We, as parents, often attach to our children, our own dreams, fantasies, and hopes for a better future. Children are our second chance. Even the most hardened individual seems to sense a measure of spirituality when they realize that a human life has sprung from their genes. How then do we overcome an irreversible chronic disease that will make realizing our dreams of a better future for our children that much more difficult? How can we help our child, our other children, ourselves?
What happens is that when we face adversity we become better or worse. We can’t stay the same. What makes the difference? Some parents seem to pull their lives together around their child's illness, others go to pieces. Very often at the time of diagnosis we alternately feel anxious, angry, denying, guilty, depressed and fearful. These are usually temporary emotions. As we become more comfortable with, and knowledgeable about daily diabetes management, these emotions are replaced by others. We often remain somewhat overwhelmed by the situation and begin to feel some regrets, and we sometimes think about “what if”, or “if only”. These are all feelings associated with grief.
Grief. Now we have a name to put on those vague feelings of unease that seem to invade our thoughts about our diabetic child long after the initial shock of diagnosis wears off. What is parental grief? Is it the loss of a "normal" child? Is it the disruption of one's "normal" lifestyle? Is it concern or shame over what other family members or friends may think? Could it be the disappointment with the ineffective responses of a spouse or the difference in the depth to which it affects each of us? Whatever the reason we must experience the process of grieving. Yielding to the grieving process helps us find the inner strength and external support needed to focus the energies we now must have to change our thinking, and really begin to help our child and family begin to live a normal life again.
When we recognize and allow ourselves to experience this pain of grief we accomplish several things. By being honest with our feelings we experience something like an internal cleansing of all of the diabetes diagnosis related junk that has been cluttering our minds. We put ourselves in a better position to be able to forgive any resentment that we may be harboring towards our spouses or others close to us. And most importantly, we can really begin to prepare our children for the life we had envisioned for them in spite of diabetes.