Editor’s note: Jeff Davidson launches a series today… Facing the Elephants in the Room, in which he looks at the overwhelming, but unspoken challenges confronting parents of kids with special needs. Here’s Jeff…
When you walk down the path of a special-needs dad, you’ll soon find elephants in every room and around every corner. The elephants all have names: anger, blame, discouragement, jealousy, dreams, milestones, and thievery (just to name some of the larger elephants you will encounter).
Time after time as I meet and talk with other special-needs dads, these are the elephants we mention. The phrase “elephant in the room” is used to describe an unspoken yet obvious truth that is being ignored. If we are going to live the life God has purposed for us and be the best special-needs dads we can be to our families, we’ve got to address these elephants before we go any further.
As long as we pretend they don’t exist, we will let these elephants destroy us.
So let’s talk about some of the more common and biggest elephants for a minute.
The Anger Elephant:
So many special needs parents, including myself, wrestle with anger all throughout our journey.
Anger is a natural part of the grief process. As we experience the various aspects of life in our special-needs world, we will always find ourselves at different stages in dealing with our emotions and grief. Anger is one such emotion and stage.
I personally made the near-fatal mistake of letting anger and denial destroy me in the early years after receiving our diagnoses. I was acting out of my anger and l let it affect my relationship with my spouse, my family, and my friends.
Ultimately though, uncontrolled anger hurts ourselves as much, if not more, than others around us. Unbridled anger over our circumstances can lead to bitterness, despair, and chronic sorrow. If anger were a road, it would be a dead-end, leading us to nowhere.
Anger is a response, and we have a choice in how we respond to all situations. We can choose to act, speak, and live out of anger. Or, we can choose to act out of joy, acceptance, and determination to rise above our circumstances.
When we choose the latter, our perspective shifts and changes. God opens our eyes to his purposes, his presence, and his character. God can channel our anger into a holy discontent that he can actually use in our lives.
Our prayers will become more about asking God to use our circumstances than they are about asking him to change our circumstances.
Everything in our lives can be perceived as a burden or a blessing. How we respond ultimately determines the choice we make in our perception. Uncontrolled or chronic anger robs us of the ability to make the right choices when determining how we react and respond to our circumstances.
Surrender and confess your anger problems to God and ask Him for help. Don’t let anger rob you of your joy, peace, and contentment as you go along the journey of being a special-needs parent.
I have seen more special-needs dads destroyed by their inability to let go of anger than perhaps anything else.
Anger also becomes one of the biggest obstacles in our relationships with our spouses as well. Often times our wives don’t wrestle with anger as much as we dads struggle with it. So they have difficulty grasping and relating to our anger at the situation.
Dads have a tendency to transfer or direct that anger to our spouses and other family members, often lashing out with predictable results. Anger leads to bitterness. Bitterness leads to loneliness. And loneliness will lead to destruction and isolation. Anger will rob you of any hope for a positive relationship with your children.
We have to realize early in this journey that men and women grieve differently. You and your spouse may not be at the same stage or on the same page along the way. We must allow room for that and understand we may not be at the same stage at the same time.
Jeff Davidson is an author and pastor who enjoys speaking at churches, conferences, events and to groups, ministering to special needs families and individuals. Jeff and his wife Becky started Rising Above Ministries when they realized the incredible gift and blessing their own son with special needs (Jon Alex) was to them. Jeff’s book, No More Peanut Butter Sandwiches, is available through Crosslink Publishing, Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
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