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Dreams Do Come True!

graduation

This past week my son put on a cap and gown and walked across a stage as his name was called to receive his high school diploma.  As parents, it is a rite of passage that we ALL dream about happening one day. The rush of emotions I felt as he graduated were so VERY intense. Flashbacks of where we had been over the last 17 years bombarded my thoughts. I can remember vividly and painfully when my son was old enough to come to the realization “he was different” …his words not mine and the IMMENSE SORROW I felt in hearing him say that.

He began to spiral into a life filled with depression and anxiety.  It became significantly worse when he was at school around other kids who were not always kind and adults who didn’t always understand nor want to. A very skilled therapist told me that you cannot expect him to learn if his mental health is suffering.  Getting him the correct help HAS TO TRUMP EVERYTHING ELSE.  Hearing those words were life changing I knew they were right. However… I was terrified that MY PLANS for his future education were diminished and it really hurt.

As a family, we made the very difficult decision of removing him from the school he was in for the sake of his mental health and began searching for educational options that were more geared to kids like mine.  We struggled through a year and a half of online schooling while working closely with a tremendously skilled therapist and Dr who helped my son regain his footing.  Their care and treatment allowed the darkness to lift. Once we all agreed he was strong enough we set off to get him back in a formal classroom. We found a fantastic school but the only hitch was it SEVENTY MILES away!  As soon as I walked in to tour the school, I felt at home and knew in my heart it would be a good fit.

I will never forget the day that I took my son to see the school for the first time, the anxiety came back in full force.  He literally attempted to jump out of the car and run when we were at a busy intersection. I was able to grab his hoodie and scream at him “What are You Doing?” When I was able to pull over safely we stepped outside of the car and as he stood there sobbing with his hoodie pulled up over his head I asked him what he was so afraid of and he cried, “I don’t know mom”.

My heart shattered into a million pieces, seeing that the fear he had was so great.  HE BEGGED ME TO NOT MAKE HIM GO BECAUSE HE WAS SO AFRAID. That was probably one of my lowest moments, I hurt so deeply for him but I also knew if I did not push through that fear with him and get him to that school we would surely miss out of an incredible life changing opportunity. I got him back in the car and told him I would drive to the school and tell the staff what he was feeling.  I just knew once that if could get him there, I would receive the help that we needed from the staff, knowing that they had experience with this type of fear and could offer suggestions. We arrived at the school and with that, it took a great deal of gentle coaxing and reassuring that he was safe. He made his way in and I received a text from the principal about 15 minutes later that he was smiling and talking with another student. BEST GIFT EVER!!!

He attended that school for 3 years and it wasn’t always a walk in the park nor would I have expected it to be, but he was taught by some of THE MOST caring, compassionate and accepting educators I HAVE EVER MET!  These are people that are truly making a difference in this world by seeing the value in ALL children. By meeting kids where THEY are at and not feeling bound to use a One Size Fits All Standard. They are creative and innovative in their approach and are truly moving mountains for kids like mine.  So this past week as my son beamed as he received his diploma I realized that the path to get to where we want our kids to be at often looks drastically different than what we planned and THAT IS OK.  It’s about THEM and not US. I am eternally grateful to Barb, Meredith, Andrew, Chad, Diana, Grant, Brian, Garrett, Jo Jo, Peter, Ramian and Frank you are ALL EXCEPTIONAL Educators and HUMAN BEINGS.

If you are a parent of a child with special and unique needs we would love to have the opportunity to walk with you.   We not only care for and support families with special and unique needs, but we also provide support and guidance to those who work directly or indirectly with the children who have special and unique needs and their families including businesses, non-profit organizations and educational staff.  Please contact us via email or by phone – Lisa Goyette – 248-330-8493

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Reconstructing Our Dreams: The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

phoenix-wallpapers

I have been following the updates of a few young couples that I know who are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their babies into this world.  It has been enjoyable to watch their excitement and enthusiasm as they prepare for this new chapter of life.   I will never forget that sense of anticipation that we experienced as a couple when we were preparing for the birth of our sons.   I particularly enjoyed watching and feeling both of our boys move in the womb during the course of the developmental cycle.   One of the most awe inspiring moments was the moment that they were born.  I struggle to find words to describe the birthing experience.   In the midst of all of the emotion that I experienced, I distinctly remember a flood of tears that rolled down my face with each tear representing all of the hopes, the dreams and the anticipation of what life would look like for us and for our sons

Dreams are a healthy part of the human experience, they have the power to keep the human spirit thriving.  They provide us with hope in times of challenge and struggle.  They are the foundation of inspiration.  They drive us to achieve and experience more than what we could have ever imagine.   At times our dreams are the only thing that keep us alive.   And yet, the very same dreams that have the power to take us to new heights can also be the same dreams that are shattered.  And such is the case in having a child who has special and unique needs.

