In April, my father-in-law passed away after battling cancer. His presence in my life, and the life of my family, was one of great importance. Although I realize that the passing of a loved one is not unique to me, the sadness I feel can be very isolating. As I went back to work and my daily life, and found myself among people that didn’t know him, I carried a burden that seemed solely on my shoulders.
My father-in-law was always on my mind, and there was rarely anyone readily available to talk about him when I needed it. The only time I felt somebody could truly relate to my feelings was when I was with my husband, or his family, or others that knew and loved him. Of course, as life often does, this brought me back to thinking about the isolation of raising a child with special needs.
As a parent of such a child, we often feel nobody understands our circumstances. I’ve spoken about Feeling Isolated before, and how that isolation isn’t felt only in this aspect of our lives, but in other ways as well. In the death of a family member, in the loss of a home, in the break-up of a marriage, and in fighting an illness; we all feel that we are fighting our battles alone. However, common sense tells us there are others that understand, and have been in that circumstance before. Finding those people can make it all just a little bit easier.
Like I seek out my husband and his family in our recent loss, parents of children who are blind find comfort in seeking out each other. Many of us have connected with other parents like us, and have found knowledge, strength, and friendship in those connections. We may begin seeking out those people for ourselves, but the true benefit goes beyond that and moves forward to our children.
Children who are blind can also feel very isolated. They are often the only children in their school and community with a visual impairment. It helps to connect them to a support system of their own. Through summer camps, or school for the blind activities, our children need to seek out other kids who are blind, too. Knowing they’re not alone is an immense relief, and building social skills is also very important.
When I’m feeling isolated, the pain is eased by a nice card from a friend, an unexpected gift, a hug, or even a random phone call. Connecting children who are blind with peers, and specifically other children who are blind, may help them find the same support. They can be taught not only how to make friends…but how to be a good friend. It’s effortless to accept friendship from others, but harder to know how to reciprocate.
I know I’m grateful for the support and kindness that has been shown to me and my family over the last month, and I hope my son will have a similar support system of friends when he is an adult. We all feel isolated at times, but we never are truly alone. The best gift we can give our children are opportunities to make friends, so they feel less isolated, and therefore have a better chance to live fulfilling, independent lives.