Not to sound overly dramatic, but I’m literally writing this post as tears are streaming down my face. Why? Because it happened again. It took my breath away . . . again. I felt the weight on my shoulders and the heaviness in my gut . . . again. It hit me all over again.
My daughter has autism.
It might seem strange that after years of knowing this and years of blogging, speaking, and podcasting about this that I should somehow be shocked into emotional upheaval by the well-known fact that my daughter has autism. And yet, this is how it happens, isn’t it? You sail along through life until . . .bam! . . . reality hits you in the chest again and you realize, again for the first time, that your daughter has autism (or whatever fill-in-the-blank neurodiversity applies to you).
One moment you’re opening mail and grateful that this provider finally “saw” your child. You know what diagnoses they’ve given and rejoice that it was given and services can finally be provided appropriately. The next moment you’re looking at the black and white statements of all your child’s differences, gifts, struggles, abilities, impairments, diagnoses . . . . when . . . bam! It hits all over again.
One moment you’re rejoicing with your child as they are making a deeper social connection and you see true ease and comfort between her and a friend. The next moment she’s missing enormous social cues or melting down in the closet . . . and . . . bam! There it is again. That familiar shock that your child has autism.
One moment you are so caught up in the day to day intensity of raising a child with neurodiversity that you live in survival mode, take life one minute at a time, mechanically set out the pills, robotically make the same peanut butter sandwich with the crust cut off because it’s the only thing your child will eat. You might even be mumbling under your breath about the exhaustion of being an autism parent. You might have had the conversation with your other children, reminding them of their sibling’s autism and our need to be extra patient and understanding. And suddenly . . . you mumble autism under your breath just one more time . . . and bam!
This is grief. This is how it works. It sneaks up at moments when you think you’ve already gone through it.. The reality hits like a mack truck, even though you think you’d already accepted this life and the life your daughter has been given. Out of nowhere something sucks the wind right out of your sails and you are left, facing the reality, the diagnosis, the lifestyle, the joys and the struggles all over again.
If this is where you are . . . it’s ok. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself a little extra nurturing and comforting. Have an extra cup of coffee or tea, a bite of chocolate, a bubble bath. Call a friend, ask for a hug, zone out to poorly written teen dramas on netflix. Know that it’s normal. Know that adapting to this fringy life we’ve been thrown into takes time. Know that, unfortunately, it will hit us all over again at different times and circumstances. Know that it’s okay to grieve. We can grieve our situation, our child’s situation, and most definitely still love our children.
And, above all, know you aren’t alone. I’ve got the tear stains on my glasses to prove it.