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There is nothing much worse and more heart-wrenching than seeing a young child being very sick and not knowing when, or if they will even get better. And if you are the parent of a child that has been diagnosed with an illness, whether physical or mental, you are often left feeling powerless to change the status-quo.
Your child might be at the mercy of the medical fraternity and you have to invest a lot of faith and trust in their decisions. You are quite within your rights to have your own emotional rollercoaster ride. It is not easy.
When such a crisis hits a family, the please and happiness you took for granted may fade. You may find yourself worrying endlessly, losing sleep and your life just becomes so raw. You feel intense pain. Sacrifice is inherent and fundamental part of being apparent. Be assured, your emotions are very normal and very understandable under the circumstances.
There will be a sense of desperation in not knowing how to help and not knowing the prognosis. Unlike other forms of illness, mental illness also has the potential to fundamentally alter a person’s sense of self and how they experience others. The child may not quite recognise you or be violent towards you, mood swings and outbreaks that were not previously present. It will be a trying time for all the family and a time for unity to approach the problem together. The child will probably be very aware of their illness but sometimes, for a variety of reasons and often beyond their control, they will struggle to remain calm and collected; that is if the child is coherent.
One strategy in coping with the darkness that has dawn upon your family is to find some joy in every day. Allow yourself to have ‘treat’, embrace the little things that give you pleasure. It may be a simple as some time out from hospital visits to enjoy the fresh air and hot coffee. By embracing pleasure when you find it, you become stronger and more able to cope. It’s like that age-old analogy that if a plane is going down you have to take the oxygen mask first before you give it to your child.
During the time of your child’s illness, the relationship between parents will take a toll. But you can work on the problem together, share the load and support each other. Sex may be another beast altogether. As part of sexuality is about letting go and giving yourself permission to feel pleasure. But how do you do this when your child is in the hospital? Intrinsically, it somehow feels wrong. But that feeling with the belief that it was really important to bond with your other half (husband, wife or partner) in ways that weren’t associated with the illness that surrounded you every day. You may have to force yourself to overcome the barriers but the moments of pleasure will be worth it and keep the relationship strong during the darker days.
You can’t control the situations that you find yourselves in during difficult times and you can’t control the whole experience, but you can do your best to remain healthy and loving to each other.
You can also share a bit of escapism through singing or reading with the sick child. While you are entrenched in the song or story, the troubles will be out of mind at least for the moment.
In Buddhism, there is a word called “Samsara” which means a hopeless cycle that goes round and round endlessly and causes us to suffer. Stop fighting the pain, embrace the pleasure when and where you find it and just never give up hope. Allow yourself to escape “Samsara” if only for a moment.
By you remaining positive and happy, the child will have a greater opportunity to recover and a future worth battling to keep.