Little did I know that many of those dreams that had been formulating in my mind the day that our son was brought into this world would be dramatically altered.  The likelihood of seeing my son walk down the aisle, of going on to get a college degree, of having his own children, of earning a living to support him and his future family would never come to pass.

So are the dreams that have been shattered the end of life as we know it?   I suppose it depends on how we look at it.  At one point in time, I believed that it was.   I just couldn’t see the hope of life holding the possibility of anything good.

But then……..

The lens that I viewed life through began to change.  I can’t explain how it came to be, but it just did.  I suppose it had something to do with time and a culmination of our experiences.  As much as I can’t clearly describe what happened, one thing is true, I began to look deep into the eyes of my child and started to see him as my son.  Yeah, he had always been my son in a genetic way, but I REALLY started to see him as my SON.  I saw beauty, I saw laughter, I saw happiness and joy.  I saw a world of love that I had never seen before.   I saw a child with dreams, dreams of who he wanted to be.  It was time for me to get on board with his plan for his life.

Through the work that Lisa and I do through Celebrate Hope we consistently communicate that if we are ever going to experience a place of hope in our journey with our children we MUST reconstruct our dreams.  This is to suggest that we work to gather up all the pieces of what was once shattered and then develop a new vision for the life of our child, our life as an individual and for the life of our family.   There is potential when we bring all of those shattered pieces together, there are new dreams that are formed and what comes out of the ashes is a thing of beauty.

Yes, life will look different than we hoped, but in so many ways it can become even more beautiful that what we could ever have imagined.  Lisa and I being parents of children with special and unique needs continue to reshape and reconstruct our dreams for ourselves, our children and our families.   We dream of looking into the eyes of our boys and seeing their joy and fascination for life.   We long to see boys that are happy and fulfilled in whatever they do as they pursue their own hopes and dreams and passions for life.  We are constantly being challenged to look past their individual challenges and their quirks as we gaze into the heart that they possess for life.  Yup, those dreams may not be the ones that we possessed as we held our children in our arms when they were infants.  It doesn’t mean that are new dreams are inferior in any fashion, it just means that they are different.

In 2010, 8 years after the birth of our youngest son and 6 years after he was diagnosed with autism and 2 years from the day that I had been sitting on the hearth of our fireplace when I felt as if life was filled with nothing but hopelessness and disappointment, I noticed that my perspective began to change.  I grew tired of living with feelings of despair.  I began to dream, dreaming of the limitless possibilities of what might become of our son’s life.   We had walked through so much and survived!   Commemorating this new chapter in our journey I got a tattoo that covers the upper portion of my right arm that took on the form of a phoenix.

The legendary phoenix is a large, grand bird, much like an eagle or peacock. It is brilliantly colored in reds, purples, and yellows, as it is associated with the rising sun and fire. Its eyes are blue and shine like sapphires. It builds its own funeral pyre or nest and ignites it with a single clap of its wings. After death, it rises gloriously from the ashes and flies away.  The phoenix symbolizes renewal and resurrection as it rises from the pile of ashes, and then a new Phoenix arises, young and powerful.

Lisa and I hope that in the ashes of what life came to be for you, for your child and for your family you might discover new hopes, new dreams and ultimately a new life which is filled with countless possibilities.   Yes, maybe different but definitely not less!

Next week, Lisa and I will continue our series as we talk about “Acceptance and Hope”.   We would be honored to walk with you if you are a parent of a child who has special and unique needs. In addition to working with families, we help provide systems of support in educational environments and in the workplace for not only parents but also educators and employers.  Be sure to check out our website at  http://www.celebratehopellc.com. You may also reach us (248) 330-8493.

