Signs You Are Grieving as the Parent of an Atypical or Neurodivergent Child

April 28, 2023

Parenting a child with autism, Asperger’s, ADHD, or another diagnosis can be indescribably hard. Consider these signs you may need grief recovery support on your neurodivergent parenting journey.

Becoming or learning you will become a parent is one of life’s greatest joys. You carried that bundle of joy for nine months, the delivery went smooth, and boom: your child is diagnosed shortly after birth or even a few years after birth with a scary diagnosis, developmental setback, or disability.  


When Sharon’s granddaughter was born, everyone was elated. She seemed to be developing and progressing like she should—until around 14 months when they began to notice that she wasn’t answering to her own name. They suspected a hearing problem, but upon testing found out her hearing was fine. A short time later, they were given the diagnosis: she, at just over two years old, was nonverbal autistic.

 

Most parents have no idea that parenting a child with special needs is a grieving process; and it’s not just the diagnosis itself that warrants feelings of grief, but rather the lifelong journey of parenting a special-needs child. Add to that, grieving the loss of normalcy, experiences the child may never have, or just struggling with your own physical, emotional, and mental well-being are often more than many parents can bear. 

 

As parents, we want only what’s best for our children, and as much as we wish we could, we simply can’t trade places with them—we can only process the situation and keep going, hopefully with the resources and tools to navigate the unexpected challenge and uncharted territory as parents of atypical children. One of those resources? Grief recovery support to help you become the best parent possible to the amazing and extraordinary child begotten to you.

Signs You Are Grieving as a Neurodivergent Parent

Here are some signs you might need grief recovery counseling as a parent of an atypical or neurodivergent child:

 

  • You find yourself envying the lives of other families with “normal” children
  • Your partner refuses to accept or deal with the diagnosis your child has been given, making your day-to-day challenges even harder to navigate
  • You are triggered by people saying things like, “God only gives his hardest battles to his strongest warriors” or “God knew only you could handle this burden” or “You’re so strong—how do you do it?”
  • You often lose sleep worrying about the future
  • You struggle to find joy or hope in your situation
  • You have put your own health and well-being on the back burner to care for family members
  • You’ve approached a new milestone with your child that has presented new, unfamiliar, or daunting challenges as a parent
  • You are exhibiting symptoms of depression like isolation, sleeping too little or too much, having no appetite, showing little or no interest in your hobbies or passions, or a looming sense of doom
  • You are struggling to cope with stress or have “numbed out” by using substances like alcohol, food, or other avoidant behaviors

It’s OK to Celebrate Your Parenting Wins

On June 3, 2017, around 3 o’clock in the morning, something amazing happened: Sharon’s granddaughter realized she could talk. She started speaking one word, here and there: Mom, sun, night, progressing up to 8-10 words, eventually carrying on conversations with her grandma on FaceTime. 


If you are struggling or your heart is broken over parenting an atypical child, try to lean into joy in those unexpected moments of blessings. Consider every day an adventure, navigating the idiosyncrasies of doing life together. But when seasons get more challenging and stress levels reach new heights, know there is support available from people who understand.

Neurodivergent Parenting Support is Available

If the stress and solitude of parenting an atypical or neurodivergent child feels like too much to bear, you are not alone. We see you, we know you’re hurting, and want to offer you a safe place to share your story and feel supported in your healing journey. Contact us today to set up a free discovery call and spend some time with us – we’re here for you. 

Sharon Brubaker is a certified Life Coach and credentialed Grief Specialist who, along with her team, teaches women who are grieving how to process their thoughts and emotions. To learn more about navigating grief within the family, listen to the full podcast episode here or download my free e-Book, The Griever’s Guide, which equips you with the tools to live life after grief; because no griever should have to navigate a broken heart on their own.

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