This is a look at a term that lives within me. The first time I heard it was when Katie was a baby and I read the book ANGEL UNAWARE by Dale Evans . The way she described it made relief wash over me. I realized that my feelings were not irrational. That the sadness and grief could co-exist with thankfulness and gratitude. Knowing that the sorrow was chronic and could surface at any time, but especially at times that would usually be times when major milestones would have occurred has helped me to put my devastation into perspective when it happens. I’ve always said there are times that feel like I’ve been hit by a Mack truck, well those times are usually when the chronic sorrow rises up and shows it’s ugly head. I just wanted to share this with you so that you will now have an explanation of all those times you have needed to comfort me and for all of the times that you will in the future. Thanks. lots of love~~~~~~~it truly is my dominant force.
I borrowed this description from a newsletter from the Hydrocephalus group…..I liked the way they explained it…….so if you are interested :
“Chronic Sorrow is a term coined by sociologist Simon Olshanshy to describe the long-term reaction of parents who have a child with a disability. This pervasive reaction is often not recognized or understood by those around the parents–professionals, family and friends. These feelings of chronic sorrow are normal and to be expected and accepted, given the life-long implications for the family and child.
Many factors can affect the intensity and exhibition of chronic sorrow: the parent’s personalities, the severity of the disability, the nature of the disability and the adequacy of support and services provided.
Chronic sorrow does not mean that the parents don’t love or feel pride in their child. These feelings, and many other feelings, exist alongside the sadness. It is as if many threads are woven side by side, bright and dark, in the fabric of the parent’s lives. They co-exist; they do not blend into one color, or feeling. Because ours is such a “can do” society, there is pressure on parents to quickly put their feelings of sadness away or deny them. Parents are told to “think positively” and “to get on with your lives.” They are told that God has “selected” them to receive this special child because they are such strong people. These kinds of comments, while well meant, deny the validity or parental long-term grieving. The discomfort of observing pain in those we care about can be part of the reason for such comments from others.
Grieving, however, is a process that takes time, often years. It’s a prickly bush that one must go through, not jump over. However, there are ways to support the process of grieving. Most parents found support in a community of people who understand because they, too have lived the experience. It is lonely to be the only family on the block with a child with a disability. Being part of a support group or organization helps to combat feelings of isolation. Engaging in personal activities that do not center on the family member with a disability can help increase feelings of competency and self-worth. Counseling, especially at times of significant stressful milestones, can be useful.
Chronic sorrow becomes a permanent part of the personality structure of most parents who have a child with a disability. It’s a normal response. It’s thread narrows and widens depending on life situations; most often it is accepted with courage. And, although permanent, if is not the dominant force in interactions with our children. The dominant forces are love and feelings of connectedness to them.”