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Depression, Reflection and Loneliness: The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

loneliness

We continue to focus on our series entitled “The Movement of Grief” as we reflect on the various movements that families experience in living with children who have special and unique needs.  Today we will talk about the fifth movement of grief, “Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness”

In December of 2009, it all came to a head, a perfect storm of sorts.  I was experiencing the most challenging time of my life.  It was just over 4 years since our son had been diagnosed with autism, his behaviors were off the chart, we were not seeing much progress with his development and on top of it all, we were facing a financial crisis as a family.  I was one year into a family leave that I chose to take from my career after feeling overwhelmed, depressed and conflicted.

It was weeks away from the Christmas holidays.  There was no one in the house that morning so I started a fire in the fireplace, I poured a cup of coffee and I sat on the hearth next to the crackling fire in silence, and I began to think.   I thought about the entirety of our journey that brought us to this point.   There were a lot of thoughts going through my head that morning; our son’s diagnosis, his challenging behaviors, his developmental delays, the therapies that we had invested in that didn’t produce the results we had hoped for, the financial challenges that we were experiencing and the stress that we were encountering as a family.  To top it all off, I was really questioning my purpose and value in this life while thinking about the mountain of challenges that we were up against as a family.  It all felt insurmountable.

I felt depressed.  I felt all alone.  I felt isolated.  I had very little hope.

Life had changed.  It wasn’t the life that I had signed up for.  As a result of our son’s diagnosis, it put stress and strain on the relationships that had been a part of our lives up to that point.   Let’s be honest, one of the most significant contributing factors in deciding who we bring into our lives and who will be in our circle of friends is based upon the degree of need that they present.   When a family has a child with special and unique needs the circle of family and friends who can REALLY be trusted and relied on generally is quite small in number.  In addition to the challenges of having a child with special and unique needs, the lack of support can leave a family feeling quite isolated and alone.   

Depression, Reflection, and Loneliness is the last of the more unsettling stages in the movement of grief and yet it can be the longest and most influential stage in the process.  This stage can last a very long time and there’s no telling how you will cope with it.  During this time, you finally realize the true magnitude of your loss, and it depresses you. You may isolate yourself on purpose, reflect on things you that you had hoped to experience with your child, and focus on memories of the past.

As much as that time in my life proved to be one of the darkest times for me personally, that period of my life proved to be one of the most enriching times as well.   I found myself doing a great deal of reflection and assessment.  I explored who and what mattered to me the most to me.  I considered where I wanted to invest my time and energy.   I thought about the relationships that had been a part of my life and also the ones that could no longer find the energy to continue to walk with us.   It was in facing the darkness that I began to discover my true self.

The only way to come out on the other side of some of the most challenging moments that we face in parenting a child with special and unique needs is to look them in the eye, face them directly and push through them.  We can’t avoid them.  This very principle is true as we work through our experience with depression, reflection, and loneliness.

Here are a few closing thoughts on navigating this particular movement in grieving.

  • Love yourself as if you are your very own best friend. Find the time to take care of yourself, love yourself and only speak positive words about yourself. Though it can be challenging to find time for “self” make this your very first priority.
  • Resource yourself with care providers, therapists, respite care workers and educators who understand. These people will prove to bring you a sense of hope when life seems hopeless.  Be selective and don’t settle for less than what you or your child deserves.
  • Identify those cherished friends who will be there for you no matter what. These are the people who will be your foundation and rock during these moments in your life and are not intimidated easily.  Lisa is not only the co-founder in Celebrate Hope, but both she and her husband are my VERY best friends.  They get it, they understand it, they don’t waiver in their commitment to me and my family, they are ALWAYS there for us.  They are the type of people that we need.

As we have said all along with this series on grief, the journey of grief is just that, a journey.   It is a journey that is unique to each and every one of us.  There is no right or wrong way to move through grief, it is what it is and it is your journey to take.

Next week, Lisa and I will continue our series as we talk about “Reconstructing our Dream”.   We would be honored to walk with you if you are a parent of a child who has special and unique needs. In addition to working with families, we help provide systems of support in educational environments and in the workplace for not only parents but also educators and employers.  Be sure to check out our website at  http://www.celebratehopellc.com. You may also reach us (248) 330-8493.

