People said some lovely things to us when we first learned that Mason had Down syndrome. I know their intentions were good and they wanted to encourage us with comments like, “God only gives special kids to really special people,” and “It takes such wonderfully kind people to raise kids like this, so it’s obvious why God chose you.” “What a gift you’ve been given and how great it is that God chose you to be Mason’s mom and dad.”
Yes! Absolutely we were given a gift in Mason, a great one, and I have always loved him in more ways than he’ll ever know. I felt that way from the very beginning, so I would nod and smile and receive these words as graciously as possible.
But inside I wanted to scream. I wanted to shout back at them about how hard it was to imagine the rest of our lives knowing that our son would struggle, he wouldn’t be like other kids, and we had no clue what we were doing. They didn’t understand the feelings of inadequacy or the depth of fear we were facing as we thought about the implications that Down syndrome would have on our son’s life, and the life of our family.
We were scared, broken, and grieving over a loss of what we had expected for the life of our third child.
Losses of any kind bring about emotions that are overwhelmingly strong. You can feel immense sadness one minute and outright anger the next. Oddly enough joy gets mingled in there too, and closely behind it are feelings of guilt and doubt. The cycle is never-ending and at the beginning it takes over your life, affecting your ability to function in a lot of ways. It can be difficult to think clearly, sleep, be in large groups of people, and fulfill the normal tasks of everyday life.
As frustrating as it is to feel like you’re completely out of control in what once came so easily, it’s even more challenging to realize that life has to go on. In the midst of grief and loss we aren’t afforded the opportunity to stop and process the emotions that have suddenly taken over. Somehow we have to learn how to navigate both simultaneously.
What often happens is that we aren’t sure how to do this, so, the pain gets buried, the feelings are kept on tight reigns, and we think we have things under control. Until we realize that we don’t. A memory is triggered, or a milestone isn’t reached in a normal progression of time and suddenly we’re back in those early days of strong emotions, feeling the intense pain of our loss.
Life with Mason has been hard lately, and I find myself struggling again with emotions that I felt during the first months of Mason’s life. We’ve been somewhat spoiled now that he’s in school and I’m not taking him to therapy. Over the snow days we had last week, when everyone was home again all day, the challenges we face in raising Mason became more obvious. I realized how difficult certain aspects of parenting him are and how those challenges affect me.
I usually push back the negative feelings. I don’t want to dwell on the difficulties or focus on the struggle. I have children to care for, a husband who needs me, a house to clean, projects to do, the list goes on. There are other people in my life who are experiencing sufferings far greater than mine so I compare our circumstances and talk myself out of my own pain.
You know. Because you’ve been there too. You have losses in your life that affect you. Maybe they don’t surface everyday and impact your daily life, but somewhere, simmering in your soul are feelings of grief over something that has either been taken away or was never given in the first place.
Loss is hard and painful and we do ourselves a disservice by failing to acknowledge what is hard and feel the pain that comes with it. Recognizing the hard things in our lives is helpful, not because we should wallow in self-pity and sit in our pain. We acknowledge the hard things in life so that we can sit with Jesus in the midst of our pain. He doesn’t withhold his comfort from you because someone else has it harder. We are given the promise of God’s presence in equal measure regardless of the severity of our struggle or loss.
Sitting with Jesus in the midst of our pain is how to navigate losses in life in a way that brings healing, comfort, and ultimately draws us closer to the Lord. He already knows our struggles and how they are manifested in our lives, so it’s not a surprise to him. But as we lay our burdens before him we enter into a deeper type of fellowship with Christ; we begin to understand a little more fully what it means to know Christ as we share in his sufferings.
When you’re scared, broken, grieving a loss, or just plain having a bad day, there is hope. No, you can’t stop life and sit in your pain until it goes away, but Jesus offers you the gift of his presence and walks with you through the pain and struggle. He wants to comfort, he desires to bring healing, and the joy that is found in him can be yours, even in the midst of loss.
I find the following Scriptures to be especially helpful during times of pain and struggle: The book of Psalms; Isaiah 43; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Romans 8:18-39