At fourteen, I’d already figured out what I hated most about life.
“I hate change,” I declared.
“Get used to it. Life is full of change,” my mother advised.
Her reply didn’t change my opinion. It was set in stone. If I had anything to do with it, change wouldn’t rule my life. That was that!
Then I grew up. Life happened. Changes smashed my declaration that had been etched in stone.
Not So Bad
I discovered some changes aren’t so bad. Some are even wonderful. Like graduations, new jobs, weddings, and births. But even those changes are bitter-sweet. Each involves more responsibility. Some involve moving away from friends or family.
Grownups know change is sometimes just hard. Or even devastating. Like when our close friends, Trish and Dave, lost their two-year-old son, Ryan, to drowning. That kind of change triggered unimaginable grief.
As if that loss wasn’t horrible enough, both sets of grandparents were reliving their own nightmares. Trish’s parents and Dave’s parents had lost a child in death as young parents. So, they had already experienced the searing pain that comes with outliving a child.
“You’ve had to face this, Dad. What advice do you have for me?” Dave asked his father right after Ryan died.
“You talk about your faith, Dave. Now you’re going to live it,” Dave’s father gently replied. He knew the only way to survive such a loss was with God’s help.
Decades later, Dave died from cancer. How did Trish deal with being a widow at fifty-eight? With God’s help.
When you were first married, did you envision a care-free Norman Rockwell family with happy and successful children? Maybe you were more realistic in your expectations. Perhaps you were mentally prepared for difficulties. But you never expected your child to have mental illness (MI). Neither did I.
Before I had children, I taught multi-handicapped children. So, my biggest hope was that my children would be “normal” – free of any disabilities.
When our sons were toddlers, my husband and I enjoyed thinking about what professions they’d enter. Both excelled in math, so we kinda thought that maybe they’d gravitate to fields that involved numbers. Like business or accounting.
MI is the kind of change that demolishes dreams. Or does it? Just because our children won’t live a life we anticipated for them, that doesn’t mean they won’t live a meaningful life.
The challenge for us is to adjust to God’s plans for our child’s future. To even embrace the path they take. How can we do that?
Long ago, I attended a workshop for educators that dealt with grief. The speaker said something that helped me understand what I was going through.
“Many things trigger grief. Not only does the loss of life trigger grief, but other things force us to grieve. Like having a child with special needs. That represents the loss of a dream.”
The loss of a dream.
Those words echoed in my mind. I reflected on her statement and realized that I WAS going through the grief process. In a way that gave me hope. That meant I was heading to the final stage: acceptance. With God’s help, I’d eventually get the place where I’d be able to accept change.
What’s Needed Most
As we journey towards acceptance, we need peace. Christ knew that’s what his disciples needed. Jesus appeared to His disciples after He arose from death. The men were grieving and fearful. John 20:19 tells us that their Lord came to comfort them.
“Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’”
He’s still in the business of comforting His children and offering peace.
If I could go back to my fourteen-year-old self, I’d offer some words of comfort. When teenage Vicki would declare, “I hate change,” I’d reply, “Change will always happen, but God will never change. You can depend on His unchanging love and faithfulness. He’ll always comfort you, remove fear, restore hope, and give you peace.”