By Heather Cox
Like many parents of children living with a disability I am often told by people that I’m so strong, so positive etc. The reality is that I’m not always those things. Who I really am is an idealist. I am authentic and real. I truly believe that happiness comes from being true to who you are and being honest about your feelings. Emotions can’t be denied, they must be acknowledged and worked through.
One of the emotions that comes with being a special needs parent is something that everyone feels at some point or another. It’s the single person who looks at the couple and feels sad. It’s the gay person watching straight people cuddling and wishing they could be so open with their partner. The daughter without a mum on mother’s day. The person struggling with IVF watching someone pregnant walk by. We all feel it for different reasons. It’s jealousy.
For us special needs parents there can be a stab of jealousy seeing someone pregnant and wishing for a time when your own future looked full of nothing but happiness. It’s seeing babies breast feeding when your child needs a tube. It’s watching a child 6 months younger being capable of more than your child. It’s watching a child walk when yours is in a wheelchair. It’s seeing kids at a playground easily run around and play whilst your child struggles. It’s children’s parties with kids with lots of friends whilst yours has none.
I have felt jealous many times but instead of it ruining my day, which in the beginning it did, I’ve learnt to acknowledge the feeling – it’s natural – not deny it, and then to let it go. I’ve learnt that holding on to it leads to depression and that denying it means the feeling festers and brings more pain.
No one would wish to be a special needs mum but I do consider myself lucky to have many tools to deal with my situation including the ability to reach out to others and the ability to be real about my feelings.
It’s not something I was taught growing up – my family don’t talk about problems at all – but it’s something within me. Maybe it’s a rejection of that part of my upbringing.
I hate the idea of jealousy and used to beat myself up when I felt it. Like I can’t be happy for others. But through learning to feel the jealousy, examine it, live with it and let it go, I am now genuinely happy for friends who have healthy babies without feeling pain and I can also point to beautiful babies and cute toddlers running around and say ‘how cute’ and take joy from these things.
It has taken time and work on myself to get here and also I understand, through my own experience that although we don’t have it easy, I am lucky to have my beautiful daughter with me now who is progressing. There are many strong mums who have it so much worse; every day through the groups I belong to I am reminded of this.
We all have our own path. Whatever your path, acknowledge when you’re sad, angry, jealous, and feeling other negative emotions. Just don’t stay there too long and let it destroy the light that is present in your life too.
Here’s a pic of my beautiful girl – for I am truly blessed.
About Heather and Arianna
Heather is mum to two girls, Erica, who has developed typically and Arianna, whose journey will be different. Heather writes a blog and has a FB page called Arianna’s Army which she uses to share her journey, educate and raise awareness and as an outlet for her own feelings.