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Parents of kids with disabilities deal with a chronic grief that never goes away. In the beginning, it is an intense grief similar to the stages following the death of a loved one, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance. We are grieving the loss of the “normal” child that might have been. But the child is still with us, so the cycle of grief never ends. Transitions in the child’s life often get the grieving cycle started again. For example, when the child starts school, has a birthday, goes to their first dance, a graduation; or worse, the child may miss out on these typical transitions.

Thankfully, the intensity of these emotions tend to fade over time and we eventually learn to cope. But the grief is always there and sometimes you just never know when it will raise it’s ugly head. Sometimes the grief can hit you when you least expect it. My life is good, my family and I are healthy and happy. I’m able to care for my boys, I’m coping well and I’m content and happy. Some people wonder how I manage to stay so positive with three children who all have special needs. For the most part I’m it that acceptance stage; after all, I’ve had 15 years to work on these issues.

Some parents of children with disabilities describe life as a roller coaster ride. Others say it’s more like bumper cars, you never know when something will sneak up on you from behind and hit you like a ton of bricks. I did feel like I was on a roller coaster when the boys were young. Things moved so fast, too fast. I could barely catch my breath. I had no control over the direction my life was heading and no way to get off the ride. But now, I think the bumper car analogy is better. You merrily drive along, minding your own business, when apparently out of nowhere, something hits you from behind. That is what happened to me today.

I was checking my morning email and I got a notice from JibJab that the new “Elf Yourself” script was out. If you’ve never heard of Elf Yourself, it’s a popular seasonal ad from OfficeMax where you can turn your family and friends into elves by sticking heads on elf bodies. It’s just silly Internet fun that I find hard to resist. This year you can make Disco Elves, and being a 70’s girl, I decided to have Rich dancing with the twins. I happily spent too much time choosing photos, cropping and fitting heads into the elf costumes. It wasn’t until I played my finished project that I got hit from behind. The overwhelming sadness of seeing Eric dancing around and looking exactly like is twin brother just made my heart sink. The boys were dancing around with their dad, just like it should have been…

So, the grieving cycle starts again. You don’t necessarily go through every stage and the emotions are in no particular order. I’m not in denial and there is no one to bargain with, so right now, I’m somewhere between anger and depression. But don’t worry; I’ll work back toward acceptance. I’m a veteran and I know this hit won’t keep me down for long!

Oh, and Happy Holidays!