Published November 28, 2007 by
Parents often feel terribly depressed and grief stricken. It is as if the child they knew had died and a strange child has been left in his place. Sometimes parents feel guilty and blame themselves for the handicap. They feel it is a result of something they did, or did not do, or they feel they should have recognized the problem sooner. They feel they have somehow failed as parents.
Often parents feel angry with their pediatrician or the professionals who tell them the diagnosis. They may feel that the medical profession, which they had put such faith in, has failed them. Parents may also discover they have negative feelings about handicaps in general or their child’s handicap in particular.
All these feelings are normal. But they are hard to deal with and hard to live with. But in the end, the child is still God's baby gift.
As parents struggle with their own reactions of shock and disappointment, they may find that their normal support systems fail because friends and family are also struggling to cope with their feelings of concern. Parents may find themselves vulnerable to and resentful of advice and comments offered by friends, relatives, and self-styled experts. Parents often suddenly find themselves overwhelmed by information they are trying to understand and by decisions they feel must be made immediately.
Initially parents may not be able to absorb all the information that is being given to them. They may be worried about the effect of the handicap on other children in the family and deeply concerned about their ability to relate to the handicapped child.
It may be helpful to talk to someone with experience in dealing with these emotions, someone who can help you sort out your feelings and recognize your responsibilities. Your religious leader, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or another trained counselor may be helpful. Many parents find the greatest relief and comfort in talking to other parents who have lived through similar experiences. Parents should not try to ignore or hide their grief. In time the pain will lesson.
For some parents, the best tonic is taking action on behalf of their child, whether it is enrolling her in a therapy program or a school, talking to a specialist about prosthetic devices [an artificial limb, a wheelchair, or a hearing aid], or contacting a national organization for more information.
You will be looking at your child with new eyes, and in the beginning that can be difficult and painful. You will be establishing a new relationship with this child, different than what you planned and expected. But it can be a relationship that is fulfilling and rewarding as you work with your child to discover her full potential.