Grief targets the unprepared, and strikes without warning. Most of us think of grief only in the context of the death of someone we love, but it is much wider and deeper than that alone. Grief is loss - the loss of anything. Loss can come to us through a pet, a home, a plate from your grandmother’s china, receiving notice that promotion went to someone else, or, through a child.
If we can wrap our mind around the fact that grief is the response to unmet expectations, the grief process can be significantly decreased. Now that you have received the news your child is a special needs person, you will be going through the grief process. The expectations you had for your child can no longer be met in the same way. The more
readily you accept this is what has happened in your life, the more readily you can begin to build that life in a positive manner.
In my experience, the diagnosis of our son's autism came at a time that I had just buried my mother. In the same week that I laid my mom to rest, our son was diagnosed with autism. So it was like I grieved twice for the loss of my own mother and the autism diagnosis of our then 4 year old son.
The first stage of my grieving process was definite denial and what had just happened. When it is within the context of a child with disabilities, you just want answers to all your why questions, but in the end you soon realize that at some point you begin to accept it and all that it encompasses.
You may be tempted to isolate yourself (and maybe your family members) from others. Prying eyes, uncomfortable questions, unkind facial expressions, and long explanations are not something you feel you can face at this point. For a time, allow the isolation to happen.
This will give you time to come up with precise and concise explanations about your child that will satisfy others, and allow you to feel at ease and comfortable with exactly how you communicate with others about your child’s disability.
The Guilt may very well be the next stage of grief you will need to endure. You might wrack your brain trying to find a time when you did something wrong to cause the disability in your then unborn child. Don’t stop yourself from experiencing this stage of grief, but do not dwell there either. Things happen. Sometimes, there is no one, or nothing, to place the blame, so you do eventually move on.
There is no set or normal length of time for each stage of grief. Your loss is unique to you, and so the stages of the grief process are going to be different than my own. Allow yourself to go through each stage for as long as you need and when you can fully realize that you may have suffered a loss, but there is always potential, success and milestones to look forward to along this journey. Sure, things are not what you had planned them to be, but this should not deter you from continuing the advocacy and goals that will come. You just have to adjust to the ebb and flow of life's little breaks and aha moments.