Tag Archives: support

Cords That Cannot Be Broken

 Strand by TCJ2020 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I tried to connect with another parent raising a child with special needs, but she compared her child to mine. She said I can’t understand what she goes through. My situation isn’t as challenging as hers because my child ‘just has …’.”

Q&A time after a presentation is always interesting, but this recent statement… Wow!  I spoke at a Mother’s retreat and this mom’s comment caught me by surprise in some ways, but also resonated in others.

I’ve led support groups for years and find parents connect on a variety of levels.  Though their journeys and diagnoses of special needs may be very different, parents have a variety of common experiences: grief and guilt, anxiety about the future, coping with school plans, and more. As parents bond and connect, they can see past the differences in diagnoses to their shared challenges in parenting.   Time and again I’ve heard parents marvel at how connected they feel despite the fact that the diagnosis within their families are so varied.

Yet I have also heard comments like the one the mom shared at the retreat.  My son is on the autism spectrum and when he was entering high school another parent of a child with autism told me that I didn’t know what it was like for her because my son was older then and didn’t have the same expression of autism as hers. True, on some levels. Though my son was not born “older,” one can never know the exact experience of another person.    There is a saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” It is a spectrum with a variety of expressions as unique and individual as fingerprints.  But it doesn’t mean that the differences in the expression of that spectrum renders parents incapable of hearing each other’s stories and helping each other in the midst of hard times. If we limit ourselves to only connecting with parents on exactly the same path as our own, it is going to be a very small circle of understanding and support.

It is possible to care and connect even if our life circumstances are different.  We do that all of the time.  Recently we’ve experienced torrential rain in my hometown.  I’ve received phone calls, text messages, and social media connections from across the country from friends checking in to see if my family is okay.  I suppose I could respond by saying, “If you’ve not had multiple inches of rain in a short period of time day after day you can be no help to me.” The truth is that you don’t have to experience a flood of epic proportion in your home town to be able to understand that it is frightening, creating rising anxiety to match the rising waters.

Genuine empathy and compassion are not necessarily born of having lived the exact circumstance, rather they are born of caring and friendship. One of the healthiest things parents can do for themselves is to connect with others in mutually supportive relationships.  In the book of Ecclesiastes, the author writes poignantly of the importance of relationships.

And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one.  A threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12 NRSV

Sure, we can stand against adversity and challenges on our own, but it is so much easier to share the journey. Community and support are a gift, even when they come from unexpected places.

Holy God, bind us together, Lord, bind us together with cords that cannot be broken. Bind us together, Lord, bind us together with love. Amen

Rev Doc Lorna

Prayer by Bob Gillman

Image “Strand” by TCJ2020 from FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Five Ways to Support a Parent in Medical Crisis

“Counting Hand Sign” by Teerapun courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 NRS)

Parents of children with frequent health crises and hospitalizations can easily become socially isolated. Family, friends and congregations often would like to help, but may not know what parents need. Parents may not even know themselves what would be helpful. Here are a few basic suggestions for offering support:

  • Parents often enjoy company. Compassion fatigue can be a real challenge for families. Even though hospitalizations may be a frequent reality, each one is due to a critical medical need placing parents under tremendous stress.  Parents spend countless hours on edge and in need of distraction. A friendly face at the door can be a real blessing. Contact them first to let them know you would like to stop by if they want some company and ask what time is best for them.
  • Offer to help, and be specific. I catch myself at times saying, “Let me know if you need anything.”  I mean what I say, but the offer is so vague that it almost never accepted.  It is better to be specific and ask if there is something in particular they need, or make an offer that is clear. “I’d like to bring a meal on Monday or Wednesday,” or “I can pick up your youngest child from school and bring her to my house for a play day,” or “I will be running errands all day Friday and would be happy to pick up your groceries or other things you need while I’m out.” Also, offer your prayers and be specific.  Ask parents how you can pray for them that day. The medical situation may be constantly changing with new concerns each day.
  • Check in regularly. A phone call or text message letting parents know you are thinking of them is helpful. Or if a parent is inundated with too many contacts (far too often this is NOT the case), offer to be a liaison sharing information with others, coordinating meals, transportation and other needs.
  • Hospital stays are expensive. Apart from medical costs and deductibles, paying for parking and meals adds up quickly. A gift basket with snacks, gift cards to local restaurants, or even a Visa gift card help defray some of those expenses. Many congregations have a hospital parking fund to which members can donate and then pastors pass the funds on to families as needed. If your church does have one of these, look into what you can do to help start one.
  • Families under stress need respite. A parent may be unwilling to leave a bedside unless another adult is constantly with their child. Once the child is home again, the effects of the stressful situation often remain. Parents need an opportunity for a break. Offering to stay with a child gives couples and single parents a chance to get away. If parents prefer to tag-team, with one staying home, moms and dads appreciate an invitation for a girls or guys night out. Even a few hours away with a good friend is a real blessing.

These are just a few ways in which families need support. The best way to know what is most helpful is to ask. Please feel free to share other suggestions in the comments.

Loving God, thank you for those who walk along side us when we need help the most. Guide us to return the favor in a way that is pleasing to you. Amen

“Counting Hand Sign” by Teerapun courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Rev Doc Lorna