 

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Happy Mothers Day 2017

mom2

On a rainy, cold and windy day in March, I found myself on the steps of my states capital building preparing to speak to a large crowd about the necessity for children like mine to be treated with dignity and respect in their schools and in their communities. As I looked out at the crowd I thought to myself how surreal it was that I was standing there.  I felt a bit like I was having an out of body experience. I have always been passionate about certain things but I never imagined I would participate in advocacy in my life. But that was before I became a mom and that was before I became a mom to MY son.

The child that I love, that I have been parenting for the last 18 years happens to be transgender. This was not in my plans when I signed up to become a mom. I like to tell people if I had known I would be a mom to a transgender child you could have knocked me over with the touch of a feather. But as we all know, life can really throw us some curve balls that can knock us to our knees.

The love that I have for my “unique” and precious son is what I call MAMA LOVE. I describe it as an unconditional, intense, powerful and often times terrifying love that can motivate and incentivize me to do things I NEVER imagined in a million years I could be doing.  MY SON and the MAMA LOVE I have for him has changed me, grown me and shaped me and I suspect will continue to do so for the rest of my life.  I continually find myself being pushed outside of my comfort zone in order to advocate on his behalf and for other children like him that society wants to marginalize, ostracize and treat as less than.  It is exhausting and infuriating on the worst of days and invigorating and joyful on the best of them.

On those days when I feel beaten down and can’t think beyond the next hour, I just have to stop and think, my job as his mom is to be his voice when he can’t express it and to fight for him.

Over the course of the last few years as I have advocated for kids like my son I have often been met with great compassion from complete strangers that want to understand and provide support to those that are “different”. These encounters are gifts that fuel my tank and keep me moving forward.  I have also spoken in front of groups that don’t understand kids like mine and don’t want to. I have been on the receiving end of some pretty hateful people.  I would be lying if I didn’t say that it hurts because I know that this is the world my son must live in.  Just like anyone with a special needs child knows, our kids are different and the world doesn’t always act kindly to those that are.

I share my story of standing on the steps of my state capital, not to say that moms need to do that to fight for your child but to say that when we actively make a choice to ACCEPT and love our children, JUST AS THEY ARE, that is when we TRULY become advocates. Acceptance is truly a gift that we give to ourselves and its value can never be minimized.

As moms, we all know that we have a hard job. However, being the mother of a child with any kind of special and unique needs is truly THE HARDEST JOB EVER.  As John Ball and I work with moms we come into contact with through Celebrate Hope, we especially like to remind them that we would challenge any mom who’s children do not have special/unique needs to do what we do day in and day out. We are…YOU ARE…some of the STRONGEST women out there.  Don’t underestimate yourselves and the beautiful difference you are making for a vulnerable child that needs you love them just as they are.

Keep up the hard work and know that YOU ARE ENOUGH.

Much Love and Happy Mother’s Day from Celebrate Hope Founders

Lisa Goyette & John Ball

 

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Anger and Bargaining: The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

A young woman screaming uncontrollably while isolated on a black background

I can’t really recall when my experience with grieving moved to a place of anger.  I can, however, remember why.  I was resentful, I was angry and I was pissed that by no choice of my own I was being forced to depart from the life that I dreamt that we would experience as a family towards a life that was now an undesired reality after the diagnosis of our son with autism.  If there was anything in life that I had mastered, it was being angry!

As much as I loved my son, the pain and the anger were very real and it managed to feed into so many different areas of my life.  My work, my friendships, my relationship with my wife and even and especially in my relationship with my sons.   It is difficult to even write this as I recall that part of my life.  So much was happening at that time, our son was non-communicative for the most part, he was frustrated that we couldn’t understand his basic needs and wants and to make matters worse, that was the period of time when he became aggressive and destructive of our personal belongings.   Dining ware, drinking glasses, bowls, light bulbs, televisions, laptops, tablets, etc. it didn’t matter what it was nor how we attempted to safeguard him and our belongings it all was at risk of being destroyed.  I was not enjoying life.

I sat in my office at work, there was a knock on the door and in walked a man who I have much respect for.

“You have a minute?”

“Sure”, I replied.

Gil proceeded to take a seat in one of the chairs in my office and then asked,

“So how are you doing”?

Well, that was one of those days that he caught me in one of my not so pleasant moods.  This dear man who came to be one of my most treasured mentors in life sat and listened without saying a word for what seemed to be 10-15 minutes.  I proceeded to go down the laundry list of everything that was not right in our lives.   And in a calm, loving and yet direct fashion he spoke,

“John, you appear to be angry”

“What?  I am not angry!”

