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Grieving a "Normal" Life for Your Child

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

When my son was first diagnosed with ADHD, I was surprised to find myself going through all the stages of grief. Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, acceptance... Maybe not all in that order, but they were all there in a jumble of confusion, and they all focused around my son’s loss of a “normal” life. I experience this emotional phenomenon each time I’m told one of my children doesn’t fit the mold society expects of them and it no longer surprises me. Over the years, there are a few things I’ve learned that have helped me through this grief:

  1. It’s normal. My husband experiences this grief as well, and so do other parents of children with brain differences I’ve spoken to.

  2. It’s temporary. Even though it feels like it is a life-term prison sentence, it does ease over time. The sooner we have a plan in place to help our children develop the skills they need, the sooner I can have hope and acceptance.

  3. Many people don’t get it. It’s sad, but true, even Christians often have a hard time seeing our kids as God sees them when they are different. Some will come around with a little education, but some people never will. If I focus on nurturing relationships with those who are compassionate, I will make it easier for myself and my child.

  4. It doesn’t change my child’s identity. It is part of human nature to put people in boxes based on our experiences and knowledge. It helps us make sense of our world. But our kids don’t fit in the boxes society has made for them, because God doesn’t create boxes. He creates individuals, fearfully and wonderfully in His image. I wrote more about this a couple weeks ago and you can read that blog here.

The most important thing that has helped me cope is remembering that God is with me and my child. This may sound trite if you’ve been in the Church for long. We throw this phrase around when we don’t know how to help others who are hurting, but many of us have never taken the time to consider what it means. I can think of several biblical examples, but one is particularly poignant - the story of Hagar. Let me quickly summarize this story for you before I draw out what’s been helpful to me. You can read the full story in Genesis 16.

Hagar was Sarai’s handmaiden and Sarai desperately wanted children. In fact, God had promised her and Abram a great nation of descendants. But Sarai was barren. And old. So, she told her husband to sleep with Hagar in the hopes that Hagar’s child would fulfill God’s promise. But when Hagar got pregnant, Sarai’s jealousy caused her to despise and mistreat Hagar. Pregnant, betrayed, and utterly alone, Hagar fled into the desert and it was there God met her. But He didn’t lead her miraculously out of the desert to a man who would love her and provide for her. Instead, He gave her a prophesy and a promise and then sent her back to her difficult circumstances. Even the prophesy is a hard one - that her son would be an outcast and a wild, violent man. Yet, Hagar took comfort because God saw her pain, He heard her hurt and He also promised her son will be a powerful leader of a nation all his own.

This may seem like a sad, hopeless story because God didn’t rescue Hagar from the hard circumstances but sent her back to them. Friends, God never promises life won’t be hard. In fact, he promises the opposite (see John 16:33 for one example). Consider the background to this story - Sarai and Abram were left in their barrenness for 100 years. Even if God had rescued Hagar in the most romantic way, it would have led her to different struggles. She was a runaway servant with an illegitimate child who was likely a product of rape. Still, she was comforted enough to return because He saw, heard, and understood her pain in a way no human ever could and he promised her son a hope and a future. As a testimony, she named her son “The God Who Hears”, and the well where she encountered God, “The Well of the Living One Who Sees Me.” Every time she called her child’s name and every time she went to that well, she was reminded of God’s presence with her and His care for her difficult circumstances.

The Bible is full of God’s promise to be with us and to work out his plan for our future. How can you remind yourself of God’s care for you and your child?

Need more help? Book a free Discovery Session here to find out how my Flourishing Home Framework can help your family flourish. Subscribe here to get your free guide “Ultimate ADHD Resource List”.

The content found on Flourishing Family Coaching’s website and blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding ADHD, anxiety, depression or any other medical conditions. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website or blog.

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