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  • Valerie Bryant

When Life Makes Your Family Take an “L”

Coach would say, "Winners never settle for an "L". Her "L" meant "loser" - and who wants such a label? However, as a parent, I challenge that by saying, "Always take an "L" if that letter means "Learning" yet another valuable life lesson. That's what people who move forward with success and life satisfaction do. I choose not to look at the "L" as losing - as much as I am able. Every stride you make in a good direction is so much better than being stuck in stale matter, with the stench of stagnation wafting about you. That's when you do live the loser "L".

A chronic illness recently surfaced in one of my children. It took tons to settle it down – from doctor visits and procedures and meds and time. My heart ached for them to see them dealing with such physical pain. It was stressful to the rest of us in the family. A certain amount of attention was required to assist them. Everyone's prayers were coveted. Thankfully, the malady calmed, and a comfortable level of living was returned to that individual. Although this problem will be with them for life, they will be able to manage it. That ordeal took all of one year to resolve – a period I will recall for a very long time.

Nevertheless, I've met families with desperately ill children that made my experience seem like less of a tightrope experience (There is no way to try weighing and measuring the depths of one family's devastation to another. Pain and trauma are all relative to the family and person impacted. Ours was incredible and scary.) Still, one child at a conference where I spoke sat in a specialized chair beside her parents and quietly convulsed from time to time with noticeable heart-wrenching twitches. These hit her at various intervals throughout the program. It was a struggle to watch, yet that was all me and all the other participants were able to do. We sat silently and respectfully, waiting and hoping for it to soon stop.

The parents of this precious girl (possibly 10-12 years old) would tend to their child during these harrying episodes, talking soothingly to her throughout the ordeal. They made it their business to glance reassuringly over their shoulders at the rest of us – they had intentionally set themselves towards the back to not fully disrupt should anything happen. With their expressions, they seemed to say,

“We do have this under control, considering – and it is going to be ok. Trust us.”

Once the convulsing stopped, they would turn back to continue engaging in my program. These parents were nothing short of amazing people with immeasurable fortitude.

How sad to see such a situation.

How loving to see such dedicated parents.

It was devastating to later witness the impact all this had on this little girl's older sister (a teen).

Sister refused to have pictures taken with her family (without a fuss) during the days of this event- simply because of her younger chronically ill sister.

Sister expressed a disdain for even being a member of her family because, in her estimation, they would never be "normal" due to her sister.

I tried to view this through the older sibling's eyes as one who lived along the dark precipice defining the thin veil between life and death - on a daily basis. It had become such a routine for her until she must have lost the human element of what was actually happening. How draining it must be on the sibling who must stand by watching and wishing for just a little more normalcy - or for just a little more time and attention from their parents for their own development.

While her parents fought to keep the younger child alive, and to balance those regular demands of parenting, they also fought to help the older child feel that she, too, was loved and wanted. From my brief time in their midst, I saw such distress and love and dedication on one hand, laced with disdain and confusion on the other. It seemed as if all their efforts would not have much degree of a happy ending. I do hope I am wrong. And I do hope that back in their community they are surrounded by supportive friends and family who will walk with them through this valley.

This is the "L" I took from this ordeal as it unfolded:

Simply “LEARN”

Life happens - and we all do the best we can.

Life is unfair - and some of us have to bear much heavier burdens than others who seem untethered by even the smallest concerns.

Life is unrelenting at times.

It's when you give it all you have and wind up with what feels like a net of zero that you must keep grip to continue believing in your worth - as well as that of others.

I remind myself that there is always someone who suffers more than me.

I try to remember to pray for the many who daily struggle with the very essence of life.

I try to remember to daily pray for parents and their children. These are the critical relationships that can massage a heart back onto a good path, even through extreme trial.

The sadness I witnessed was the pain this one youngster carried, and also the wonder of how she would possibly receive nothing of support from her own big sister. You wonder what makes a heart grow so cold.

Yet I must be careful to not judge this older child and others who pain in ways I could never understand. I must take care not to even judge the manner in which parents handle their family in dire matters.

It's sometimes wise to realize that, no matter all of your experience, that you just don't know everything.

Even when you put it through the prism of your own life experiences, you find that another's life variables are wildly different from your own. When you don't know a person's backstory, prayer and grace must take precedence. Maybe one day, before it's too late, people like this youngster will be able to see some beauty in those less fortunate. It’s where we learn to deal with our pain to help others with theirs. It will ever be my passion to help and pray others through their own personal hardship journey.

When a win is not feasible, and life makes no sense – do your level best and take an "L" to learn.

#familyhardship, #parentingthroughpain, #lovingtheunloveable, #raisingspecialneedschildren

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