Martha Beck shares how she deals with the limitations of her child with Down syndrome.
I was told before my son was born that people who have children who die go through the grieving process and then get over it, but people who have a child with a disability never stop grieving.
And I remember thinking, oh well, hmm, I have a fun life ahead of me, I guess. I want to contradict those findings if anybody out there has heard them.
The fact is that none of us ever completely stops having negative feelings about anything. I have as many grievous moments for my daughters, who are both brilliant, as I do for my son. They just have different types of problem.
What you realize as you deal with a child with a disability is that we heal from grief, in fact therapists call grief the healing feeling.
So when something happens for Adam that maybe seen as negative or he can’t partake of something that may be seen as positive, I sometimes go through a small grieving process.
But the same thing happens with my daughters or with myself. We all have different limitations and learning to love what is and like go off our feelings of grasping for what isn’t.
That’s the key not only to dealing with a disability, but to enjoying your life and your child with a disability or your disability itself just becomes your teacher.
Any time we have a fixed expectation and a real attachment to what we want to happen we leave ourselves wide open to all kinds of grief and that is true whether you think you are going to be famous or whether you think your child is going to be perfect or whether you think your marriage is going to be perfect.
And that’s what pushes people into denial, this fixation on a mental image of something but may actually not be the best thing for you.
So I like to pattern myself after a little frog that I saw on TV, it’s called the pebble-toad actually and this little pebble-toad, it was on the Discovery Channel.
He spent all day climbing this rock face and when he got to the top he peaked over the top of the rock and there was a huge tarantula right there.
And literally, in a hundredth of a second, that little frog pulled in his arms and legs and became a pebble and bounced back down the hill, landed in a puddle, no worse with where, pulled himself up and said, “Okay, what do I do next?”
He gave up on his plan that fast when something changed and there was no regret. So I sort of strive to live my life willing to let go of anything I expect at any moment.
It doesn’t mean I don’t have hopes and aspirations, it’s that when something different happens I take a deep breath and say, “Well, how could this be better?”
And that non-attachment is very, for example dominant in Asian philosophy – non-attachment is freedom from suffering, and I found that that’s really true.
You can love things but to be attached to them in a grasping way always leads to pain.
About Martha Beck:
Martha Beck, Ph.D., is a writer and life coach who specializes in helping people design satisfying and meaningful life experiences. She holds a bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies and master's and Ph.D. degrees in sociology, all from Harvard University. She has published academic books and articles on a variety of social science and business topics.
Her non-academic books include the New York Times bestsellers “Expecting Adam” and “Leaving the Saints,” as well as “Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live” and her newest book, “Steering by Starlight.” Dr. Beck has also been a contributing editor for many popular magazines, including Real Simple and Redbook, and is currently a columnist for O, the Oprah Magazine.