We have three children. The two youngest were born with mild to moderate hearing loss. At the time we were clueless about what this was going to mean for each of them and their future.
When our children were first diagnosed with hearing loss, we had no reference of what a child with hearing loss looked like. We had aunts and grandparents who experienced hearing loss, but only as they grew older. We did not know a single person who wore hearing aids. This made it hard for us to conceptualize what this was going to mean for our children and our family.
As parents, we worry. We dream about what life will be like for our children. We want to do what we can to love them and prepare them for the future. I had dreamed for years imagining what my children would look like, sound like, and be like. I dreamed of their personalities… if they would have my husband’s eyes or my nose. When I thought through potential complications that might happen, hearing loss was not something that had ever crossed our minds.
When two of our children were diagnosed with hearing loss we knew we had to address the deep emotions that we were experiencing. Some of our fears were rational and some were not. At times, the fears I was experiencing felt debilitating. I wanted to hide under the covers of my warm bed and never come out.
“When two of our children were diagnosed with hearing loss we knew we had to address the deep emotions that we were experiencing.”
Contrary to belief, fear isn’t a negative response. Psychology Today states that fear is “a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn’t feel it, we couldn’t protect ourselves from legitimate threats.” The problems arise when our fear keeps us from moving and taking action.
Alex Niles, a writer diagnosed with stage IV gastric cancer stated that, “fear can lead us to hide, to run away, or to freeze in our shoes.”
Isn’t that the truth?!
While all I wanted to do was hide, there were three little sets of eyes watching my every move. I knew, if I felt shame – my children would feel shame. If I felt anxious – I knew I was modeling anxiety to my children. If I let fear consume me, I knew I would be demonstrating to my children the toxic side of fear.
For my children to be courageous, resilient, and strong, I had to model it for them and be the first one to lean into the fears that I was experiencing.
Instead of hiding, I realized I needed healthy ways to cope with the difficult emotions I was experiencing. To lean into my fears, I needed a plan.
Here are the 5 ways that I found to be the healthiest ways for me to lean into my fear:
1. Acknowledge the Fear
Sometimes the hardest step in facing fear is first acknowledging. This might be one of the most courageous steps anybody can take. The way I did this was: journaling, meeting with a therapist, sharing with my children’s doctors, sharing with my husband and close friends. Acknowledging my fears and stating them out loud – no matter how painful, or embarrassing I thought they were – was a liberating experience.
2. Listen to Truth from Others
Once I expressed my fears, I allowed for others to speak truth into my life. Being in the mist of grief and pain, I knew that I wasn’t grounded in my thoughts. So when my children’s doctor took my shoulder stated, “You did nothing to cause the hearing loss to your children,” I worked hard to let that soak deep into my mind and heart. When my parents told me, “We have your back,” I let myself sink into the relief of not being alone. Having trusted people speak truth of hope to me was a grounding and healing experience.
“…when my children’s doctor took my shoulder stated, “You did nothing to cause the hearing loss to your children,” I worked hard to let that soak deep into my mind and heart.
Creating space for myself was a vital piece to my health. When my thoughts began to spiral negatively, was a sure sign that I was neglecting myself. For me to take care of myself meant seeing a therapist, working out, and taking time to be alone. Being a mother is taxing – amazing, but taxing. Add children with unique needs, and the load can feel too much to bear. