A personal account by Judith-Rose Max
In November, the day after World Diabetes Day, my world took an extreme knock. My gorgeous 2-year old daughter was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic, dependent on insulin and in need of continuous daily monitoring and multiple insulin injections.
My horror was incomprehensible. The risks of the disease are extensive and I know them all, my husband was diagnosed when he was 6. I am extremely grateful that her illness is well understood and that with proper management my baby will live a full and meaningful life.
Life seems to bring challenges that we least expect and even though our hardships are less than what others are experiencing, they are still our challenge and our main focus.
What can you do to pick yourself up when you know your situation is far from the worst, but so daunting and horrible at the same time?
1. Treat yourself kindly – care for you in the same way you would your best friend or your child:
- Experience every feeling
- Take the time you need to heal and accept what is happening in your world; and
- Be kind to yourself.
Be as patient and as kind to yourself as you are to your children. Feel the pain with all of your heart and you will emerge stronger.
2. Allow yourself to experience your grief in your own time?
When a person is faced with the reality of impending death or other extreme, awful fate, he or she will experience a series of emotional stages which are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.(1) These 5 stages can occur randomly or in order, and you are likely to experience them all.
I know that Diabetes in a young child can not be compared with the loss of a loved one, an incurable disease, or a tragedy, but when our circumstances change we all need the chance to grieve the loss of what was and deal with what has come our way in the best manner possible.
I lived through each stage and for me, just understanding that so many had experienced stages before me, really helped. I have surfaced with a positive attitude, a grateful heart and the knowledge that it will all be okay.
At first I denied, I prayed that I would awaken from this awful nightmare. Sometimes, it feels like I am still dreaming. How could my special angel child who is only 2 years old possibly have diabetes? I was horrified to discover that there are so many more young diabetics, and even more being diagnosed daily.
The guilt was unbearable, “Did I do something to cause this?” “Should I have realised sooner that there was something wrong?” I wished that I was ill rather than her. I contemplated and bargained changes I would put in place if this would all just go away. I would give up everything! So many awful thoughts spinning around in my head. The guilt, the sadness and the worry was all too much. Thankfully, in the end, I was relieved to know that we’d done nothing to cause this. There was no action that could have changed the outcome. While this didn’t resolve things, it made acceptance easier.
Sometimes sadness comes after denial and I sobbed and sobbed, the smallest thought or event would set me off. I believe our feelings are necessary to enable us to move on, but I was in a state of flux, I could do nothing except care for my baby. Everyone else in my world was pushed to the side and she was my only focus. No amount of positive self-talk, about how it could be so much worse, about how lucky we were helped, I just felt so sad.
Then I got angry, why on earth had this happened? Why my family? Why us? This is not fair. I struggled to respond when her siblings said it wasn’t fair because quite simply, I agreed. I continued to remind myself and my other children how lucky we were. I knew it would be okay, we had caught it early. But these positive thoughts only reduced my anger marginally. I was cross, really really mad and the best advice was to stay out of my way if you were smart.
Despite crumbling inside, I needed to put on a brave face while I pricked her finger, tested her blood and gave her multiple daily injections. As the mum of three, there is no time to feel too sorry for yourself, you just have to get on with. Despite my emotions, my baby was amazing, brave and powerful, she just did it. Her resilience showing in the way she responded to everything.
3. Be grateful and say Thank You
Earlier this week as I went to test her sugar it dawned on me, it was all going to be okay. I had reached the stage of Acceptance. No, this does not mean that I am happy with the situation, it does not mean that I wish it were not so. To me, it means that I know and understand that everything will be alright. There will be times when her diabetes makes me uncontrollably sad, but there are so many things that I am grateful for. I believe that “Saying Thank You” for what we have is the key to a happy life and the ability to face the challenges we are given.
I am grateful that modern medicine exists and that my child is a healthy young girl who will stay that way with proper care and insulin. I am grateful for the most amazing support we are receiving through Sydney Children’s Hospital, I am grateful that Diabetes Australia has a fabulous program to assist me and my family. I am grateful that my child’s daycare is able to give us the help she’ll need during school hours. I am grateful that her gorgeous sisters treat her as they did before she was diagnosed with incredible love and care. I am grateful for my family and friends who are able to say “I’m so sorry you are going through this” and how they offer their support and assistance. But mostly, I am grateful that my child is a healthy delightful young person who has taken this knock in her stride and she smiles and laughs in exactly the same was as she did before she became a diabetic.
Grieving is a process and I feel a sadness for my carefree innocence where I truly believed I controlled my world. What we need, is to find the strength for all that comes our way despite how challenging it is. Without that strength, we will continue to struggle to move forwards.
I have learned that while I cannot control my world, I can control the way I choose to respond to it. I can smile and approach each day content in the knowledge that I have all the love and support I need to take on the world!
Naomi Williams says “It is impossible to feel grateful and depressed in the same moment” and I agree.
Wishing you happy parenting with much love
- Wikipedia, Kübler-Ross model http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K%C3%BCbler-Ross_model. (Accessed 18 December 2013)
- Axelrod, J. (2006). The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief. Psych Central. http://psychcentral.com/lib/the-5-stages-of-loss-and-grief, (Accessed 18 December 2013)