Wednesday, July 24, 2013

U ASKED 4 IT: 5 Ways to End Isolation

Today we begin a 3 part series featuring topics for which parents have recently requested an encouraging word...

Turn to me and be gracious to me,
    for I am lonely and afflicted.
~ Psalm 25:16, NIV ~

I always wanted to be a mother.  I had no preconceived notion of what it might be like.  I just knew that I always wanted to have and raise a child.  When a successful pregnancy eluded us, great fear and emptiness washed over me.

Certainly, raising a child with special needs never entered my mind.  I often tell of the foolish belief I had that we had met some sort of "trauma quotient" because of my repeated miscarriages and subsequent infertility treatment.  Little did I know that the Lord was preparing me to be a great medical advocate for the treasures with whom He would later bless me.

Yet, in all the pain we have experienced on our various journeys, I think the most agonizing part has been the isolation.  When everyone else was having babies, we were kept at a distance because we weren't able to build a family yet.  When we began having children with special needs, the sense of abandonment grew even worse.

The loneliness of parenting a child with special needs can be like a many-faceted piece of black coal.  On one side, your neighbors may reject you like ours did, because our family wasn't "normal" enough for them.  On another side, you experience the empty hours of waiting in doctor's appointments, at therapies, and in hospitals.  Still another side cuts you when your child is left out of things by peers because of their diagnosis.  And an extra painful facet of the journey can come when your spouse isn't on the same page as you in the experience of raising your unique offspring.

I thank God that He has taught me so many things through "the school of hard knocks" in regards to ending this horrific isolation.  Allow me, if you will, to share with you what I have learned:
  1.  Get off of yourself.  It may sound harsh, but this is literally something I have had to repeatedly tell myself.  Fighting a lifelong battle with chronic depression, I can safely say that nothing releases me from my own pain like focusing on someone else.  If you can find a way to volunteer at your child's school, at church, or at your favorite charitable organization, it helps you as well as others.  (Shameless plugSNAPPIN' MINISTRIES is always looking for volunteers.)  In doing so, you will meet others who are serving and may end up making new friends with those who have a heart for your journey.
  2. Join community groups.  Local support groups offer connection to others who are raising children just like yours.  Not only will you glean some of your best special needs parenting information and advice from these individuals, you will connect with a unique compassion that comes only from others who are walking a mile in your shoes.
  3. Attend conferences and workshops.  These venues often provide special needs childcare while you connect to helpful information.  Again, this is a great place to meet other parents just like you.  Often, you can apply for scholarships to attend and leave feeling very empowered as a self-advocate.
  4. Plug in to online communities.  Much like the local groups, online communities connect you to other parents.  There are as many types of online groups as there are preferences.  You can connect through virtually every sort of social media, and find other parents by geographical area, diagnosis group, age group, religious denomination, or treatment method.  Because these types of groups can be participated in from virtually anywhere, they can do much to alleviate isolation because you can connect whether confined to home, clinic or hospital.  
  5. Find a mentor.  The value of doing life alongside someone who is on the same journey, but a couple of steps ahead of you has long been extolled.  Since 2003 there has been a national secular program to match parents to other parents raising children with special needs.  We are thrilled at SNAPPIN' MINISTRIES to offer the only faith-based mentor program for parents of kids with unique abilities.  In our program, you can mentor and be mentored from the comfort of your own home, anywhere in the nation.  You can read a bit more about our mentor program in my previous post Show Me The Way.  
God made us to be relational creatures.  When we lack those relationships, along with the support they provide, it is normal to experience pain.  Be encouraged by knowing that you have more power over ending your isolation than you may think.  And when even these best personal efforts leave you feeling alone, ostracized or abandoned, please know that there is always Someone who is only a prayer away.  He experienced those same painful feelings you do, and conquered them forever by the power of His Salvation.

PRAY:  Jesus, thank you for not only conquering the power of the grave, but also for conquering the oppression of isolation.  Deliver me when I feel so alone.  Guide my eyes to look beyond my own troubles, to reach out to others who are also feeling isolated.  When I feel most cast aside, bring to my memory how You suffered the same pain and made a way for me to overcome it.

Photo Image Courtesy of 123RF

 

3 comments:

  1. Thanks, Barb, for your "always" honesty! This one should go in the archives! :o)

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  2. I am trying to help other people but am limited since three of our five kids are special needs. I have health problems as a result of not enough self care. It is so challenging not to get depressed since I only sleep 4-6 hours a night.

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  3. Hang in there, friend! One person can only do so much. Remember there are 4 other ways to end isolation besides helping others. You are on the internet, so you are already walking towards connecting to people and decreasing your isolation. Please DO take care of yourself! As the stewardess always instructs before a plane takes off, "Put your own oxygen mask on first. Then place the mask on anyone else you may be helping." Please also know that you can connect to others who care via our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/snappinministries

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