When you start out as a parent of a special needs child no one tells you all of the wonderful people you will meet along the way. Truly it has been one of the biggest upsides of having a child with disabilities. I have met some of the most talented and inspiring individuals who can see beautiful things blooming where others would only see barren land. I don’t raise my child in isolation. Nathan has therapists, teachers, and caregivers who join me in urging him onward in life. These dear people not only offer me respite and encouragement, but they become friends. After all, we laugh and cry together weekly.
And sometimes they leave.
What has been one of the biggest blessings resulting from Nathan’s disabilities, has also become a source of great pain. It is yet another difficult thing in parenting a child with special needs.
I remember in college someone telling me, “Don’t go into full-time ministry if you don’t want to constantly say ‘good-bye.'” By nature it is a vocation that involves people constantly being called elsewhere. Change is hard. Change in relationships is especially hard.
Up until this point in Nathan’s almost five years we’ve had very little changes in therapists and caregivers. Any changes we’ve had were made by choice. Until this fall. As of this month, we’re up to four key players in Nathan’s team leaving for other opportunities or life stages.
I am happy for them and sad for us. We’ve had to grieve the loss of these special people. I’ve learned that Nathan is better at it than me. I expected to see him act out, but he has been super flexible. He loves people. Because he does, he has received the new people with open arms and lots of grace.
When this exodus began I was weepy sad. Now I find myself wanting to move past the sadness quickly because I’m tired of grieving. Grieving is hard work. I am tempted to channel my energy toward finding the next person to take their place. I want to self-protect.
Then as I was scrolling through my Instagram feed yesterday I came across this image.
I’ve been wresting with the question of how attached should I become to the various people who enter my home to help my son. The answer is here. I need to fully welcome them and allow them to enter into the good, the bad, and the ugly of our lives. I need to model, to both of my sons, how to embrace the people into our lives, and be fully grateful for whatever season they are with us. Only when I do this can I give freely, the way I am called.
I haven’t done this well recently. I’ve focused on what’s next rather than finishing well. But the truth is each person has different strengths and weaknesses and therefore, we learn something unique from each of them. I am trying to look at it as an adventure of who else God will bring into our lives as a result of Nathan’s disability. God has shown me in the last few painful months that through these changes, He can provide for needs we didn’t even know we had. As challenging as it is for this introvert to navigate new relationships, I do find great joy in knowing these amazing people and allowing them the gift of knowing Nathan.
Nathan — and consequently our whole family — is going to need to get used to lots of people rotating through his life. It is what his disabilities require, but it’s also part of his calling. Without his need for help, it would be hard for others to know him. It is God’s grace that it takes a whole team of people to keep this guy progressing and his mama going strong.
Ultimately I am learning to fall back on God’s promise to me is that He will never leave. He will provide abundantly so that I can give freely.
My book, Beauty in Broken Dreams: A Hopeful Handbook for the Early Years as a Special Needs Parent, is now available on Amazon!
Also be sure to check out my list of Favorite Books on Disability!