This month's blog entry was penned by guest blogger Jenny Wise from specialeducator.com.
Dealing with grief is one of the most traumatic experiences any person can face. The pain caused by loss affects not only those who knew the deceased but their friends and family members as well. Factor in the complications that come with parenting special needs children and the burden can strain even the stoutest soul. We can't erase your sadness or undo the past. We have no quick solutions or easy answers. But we can suggest options that might make the burden easier for you and your child to bear. Let's do that now.
Understanding the Mind of a Special Needs Person
Many factors make coping with loss profoundly difficult for those with special needs. These include:
● Impaired ability to process emotions. For example, autistic individuals often find themselves frustrated by circumstances most others regard as routine. A major life transition can overwhelm their cognitive processes, leading to verbal outbursts and other behavioral issues. As a parent, it's important for you to remember that these actions entail no disregard for your feelings. Your child is using the only coping mechanisms she has.
● Pronounced dependence. Persons with special needs need the help of caregivers to navigate their way through life, according to AARP. This dynamic can provoke deep set anxiety in your child, especially if the deceased was a source of aid or comfort.
● Limited emotional resources on the parent's part. We know what you're thinking: "I would do anything for my child, no matter how trying." We're not questioning your commitment; far from it. But all of us must face facts. Caring for a special needs person takes a lot out of anyone. The difficulties caused by a time of grief may exhaust your already limited reserves, unless you make time for yourself, more on that in a bit
Now that we've looked at the challenges before you, let's explore how to rise above them.
● Give yourself a break. It's easy to blame yourself if your behavior during hard times is less than ideal. But, as we pointed out before, you're only human. So stop punishing yourself. The fact that you care so much about your child shows you're a good person at heart.
● Find a support network. You're far from alone when it comes to have a special needs child. Millions of other Americans are going through similar trials. You can find advice, encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on by linking up with other caregivers, either in person or online.
● Get professional help for your child. A capable grief counselor can make all the difference in the world to how things turn out for your child and yourself. If possible, choose a counselor who is trained in dealing with special needs people.
● Do what you can to provide for your children's needs over the long term. Not only will this provide solace to your child, it can help you to have control over the situation.Trust funds and other financial vehicles are options, not only for the wealthy, but for people of average means as well, according to Investopedia.
Healing Takes Time; Let It
There is no "normal" period of time for the grieving process, despite what you may hear or read online. Your emotions may range from calm acceptance one day to anger and despair the next; and that's okay. In the end you'll look back on this time as a period of discovery and growth for both your child and yourself. So keep your head up and your eyes on the future, knowing that this too shall pass.