His words were initially received with resentment that he would even suggest such a thing until….I started to cry, I mean REALLY cry.  The tears kept coming and coming and coming .  They wouldn’t stop.  I knew Gil was right.  Through a broken voice I shared all the hurt and pain that I had accumulated for such a long period of time.  He affirmed his depth of love for me and then asked,

“Do you think that just maybe a therapist might help?”

Well, I wasn’t so sure about that option.   We talked further about it and I agreed that I would look into it even though I was very reluctant.   I was comfortable with my anger.  I was content with being pissed about all that we had experienced in life, especially in regards to our journey with our son.   I did shortly thereafter develop a relationship with a therapist and was able to come to terms with my experience with grief.

Anger is one of those things that in our culture has come to be known as a destructive force, an undesirable emotion.   There is no doubt that anger can translate into action as expressed in unhealthy ways through abuse, neglect, and violence (emotional and physical).   Anger at its basic level can be a normal and healthy emotion that is a reflection of a wide variety of experiences in life, it is especially true to form in our experience with grief after losing something that we once had which no longer exists.  Anger is a part of who we are, it serves as a survival mechanism, when discharged it can calm us, it can energize us, motivate us and help us solve the challenges that we face.  When utilized effectively it can be a catalyst for discovering more about ourselves and others and ultimately empower us to collaborate with others to accomplish a common goal.

Lisa Goyette and I (founders of Celebrate Hope) are very intentional about “normalizing” the experience and emotions of the parents and caregivers who we work with that have children with special and unique needs.   One of the most harmful things that we can do for ourselves and others is to label such emotions as “bad”.   What we feel and what we experience is real.  The only way of moving through the pain that we experience is by being truthful, open and honest about what is.

As we have said all along with this series on grief, the journey of grief is just that, a journey.   It is a journey that is unique to each and every one of us.  There is no right or wrong way to move through grief, it is what it is and it is your journey to take.

Next week we will continue our series as we write about “Depression, Reflection and Loneliness”.    Be sure to check out our website at http://www.celebratehopellc.com. You may also reach us (248) 330-8493.

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Pain and Guilt: The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

guilt 2

This blog represents Celebrate Hopes third article on “The Movement of Grief” for Parents of Children with Unique and Special Needs. The phases we have discussed thus far are: 1) Admission and 2) Shock & Denial.

This week are here to talk about the phase of Pain & Guilt.

It is during this phase that any lingering shock and denial has clearly been left behind and parents enter into that place of raw, sometimes crippling pain. There is something about Emotional Pain that can be so deeply tormenting. Parents have described this feeling as intense suffering that can be unbearable. There can also be significant guilt that accompanies the pain and leaves us obsessively second guessing everything we have done and feeling that if only we would have done this or tried this, things would have been completely different right??? WRONG!!!!

There is no way to sugar coat it, this is a VERY TOUGH phase to go through.

As a mom of a child with special and unique needs, once the reality of my situation hit me, I found myself in a place of CONSTANT PAIN. There wasn’t anything that I felt that I could do to make it go away.  Everyone that was around me seemed to have a perfect life with perfect children and that made my pain worse. Even though I knew my perception probably wasn’t true I couldn’t stop myself from feeling that way and in doing so it only added to the discomfort I found myself living with.

Looking back, I realize now that I could not turn off my brain and was flooded with intrusive thoughts of how difficult I imagined my child’s life would be as well as my own. I was afraid and did not know how to get a handle on the fear I was living with. It literally consumed me. I felt like my life was out of my control and nothing could bring me relief. I truly can’t remember how long I actually felt this way and perhaps that is a good thing. Whether it was a day, a week or a month I just know it was excruciating. Carrying pain for ANY length of time is difficult. This is not the kind of pain that a doctor can make go away.

