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Challenge: Kids with Special Needs

The Day Grief Hit Me in the Hospital's Parking Garage

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Check. Check. Check.

No. No. No.

No, he’s not running.

No, he’s not walking backwards.

In fact, he’s not even walking forward.

No, he’s not standing.

No, he’s not saying words...

I made my way down the list of milestones my son -- my sweet, precious, happy son -- should be meeting.

We’ve known about his delays for quite some time now. He sees a teacher and a physical therapist through a local early intervention program.

At his check-up, though, there was something about filling in those boxes that made my heart sink.

Our pediatrician is compassionate and thorough. He’s also known about our son’s delays from the earliest of days.

“It’s time,” he said.

He sent a referral over for us to see a developmental specialist at the local children’s hospital.

And while my brain was somewhat expecting this referral to happen at some point in the near future, my heart just wasn’t ready for the official-ness of it.

No one wants their child to experience delays. No one wants their child to have special needs or have some sort of diagnosis that could impact the rest of their life.

Certainly no one wishes for this, right?

I folded up the clinic summary and referral information and tucked it in the outside pocket of our diaper bag. Then I buckled my son into his stroller. I gave him his soft blue blanket -- his favorite. We slid into the elevator and through the lobby, and I barely made it into the parking garage before I completely lost it. The winter wind beat against my tear-soaked face.

When I got to our minivan, I parked the stroller and unbuckled my son. He is just learning to reach his arms up when he wants to be held. I scooped him up, and with my face pressed against his, I sobbed. Right there in that cold parking garage, I grieved the weight of the unknowns with My Son.

I texted my husband about the referral.

He said OK.

I replied: “I’m really sad about this.”

He texted back two words: “Me too.”


We don't know what the future holds for our son. After all, none of us know the future for any of our children.

But what we do know is this: Grief is a normal part of this process.

We can be sad for the challenges our child faces and still be incredibly grateful to have him in our lives.

We can be worried about the future, yet still be confident in our ability to advocate for what he needs.

And we can be discouraged at how isolating this all seems, yet somehow feel comforted in knowing we are never walking this road alone.

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