The season of giving and gratitude is upon us. Over the next month, families and friends of different faiths and cultures will gather to share traditions, exchange gifts and express thanks for the blessings that fill our lives. For those of us who are parents raising a child who faces great challenges, how does gratitude fit into the complexity of our emotional lives? Is it possible to be mad as hell at the causes leading to our children’s injury and simultaneously be able to open our hearts, offer thanks, and take in the joy of the season shining around us?
I think so. In the early years when my son’s development went off track and we received an autism diagnosis, it would have been hard for me to name things in my life that I was grateful for and even harder for me to perceive the many blessings in my life. Certainly, my two beautiful children, my husband and many great friends—but my anger, shock and grief were so strong that it was hard to be in touch with a deeper place of love and thanks.
It was in the process of taking steps into my son’s healing journey that I was able to move through my grief. As I encountered doctors, warrior parents and organizations like Generation Rescue giving support and love to me, I was able to breathe again and open my heart to the help that I was receiving.
Letting go of my anger was a process that took several years. I came to see that my anger was most powerful when transformed into action: working my butt off on my son’s home program, fighting like a bulldog at IEP meetings, creating my “Kitchen Classroom” business to give other parents tools to connect and communicate with their children.
My son is nearing his tenth birthday and so this year is an especially reflective time for me. My parenting journey has not been the one that I had ever imagined and yet, I don’t know if my heart would be as open, deep and loving as it is now if I hadn’t faced the struggle to help heal my son. I don’t know that I would have discovered my own powers and experienced the power of community and support that I know now with my fellow warrior parents.
We don’t focus enough on the emotional and spiritual journey that parents take, willingly or not, as we embark on our children’s healing journeys. I encourage you busy parents to take a moment to reflect on those people and circumstances that fill you with gratitude right now, wherever you are in your journey. To feel gratitude in the midst of your world rocking is not an easy skill to cultivate, and yet may be a powerful practice to guide you and fill you with love and thanks through your days.