What is necessary during this time is that we allow ourselves the safety to express the pain. Whether that is crying, hitting a punching bag, screaming at the top of our lungs in a solitary place or going for a long run. Whatever helps get the pain OUT is what is most important. When we don’t acknowledge the pain for what it really is it makes things worse. Think of a pot filled with water. The lid is on the pot and the stove is turned up to high. Sooner or later the pot is going to boil over and make a big mess. As moms and dads, if we don’t allow the pain to be expressed we will make things worse and our suffering can very well take on another shape and form.  It was during this time that my car, of all places, became my safe place to let my pain out. I could cry, yell or scream and I wasn’t hurting anyone. I am quite sure I freaked out some drivers at traffic lights as I waited for red lights to turn green but I was oblivious when I was in my “Self-Care” mode of letting my pain out and that was ok. My windows were rolled up and I tried to always wear sunglasses so that no one would recognize the crazy lady I felt I was.

What is most important here, is that we realize that releasing our pain is normal and is a healthy thing to do during this time.

Parents, we at Celebrate Hope understand the emotional turmoil that moms and dads experience and must come to terms with in order to find not only help for their children but also THEMSELVES.

Celebrate Hope is all about helping those that are hurting. We want you to live your best life possible and find peace and hope. We also want you to know that we care and we CAN help you work through the difficult stages of Grief like Pain and Guilt

We encourage you to reach out to Celebrate Hope to explore ways that we can partner with you. You are not alone.

We will continue with this series that we have entitled, “The Movement of Grief”.   Next week we will be talking about the second movement of grief, “Shock and Denial”.   We trust that this will prove to be a helpful resource for you as you traverse your own journey in being a parent of a child with special and unique needs.

Be sure to check out our website at http://www.celebratehopellc.com. Feel free to contact us here: http://www.celebratehopellc.com/contact/ or by phone (248) 330-8493.

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Shock and Denial: The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

Shock and Denial:  The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

We are continuing with our blog series entitled, “The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs”.  This week we will focus on the second movement of grief, “Shock and Denial”.

As is the case with all the other movements that we experience in working through our grief, “Shock and Denial” is a normal part of the journey as we move forward.  Lisa and I are very intentional about “normalizing” the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that families who have these children experience.   We believe that one of the most valuable gifts that we can give to those who we work with is to help them avoid feelings of guilt and shame.  We strive to teach, coach and empower parents and caregivers to find ways of learning to love themselves as they seek to care for their children.

The Shock and Denial phase of Grief is complex. Psychological shock as defined by Harley Therapy is “A documented response to a traumatic, painful, or terrifying situation that, despite not leaving any physical damage, has left us feeling emotionally damaged.”   Connected to this response is “denial” which according to John M Grohol, Psy.D. is, “the refusal to accept reality or fact, acting as if a painful event, thought or feeling did not exist. It is considered one of the most primitive of the defense mechanisms because it is characteristic of early childhood development. Many people use denial in their everyday lives to avoid dealing with painful feelings or areas of their life they don’t wish to admit.”

When we encounter a traumatic experience which alters life as we know it, we are plunged into shock and the body responds by protecting us from those painful experiences, helping us to cope with denial.   We often discover that families who are in this particular place in their grief journey will deny that a problem even exists, they will claim that everything is just fine with their children and that everyone who is pointing towards the areas of concern is just plain wrong and misguided.

As a father of a child with special and unique needs, I mastered the art of “shock and denial”.  I vividly recall the numerous signs that indicated that our son was not reaching his developmental milestones.   I was on a quest to prove that my wife, friends, family members and even medical professionals were misguided and wrong and that our son was “fine”.   I recall an appointment with an ENT specialist as we began to seek answers.   We recognized that our son would not respond in any manner when spoken to.  We were called into the examining room, the physician did his brief examination and he then proceeded to look at my wife and say,

“You just need to stop putting the Q-tips into his ears so far.   He will be fine”

To which I responded by saying, “See honey, there is nothing wrong with him!”

I regret those words to this day.   I was in shock and I was protecting myself with denial.   Deep down inside I was afraid of facing the reality of what truly was.   It wasn’t until he was almost 3 years old that I finally got on board with the program and was willing to admit that there was a problem.   But even then, shock and denial would continue to weave itself into my experience with grieving what I had lost.

Once again, the journey of grief is just that, a journey.   It is a journey that is unique to each and every one of us.  There is no right or wrong way to move through grief, it is what it is and it is your journey to take.

Next week we will continue our series as we write about “Pain and Guilt”.    Be sure to check out our website at http://www.celebratehopellc.com. Feel free to contact us by email at lisa.goyette@celebratehopellc.com or john.ball@celebratehopellc.com.  You may also reach us by phone (248) 330-8493.

