Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Grace under Pressure

Magazine article U.S. Catholic

Grace under Pressure

Article excerpt


Julia and Pat's daughter Megan was born 11 weeks premature with Down syndrome. Now 18 months old, she has numerous health and developmental challenges. "Each day, we have to choose between doing what's best for her and the things we'd rather spend our time doing for ourselves," says Julia.

Yet Julia and Pat, who also have three other daughters, say the experience of receiving Megan as their daughter has brought them profound joy. "I have yet to meet a person who withdraws from us because of Megan's disability," Julia says. "On the contrary, Megan draws people to us. It's easy to see how Megan is made in God's image."

From parenting a child with a slight learning disability to parenting a cognitively impaired child who uses a wheelchair, children's special needs require varying levels of parental commitment. What all special needs have in common, however, is a potential to be vehicles for God's grace, bringing parents to new places of love and acceptance.

Entering into the pain and the challenge. "Our first few weeks with Megan were frightening, and we wished it had happened to somebody else," Julia admits. Fear and denial over a child's disability is common, but parents must decide whether to stay there or enter into the pain and challenges head-on.

Mary Nervig, a therapist for many families with special needs children, sees parallels between Jesus' suffering, death, and resurrection, and how families ultimately respond to their children's situations. She explains that new life can come to a family when parents fully share in their child's pain: "It is only when our honest self meets our child's honest self that healing and growth can begin."

Seeing God's work in your family. When Bobby was 4, surgery to remove a brain tumor left him with a permanent cognitive disability and some physical challenges. …

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