PARENTS of special needs children are not estranged to feelings of ‘what could or should have been’ — indeed, their lives might be polarised violently between such states of living loss and fleeting moments of joy for milestones reached. It’s hard to know from my viewpoint because none of my children are profoundly impaired, although I do have a special needs child and we have lost an infant who certainly would have been profoundly impaired. Our sense for living loss is, perhaps, we don’t know how impaired our son would have been — how normal a life he might have lived.
Chronic sorrow is a condition of life suffered by those with children of all sorts of disabilities, as well as those people, for just one instance, who are familial caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s disease and other ongoing illnesses, including cancer. Chronic sorrow may be a form of ambiguous loss, which produces complicated grief.
Complicated grief often leads to depressive conditions, and even to associated disorders, because the experiences of past (and in some cases, biology) cannot be transcended. There is the sense that a person who has complicated grief may have always lived with it, right throughout their development from their earliest memory.
Chronic sorrow, therefore, emanates from a source quite different from typical complicated grief. It was enacted at a point in life that is discernible from the rest of life. It enacted and then remained, either for a season or indefinitely.
Chronic sorrow should be differentiated from depression, at least as far as our approach to healing is concerned. Depression carries with it a raft of holistic signs and symptoms, whereas chronic sorrow may be more specific in its affect. Depression can be quite systemic, yet chronic sorrow might be considered more of a strength-and-joy-testing state of being. Those with chronic sorrow are probably in situations where their own state of emotionality isn’t intrinsic to the problem, but it is an effect of the problems they face.
Hope is something those with chronic sorrow need. It is so much easier if a person with chronic sorrow has an operant faith in the Lord Jesus, for there is an eternal hope that can be lived today, all days, and ultimately in eternity. Indeed, many with chronic sorrow find themselves drawn to Christian faith to survive and thrive in their lives.
There is a compensation for sufferers of chronic sorrow. They are accorded the gifts of patience, strength, the wisdom of resilience, and of extraordinary compassion. They are not perturbed about first world problems. What a blessing that is!
There is also hope in this: chronic sorrow is an extrinsic condition that is cast over us, rather than depression, where the problem is in us. There is hope that we might develop the emotional and spiritual resilience, even in chronic sorrow, that allows us to live the truly victorious life.
The best hope for those with chronic sorrow is to acquire the gift of being able to live happily in their reality.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.
For more information on Chronic Sorrow, go to this link.