttered those life changing words? If your doctor was like ours who gave the diagnosis then he probably didn’t leave you a whole lot of hope for the future. Did you feel alone and isolated like the world had stopped?
I recently asked in a Facebook group I admin, Special Needs Homeschooling, this exact question. I knew how I felt when the doctor told me but I wanted to know what the general consensus was among special needs parents. There answers were not surprising but a bit eye opening.
- “validated but still sad“
- “Even if you have an inkling ahead… and even if you have previous training or experience… there is still a natural grieving process… so you have to do 2 things: give yourself permission to walk the process & give others permission to grieve differently in their own personal style – which doesn’t mean less sad or they care less, it just means they process differently”
- “Relieved. Like someone finally acknowledged all of my nights reading and guessing what it could be. And ready to move forward and get help!”
- “Relief and anxiety all at the same time. Like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders, and a continuous punch in the gut.”
- “Crushed. I sobbed for weeks. Then I got angry and grabbed Autism by the ball$ and won’t stop fighting for my son.”
- “Like I failed”
Do you see a trend here? It’s quite common to feel guilt, anxiety and fear when you hear the official diagnosis even if you are expecting it. You grieve for the child you dreamed of that will never come to fruition. You cry for the child that will have to work harder than everyone else to achieve the same results. It can be overwhelming to look at the road ahead to see all that must be done. Therapies, schooling, and respite become part of your vocabulary.
Notice though that some felt relief that now they knew what was wrong. Now it had a name. Research could begin as well as however you define recovery. Most moms agreed that after the initial shock wore off they got to work . Warrior moms are a force to be reckoned with for sure. Strength comes from reserves you never knew existed. Hope starts to trickle in as you begin plotting a treatment plan.
Like many of the moms I polled , I initially was in shock mixed with sadness. How could my perfect boy indeed not be perfect? I cried myself to sleep for weeks. I wrestled with the thought that I may not be able to help him like he needed. I doubted I had the strength, courage or stamina to walk this path with my sweet boy. I looked at my nieces and nephews who were the same age as him doing stuff that he wasn’t close to doing. My heart shattered into a million pieces every time I encountered them. It was so painful that I purposely pulled away from those families in order not to interact with them. It was like the scab got ripped off the wound making it fresh again every time I saw those children. To save myself from the pain, I cut them from my life.
The thought of not seeing Logan’s adorable face looking for mac n cheese every morning was too much to bear. Contrary to what the doctor believed, I was already attached . I would walk through fire if I had to but I would not live without him. Reminding myself that God chose ME to be Logan’s mother gave me strength when he only slept for an hour and a half. While I don’t believe God gave Logan autism, I do believe that He can use everything for His glory and Logan’s good. I have seen that promise come to fruition as Logan enters adulthood.
Regardless of how you feel or grieve, your response is appropriate. Yes, everyone grieves in some manner. Your child is so worth it . Take some time to acknowledge your feelings then get to work. There is no time to lose.