Getting the news that your child is dangerously–perhaps even fatally–ill is one of the most difficult things any parent will ever go through. It is life-changing, and for many, it seems like a nearly impossible task to get through it without the help of drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. What those in recovery know, however, is that substances will only make things worse in the long run. They may provide temporary relief in the now, but later, the original issue is still there and is clouded by the shame or guilt that came with the substance abuse.
It’s a terrible thing, to watch a child go through an illness or deal with life-altering consequences, and it can lead to depression and other mood disorders very quickly. For that reason, it’s imperative to make a conscious decision now to learn coping methods that are healthy and don’t require a substance. It is possible, and with a little help, you can get through it.
ASK FOR HELP
You can’t do it all by yourself, and even if you try, you’ll reach burnout mode very quickly. Ask for help for whatever your needs are, for your family’s sake as much as your own. If your house is a mess because you’ve been focusing on your child’s well being or staying late at the hospital, ask a friend to come and do the dishes or bring a hot meal to your family. In situations such as these, loved ones will always say, “Let me know if you need anything”, and they mean it. It’s difficult for them to step in without being asked, because many people don’t want to overstep their bounds. Be specific about what you need and don’t feel guilty about asking for it. The people who love you are happy to do it.
One of the best ways you can help yourself during this time is to find support. Your friends and family are one thing, but you may find it helpful to talk to a therapist or join a support group for parents of ill children so that you can talk about your shared experiences. This can be helpful not just for your own mental health, but in other ways as well; you may meet someone who has been through what you’re dealing with who can give you advice.
LET IT OUT
You may feel the need to “stay strong” in front of your family members, especially if you have other children, but it’s necessary to grieve in a healthy way and show them that it’s okay to be sad or upset. Holding things in, repressing your emotions, will only make things worse in the long run.
You will likely be focused on your child for a long time, and that’s completely understandable, but it’s also necessary for you to take a little time to look after yourself. Many parents find that they are so involved in being there for their loved one that they forget to shower, let alone find time to exercise. It will be very easy for depression to slip in, so find things that make you happy in order to keep it at bay. Indulge in a long shower, get a massage to relax, make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eat well-rounded meals rather than relying on fast food or cafeteria food, and find ways to exercise, which can help defeat those difficult, negative thoughts.
Meditation is a great way to learn mindfulness, which can help you focus on the present instead of worrying about the future. One way to achieve this is through yoga, or you can simply sit in a quiet space and focus on your breathing, your body, and the immediate space around you.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO REACH OUT
Living through something as difficult as this can take a toll in a very short amount of time. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, for your child’s sake as well as your own.