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Admission: The Journey of Grief For Parents For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

Admission:  The Journey of Grief For Parents For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT.  We have all been there. It’s that gnawing, unsettling feeling that grows in the most guttural place of our being. It creeps into our minds at night when we are trying to get rest. It enters our thoughts during the day as we are working and conversing with those around us. We try to talk it away, rationalize it away hope it away and yet that uncomfortable feeling DOES NOT GO AWAY.  It’s almost like a voice in our head that is speaking to us quietly at first but we are too afraid to listen.  It’s not until that voice starts screaming that we must finally confront it and verbalize what we have known but often have refused to admit. THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH MY CHILD. 

This movement in the cycle of grief is one that is very hard to confront. In confronting “what is”, we are taking the first step in actually facing the truth and that means that the story we had envisioned for our child is one that is no longer applicable. This is a very scary time for sure.

As a mother of a child with unique and special needs I must admit that the movement of Admission was probably the one that caused me the most intense personal anxiety. Early on with my child I often felt like I was given a 1000 piece puzzle with two-thirds of it missing and yet I was still believing that I could successfully put that puzzle together. I just needed to try to arrange the pieces differently and I could make it work. There were always signs this wasn’t working but I tried to use commons sense to explain things that weren’t adding up to me.  I was certain I could figure it out by myself because that is what good mothers do don’t they? They figure out ways to make things better for their children.

It wasn’t until the voice in my head was incessant 24/7 that I began to utter the words out loud to my closest confidants that I had concerns about my precious child… then I cried.

As Parents of Children with Unique and Special Needs John Ball and I UNDERSTAND the emotional turmoil that moms and dads experience and must come to terms with in order to find not only help for their children but also THEMSELVES.

Celebrate Hope is all about helping those that are hurting. We want you to live your best life possible and find peace and hope. We also want you to know that we care and we CAN help you work through the difficult stages of Grief like Admission.

Reach out to Celebrate Hope to explore ways that we can partner with you. You are not alone.

We will continue with this series that we have entitled, “The Movement of Grief”.   Next week we will be talking about the second movement of grief, “Shock and Denial”.   We trust that this will prove to be a helpful resource for you as you traverse your own journey in being a parent of a child with special and unique needs.

Be sure to check out our website at http://www.celebratehopellc.com. Feel free to contact us by email at http://lisa.goyette@celebratehopellc.com or http://john.ball@celebratehopellc.com.  You may also reach us by phone (248) 330-8493.

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The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

The Journey of Grief For Parents and Families Who Have Children With Special and Unique Needs

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” – Washington Irving

There are many misnomers concerning the human experience with grief.   As a culture we are inclined to think about grief solely as we encounter the death of someone who we deeply love.   However it encompasses other situation and circumstances and is expansive across the spectrum of loss.   We have witnessed grief on so many levels in the parents who we have had the privilege to work with over the years who have children with special and unique needs.  Some of these include parents who have children with an addiction, a child with a physical or emotional diagnosis, an eating disorder or a learning disability, we have even seen the prevalence of grief as children come out to families as LGBTQ.  We believe that grief is much broader and not limited to the experience of death and that it is in fact a universal language that countless people know and experience firsthand.  We like to think of it in these terms:

“Grief is the conflicting feelings caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.” – Russell Friedman

 I will never forget the flood of emotion that followed that moment in time when we heard those words for the first time, “It is quite possible that your son has autism”.  I particularly remember the evening that followed.  In the darkness of the night as I lay in our bed with nothing but the silence engulfing me, I felt nothing but desperation, fear, anxiety and intense pain.  My chest was heavy, it was difficult to breathe and as much as I wanted to sob with tears they just wouldn’t come.   I felt empty, alone and desperate.

I recall saying to my wife, “Just please tell me that it is all going to be alright!”

This was not only an impossible request to fill.  I was asking her to provide me with something that she was unable to give, namely a sense of assurance and comfort in the midst of the pain and grief  I was experiencing in the wake of the news that we had just heard.   Her grief journey had just begun too!

For Lisa Goyette (co-founder of Celebrate Hope) and her husband Dave, they too encountered their own experience with grief as they traversed the journey with their son.  Though the experience and journey with grief looked differently for all four of us, it was grief nonetheless as we all experienced “the conflicting feelings that were caused by the end of or change in a familiar pattern of behavior.”

In our seminars and our coaching of parents and caregivers we talk a great deal about the “movement of grief”.  We have discovered that there is a prevalent misconception about grief, namely that it only lasts for a period of time, that it eventually comes to an end and then goes away. Further we teach that it is not a unilateral process in which we move from one stage of grief into the next, never to revisit the same emotion twice.   This is ideology is the farthest from the truth.  Grief is a not a destination, it is a movement.   It is a personal and individualized movement that is unavoidable, a journey that we must endure.   It is on that same journey that we will experience a wide variety of emotions , many of which we will revisit time and time again as we continue to journey through life.  And for those who have children with special and unique needs we know this path all too well!   It is those hopes, dreams, aspirations, visions, experiences, opportunities that we once held for our children that may never come to pass that initiates us into the movement of grief.

Over the next several weeks in our blog we will look closely at each of the 7 movements of grief; admission, shock and denial, pain and guilt, anger and bargaining, depression, reflection and loneliness, reconstruction, and finally acceptance and hope.  We look forward to walking with you over the next several weeks.   We invite you to contact us to learn more about how we partner with parents and caregivers of those with special and unique needs, not to mention educational systems, non-profits and corporations as we empower parents to move from a place of crisis to a place of hope.

Be sure to check out our website at http://www.celebratehopellc.com. Feel free to contact us by email at http://lisa.goyette@celebratehopellc.com or http://john.ball@celebratehopellc.com.  You may also reach us by phone (248) 330-8493.

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Moving From Crisis To Hope

Moving From Crisis To Hope

 

Isolation, fear, anxiety, loneliness, insatiable pain, fatigue,  desperation, survival.   These words and so many more are merely inadequate descriptors of the journey that those who have children with special and unique needs experience.  For those who have come to know this way of life as their new reality, each day is met with unique challenges which only complicate a parents emotional, mental, physical health and the relationships that are a part of the fabric of their lives.   The focus on the needs of the child becomes all to consuming.   Visits to physicians and therapists, phone calls, text messages and emails to and from educators, mitigating behavioral issues, physical challenges, emotional breakdowns, managing schedules, financial burdens and so much more characterize the day in the life of a parent.   All of these responsibilities are above and beyond the work that we do to sustain life for ourselves and our family.  As exhausting as all of this might be, it is embodied in our love, devotion and care for our children.

These experiences, along with the commonality of having children with special and unique needs is what led to a budding relationship between Lisa and I along with our families.   The relationship that we shared as families became a source of love, support and comfort for the independent journey that each of us were on.   There is much gratitude that we express for having the privilege to share such an intimate journey.   Along they way, in countless conversations that we shared, we were enlightened by an obvious observation.   Countless resources and systems of support are readily available for the needs of our children, a simple Google search will substantiate this fact.   There is a sobering truth in the midst of this, outside of professional counseling, very little support is available for these parents.  

It was out of this void that Celebrate Hope came to be.   Our vision is simple.   We partner with parents and families as we help them move from a place of crisis and then transition to a place of hope.  We have a heart and passion for families as they traverse this challenging journey.   We strongly believe that when we take the initiative to care for ourselves and make sure that our needs are being met, it is then that we can be so much more for those who we care for.   Our model for support is threefold:

1) seminars  – we offer a full scope of seminars which includes “Moving from Crisis to Hope”, “Healthy Communication”, “Developing Systems of Support”.   In addition, we offer empathy training along with seminars for healthy communication for those who work directly with the families they serve.

2) monthly group coaching sessions  – these sessions provide a customized experience in which coping skills will be further defined, tested and honed to provide on going monthly support and coaching for the unique challenges that parents face.

3) one-on-one coaching – this provides individualized support and coaching for those parents who need more personal attention.

All of the work that we do takes us into partnerships  with educational systems, corporations, religious organizations and other non-profits to help create and foster systems of support for their employees and the people that they serve.   If you are more interested in more information about the services that we provide and receiving the help that you, a loved one or employee may need be sure to contact us at john.ball@celebratehopellc.com or http://lisa.goyette@celebratehopellc.com.   We would also urge you to check out our website at www.celebratehopellc.com

Be sure to follow our weekly blog.  Over the next several weeks, we will be focusing on the movement of grief  beginning with admission and concluding with hope and how it applies to your life.

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