Joy and grief are unlikely friends. In our journey of parenting a child with special needs and global developmental delays, however, joy and grief are often neighbors in the same day, hour, or moment.
I’ve been really scaling back on my time on social media lately. Mostly because all the political posts were adding to my anxiety and also because I’m trying to spend more quality time with my family. Today, though, my husband told me he saw a picture of his cousin’s son in hockey gear on social media. Their son is only 5 weeks older than our son and is typically developing, if not advanced. There’s no benefit of comparing our two boys, but today it was a little bit hard not to.
Hockey is something that runs in my husband’s family. Winter activities are enjoyed by all, hockey, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, curling—you name it. Today we grieved again that our son may never have the muscle tone, coordination, or understanding needed to be able to participate in any of these activities. Or if he does, it may not be for a very long time, and certainly much later than his cousins or sister.
But today there was also great joy. We took the kids on a walk to the park, since it was over 40 degrees in Minnesota (which is a sure sign of spring for those of you who don’t live here). We marveled at how well he navigated the uneven terrain that used to result in many trips and falls, scrapes and bruises. We smiled as we watched how quickly he can walk now and remembered how long it used to take just to go around the block. He successfully listened and waited when he got too far ahead of the rest of us. He stopped until we caught up with him to cross the street together. These are huge wins for us and him. These are moments we’ve all worked very hard to be able to share together.
Within hours of the walk and praising God with great joy for the gift of being able to see all he has done in and through our son, who is a joy-giver at the core of his being, we also experienced grief.
Sometimes I forget that at times we will continue to grieve the loss or unknown delay of dreams that we had before we became parents. I told my husband I was sorry that he may never pass down the love of playing hockey to our son. He’s such an amazing dad and husband, and his response was so helpful. “I loved growing up playing hockey, but I don’t want to force him to love something just because I do.” That made me think that there are other things our son will grow up loving to do, and we need to continue to find, encourage, and support him in those things.
Sometimes this road is a particularly messy one. In these moments, sometimes it would be nice to hear, “I’m sorry this is so hard sometimes. And I’m also so glad he’s in your life and your family. God is doing great things in you all, by having you in this family together.” And then I realize that God is the very one who can always reassure my heart, when I’m joyful, grieving, or both.
And I’m so thankful for such a faithful and patient God who never leaves me in those moments alone.
What do you need whispered to your heart in times of joy or grief? Would you be brave enough to ask God to speak those things over you and pray for patience while you wait for the whisper? I pray you will and that you’ll sense God’s presence in the midst of it all.