As parents we are socially conditioned to feel guilty for almost everything we do as a mother or father: we’re too strict, we’re not strict enough, we feed our children the wrong foods, we force them into too many extra-curricular activities. Honestly, the list is endless! We can do no right, and parenting instead becomes a self-condemning nightmare…if we let it. And this is even more troubling when facing an autism diagnosis for your child – because the impact is huge: on your child AND on yourself!
Nobody wants to admit it, nor talk about it, but receiving an autism diagnosis for your child can be one of the lowest, most devastating moments of your life.
Having all of your expectations crushed
It’s a moment of convergence, when all your hopes from the past, the anxieties of the present and the fear of the future come together in one enormous explosion, like a supernova star- a supernova is the single largest explosion that takes place in space at the end of a stars life cycle.
As a star runs out of fuel and some of its mass drifts into its core, it becomes so heavy that it can no longer withstand its own gravitational force. And explodes. And the truth is, at the moment of an autism diagnosis this can be how it feels, like the end of a bright shining star that was.
For a lot of parents, there is a time of great sadness and a sense of loss that accompanies the stage of diagnosis. And we’re here to tell you, that is absolutely normal, and definitely OK!
In many ways, the diagnosis of autism can be a catalyst for a period of grief and sets into motion a million thoughts and questions: ‘Why us, why our family! What can I even expect now for my child’s future, for our future?
Everything I ever hoped for when I first held our child in my arms, is now gone.’ So many stressful thoughts as we try to recalibrate with this newfound information and what it means for our family.
What we need to remember as we have these thoughts and feelings is that our disappointment is in the situation, not the child. You are allowed to feel a sense of loss, you are allowed to feel a sense of anger, frankly, you are allowed to feel whatever you feel.
Three stages of grieving
There are stages of grieving diagnosis, just as there are stages of grieving almost anything in life.
- There can be a period of denial and isolation, wanting to pull back from friends or family-how could they possibly understand?!
- There is anger. An inexplicable anger that simmers over the injustice of it all-why me! Why not someone else!
- Sometimes there can be a period of bargaining, a period of depression, a sadness over what is lost and what might have been.
Perfectly normal and understandable emotions as you grieve old expectations for your little one, and for your family. Grief is a part of the large, bright spectrum of emotions we experience as humans, every emotion is valid, none are wrong, and more often than not, they are completely necessary.
There is a purpose for grief and anger
The thing about grief is, it doesn’t last forever. It serves its purpose for a time and it helps us to move forward to the great things ahead. Of which there are many. There is a saying by the great Roman philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero- ‘Where there is life, there is hope’. It’s a powerful statement, and you don’t even need to feel it to be true, for it to be true.
The reality is, an autism diagnosis can feel utterly overwhelming and devastating, but what you might not know yet, is that the future is going to be just as incredible; it simply looks different. New things are being created in the universe all the time, new energies and formations that serve a greater purpose and shine more brightly than they even did before.
The aftermath is the time to shine!
Did you know that a supernova outshines every single sun, star and element in the entire universe! It burns so brightly and transforms into the ineffable ‘Neutron Star’, one of the most spectacular creations in the universe that has fascinated and confounded astronomers for years and years.
They are so intricate and dense that a single teaspoon would weight a billion tonnes!! And the most incredible fact- its gravitational pull is 2 billion times stronger than the gravity on earth. (Yes you read that correctly, 2 billion!)
Children with autism are like neutron stars, they burn brightly with colours so iridescent, they don’t even exist in other entities. They have a gravitational pull even greater than the neutron star, as they charm people into who they are with their irrepressible and absorbing personalities. You can’t help but be drawn into their world and their brilliance!
How a mother found relief in an autism diagnosis – read on here
So it’s essential to remember, that even though the supernova has exploded and shot into a billion pieces, it comes back together to form something even brighter and more magnificent than before.
It’s ok to collapse. Just don’t forget there are brighter things to come. We promise.