Address Your Stress


Do you experience traumatic memories from raising a child with special needs? Jolene Philo encourages you to follow several steps to address your stress.

I was twenty-five years old when I became a mom, and my world changed forever. Like all new parents, I suddenly realized the needs of our small bundle of sweetness would rule my heart and my days for years to come. Unlike most new parents, my husband and I soon had to surrender our son to the cadre of surgeons, doctors, and nurses in a distant city who could save his life. Before we could kiss him good-bye, he was on his way.

Our baby lived.

His recovery spanned five years, seven surgeries, dozens of tests and procedures, numerous bouts of bronchitis, and countless sleepless nights. He’s thirty-three now. He’s been on his own for years. The needs of our small bundle of sweetness who entered our lives in 1982 rule my days no longer.

But for many years the traumatic memories of his early days did.

When those memories returned, the stress turned me into one hot mess. Weepy. Sad. Irritable. Overly emotional. Until about a year ago when my very wise big sister, who happens to be a mental health therapist, suggested I see a counselor who could help me process the traumatic memories associated with our son’s early years. For about two months, I visited an Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapist once a week for hourly visits.

The treatment changed my world again.

The therapy didn’t make me forget our son’s early struggles or my own. But I can now think about them without reliving them. Without being sucked into a vortex of emotions that turn me into a hot mess. Instead, I can distance myself from the events surrounding his birth and treatment enough to think clearly and rationally about them. Best of all, I can now turn my thoughts to the needs of the parents of kids with special needs who are stuck in their own trauma.

Perhaps you are one of them.

There are so many of us. How do I know? Because every time I publish a blog about this topic, parents of kids with special needs respond. They identify with what they read. They tell their stories and ask questions. They need someone like my very wise big sister to gently encourage them to seek treatment. To attend to their own mental health so they can better care for the bundles of sweetness that rule their lives.

Today, I want to be your big sister.

I want to assure you that what you are feeling is common for parents of kids with special needs. You love your child with all your heart. But you are dealing with an on-going, stressful situation that’s bigger than you are. Your emotions don’t make you a bad person. Nor do they make you a bad Christian.

You need to address your stress.

A trained therapist can help you do it. These steps (also from my wise, big sister) can help you find one.

  1. Begin with prayer. Ask God to give you wisdom and discernment to find a skilled therapist.
  2. Use the therapist locator at Psychology Today to find clinicians in your area. Or ask your physician or friends for recommendations.
  3. Check to see if the therapists are in your insurance network.
  4. Call and make an appointment with a therapist.
  5. If you go to the first appointment and the therapist doesn’t feel right, try a different one.
  6. If after a few appointments, you feel no progress is being made, switch to someone else.

If you have more questions, please leave a comment. I will try to answer them with the grace and wisdom of my big sister. God used her gentle encouragement to change my world. May He do the same for you.

If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation;
and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort,
which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.
2 Corinthians 1:6

Written by: Jolene Philo 

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