The Stages of Grieving Your Child’s Autism Diagnosis

The Stages of Grieving Your Child's Autism Diagnosis | Houston Moms Blog

If you are a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you may sometimes feel discouraged. The diagnosis of autism can open up a whole new world for you and your family. However, there is {and for me still, to this day} a feeling that I can only describe as grieving upon the first initial diagnosis of autism with your child. This is something that you may still struggle with throughout their life.

I remember when I sat down with our child psychiatrist and listened to her go through the 10+ page evaluation of my son. I cannot even remember all that she said… my mind was a blur. I heard the word AUTISM and I wanted to cry. I wanted to get up and leave her office. It took me weeks {and a lot of tears} to work through the many emotions I was feeling. I didn’t have any friends who were in the same position as me to lean on upon his diagnosis, so I am hoping that this will encourage some of you who may be going through the same thing.

The Stages of Grieving

Guilt

Immediately, I thought it was my fault.  I told myself, “I must have done something wrong during my pregnancy,” and “It must be punishment for something I did in the past.” NONE OF THESE THINGS WERE CORRECT! Whenever anything goes wrong, moms have a tendency to place blame on themselves. It is important to understand that ASD is not caused by something that you did or did not do. It is not neglect. It is not your fault

Denial

After experiencing guilt with the diagnosis, I simply just ‘put it away’ and ignored the fact that my son was autistic. It is perfectly natural to be in denial upon receiving an ASD diagnosis. Did you know that denial is a coping mechanism in our brain to handle stress and to process it over a certain amount of time? It is okay to be in denial, but me being in denial did not help my son. His autism did not magically go away, and with each day that passed, he was still on the spectrum. 

The Stages of Grieving Your Child's Autism Diagnosis | Houston Moms Blog

Loss of Dream

My husband and I had a hard time conceiving, but when we learned I was pregnant with our son, I was so happy. I knew I wanted him to love sports {just like me}. I imagined what his life would be like. It was natural to have expectations for him when he was safe in my womb. When he was diagnosed with his disability, so much of what I had planned for him felt like shattered dreams. My hopes and expectations for his future needed to be re-evaluated. For me, that was scary because we were diving into an area of unknowns. 

Anger

This was the area I struggled with the most. Nobody could have said or done the right thing to help me. I had so much anger! This anger was not directed at my son, but towards everyone else. I disliked the therapist who gave him the diagnosis. I wondered if she had something to gain in her treatment of him. I questioned God and my faith. How can a loving God give my child {whom I had prayed for and waited for for seven years} a disability for the rest of his life?! I was angry with my family for telling me for almost two years that ‘something was wrong with him’ and to test him. Did they pressure me into doing it so they would feel better? Anger is a normal part of any grieving process. However, YOU DO NOT WANT TO STAY STUCK IN ANGER LONG-TERM. It will impact your child and your family. What made me ‘snap out of it’ one day was when I yelled at him for not being able to do something so simple {I don’t even remember what it was} but I do remember the look on his face and I was broken! I cried and I scooped him up and held him for what seemed like FOREVER! It was in that moment that I let go of my anger and vowed to do whatever I could to help him with his diagnosis.

Acceptance

After I struggled with all of those emotions, I decided to take charge and see how I could help my son. I am now at a place of acceptance. I plunged into many books and online resources and learned all I could about autism. Heck, I am STILL learning about it because it is so broad of a spectrum. Every day I pray for strength and guidance to help provide him with what he needs to be successful today and in life. My encouragement to you is this :: there WILL be hard days, but let the GOOD outweigh the bad. When I look at my son, I cannot imagine ‘wishing’ him to be any other way than how he is. Autism does not define who he is. He is so much more than that. He is full of so much joy; he sees the good in everyone; his laugh is contagious. When I picture him in the future, I hope and pray that he will still be full of joy. Maybe he will be a worship leader {that’s what he tells us now}; maybe he will be driving a car; maybe he will be married to someone who accepts him for who he is and they have a family. I don’t know… but I do know this… he has a hope and a future because he trusts in Him who is greater than all I can be {or do}. My son may have autism, but it is not who he is. If you were to ask him who he is, he would reply, “I am GIDEON!”

The Stages of Grieving Your Child's Autism Diagnosis | Houston Moms Blog


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