Monday, December 15, 2008

Encouragement for moms who feel guilty about their child's autism

Good day to my friends! I am excited you're here. I want to encourage you today. Many parents (especially moms) feel guilty about their child's condition. If you can let go of that guilt, your entire family will benefit.

Please take a few minutes today to work through this post with me. You might want to grab your journal or a pen and paper.

Thoughts after diagnosis

When you first found out your child had a type of autism, what ran through your mind? Jot down your initial thoughts.

Some of my thoughts were:
"This isn't what I signed up for!"
"This isn't fair!"
"I don't know if I can handle this."
"Will he ever be 'normal?'"
"Will he ever have friends?"
"How will he get through school?"
"How will we survive this?"

Were you like me? Did you feel guilty about your child's diagnosis? My most heartwrenching thoughts were guilt-ridden:
"What did I do wrong?"
"Did I do something while pregnant that caused this?"
"Did I pass along 'bad genes?'"

My head was spinning with many questions when my sons were first diagnosed, and among them were questions about my own guilt. How could I not feel that I did something wrong, especially when I have two children on the spectrum? Sadly, there have been moments when I wondered if I should have had children at all.

My boys, ages 10 and 7, were each diagnosed at age 3. I've had some time to process my initial reactions. But acceptance doesn't come easily, and feelings of guilt creep up on me from time to time. Sometimes I feel fine about my kids' diagnoses and other times I find myself stuck in the grief cycle again.

The Grief Cycle

Where are you in the grief cycle? The typical stages are:

Example - "My child is fine. He'll catch up."; "This can't be happening, not to my child!"
Example - "Why my child? It's not fair!" "NO! NO! How can this happen!"
Example - "Just let my child overcome this."; "I'll do anything, God. Can't you take it away?"
Example - "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "Life has not turned out how I wanted . . . What's the point?"
Example - "It's going to be OK."; "I can't fight it, I may as well accept it."

The hard truth is, as a parent of a child with autism, you might always be somewhere in the grief cycle. When your child accomplishes something, you celebrate. Next week when your child takes a step backward, you mourn. This roller coaster can be heart-wrenching. But you need not be guilt-stricken.

You are not guilty

This isn't your fault. There's nothing you did -- or didn't do -- that caused your child's condition. What if God did this on purpose? Have you considered that He might have incredible plans for your child -- and your entire family? That God can bring GOOD -- even AWESOME -- things out of a seemingly bad situation? I've seen Him in action, and I know this is true.

If you have to be in the grief cycle, why not strive to be in the "Acceptance" stage? Wouldn't that be the best place to live? Write down all the positive things about your child -- every little thing until your hand hurts from writing! Keep this list handy. These are the things you want to focus on because these things -- along with your child's diagnosis -- make your child who he or she is. (I will share my own lists in a separate post.)

Stop asking "Why?"

If you knew WHY your child has autism, would this change WHO your child is? No. Your child is precious, beautiful, unique and special. I pray you can let go of the "WHYs" and allow yourself to move on. Move toward accepting your perfectly imperfect family -- and just love them (including yourself).

Rene, The Autism Mom

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