Around the time I connected with parents of deaf children, I also came across the following quote. It really reiterated why it’s so important to connect with people on similar paths.
“One stranger who understands your experience exactly will do for you what hundreds of close friends and family who don’t understand cannot. It is the necessary palliative for the pain of stretching into change. It is the cool glass of water in hell.” — Laura McKowen
Don’t get me wrong, we had and continue to have a great support group in our friends and family. But there’s something about connecting with people on the same journey as you that makes you feel seen and understood. In the few months since Cooper’s diagnosis, we’ve been lucky enough to connect with many parents of deaf and hard of hearing kiddos. Some are in the early stages like us, and others are further along in the journey.
Here’s what we’ve learned about why those connections are so vital.
There are many emotions involved in a hearing loss diagnosis, especially in the beginning weeks. Having someone to lean on who has been through the same emotions is so validating. To be able to spew what you are feeling, even the irrational parts, and be met with only kindness and understanding is nothing short of incredible. There have been many times in this journey that I have admitted I was feeling something I knew was ridiculous, only to have another parent say they’ve thought or felt the same and that it’s normal.
The initial diagnosis may be the hardest part of a hearing loss journey. That doesn’t mean it’s the only difficult part. There are other emotional times along the way. It’s helpful to have someone who has been there before. Whether you are looking for advice on how to handle something related to speech therapy, mainstream classrooms, or technology, these parents have likely been through the same and can offer support. Or, if you’re simply looking for someone to say, “Me, too,” they can offer that as well. Sometimes there is unexplainable comfort that can be taken in simply knowing you are not alone in a circumstance, that someone else has gone before you and come out the other side.
“Sometimes there is unexplainable comfort that can be taken in simply knowing you are not alone in a circumstance, that someone else has gone before you and come out the other side.
Many of the families we connected with have older children and are a few years ahead of us in this journey. We are able to lean on them and ask them questions about things like speech therapy and cochlear implants. We’ve even connected with a few families with deaf children in our very own community. We’ve have been able to meet in person and ask questions specifically about our local resources and school district. There is just an unspoken connection between parents in a similar boat. Being able to see their children thriving has dissolved so much fear for both my husband and myself. We no longer have fear about what Cooper’s future looks like because we’ve seen that future played out in many of the families we have come to know.
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Getting photos with this one is getting more complicated by the day. ⠀⠀ In other news, we love this new outfit from @lovelylittlesbabyco ⠀⠀ #thescooponcoop #hearingloss #hearingaids #cochlearimplants #deafkidsrock #waardenburg #waardenburgsyndrome #loveandlanguage #specialneedsparenting #welcometoholland #advocatelikeamother
As I started connecting with more parents early on, I noticed that my resource pile began to grow and grow. In fact, it got to the point where it was overwhelming (but in a good way). I had so much information to sift through. It was all coming from people who had been where I was, so I knew it was relevant and helpful. I made sure to keep a folder with all the resources listed because I couldn’t possibly visit them all at once. Over the course of a few weeks, I checked them out and bookmarked favorites.
As an adult, I can admit that it’s not always the easiest thing in the world to make new friends. But when you cross paths with someone in a similar situation, there is a natural bond that occurs. As time passes, that bond most often turns into a friendship, and without the effort that is likely required in other adult friendships. These types of friendships just happen naturally because you have so much in common and can relate to the same things when it comes to the hearing loss diagnosis and journey.
This is perhaps my favorite reason of all to connect with other parents. By doing so, you learn firsthand what it entails to offer support. You know what helped you when you were in the thick of it, and because of that, you learn how to offer that same support to others down the line. In my opinion, it’s so important to give back what was given to you in hard times. It not only helps others, but it continues to help you work through your own emotions and your own journey. I really encourage you to think back to the weeks surrounding your family’s own journey and tap into what helped you most. Then offer that to someone else. Being what someone else needs in their moments of struggle is rewarding beyond anything else.
Read more: Tips for parents new to hearing loss
Of course, I do recognize that everyone is different and some people are more private than others. Reaching out may feel scary or unnatural, and may even keep some people from doing so. But based on my own experiences, I strongly encourage you to reach out and connect with someone on a similar journey. For us, that was connecting to hearing parents of deaf children. Connection is powerful and it truly can make the unmanageable feel manageable.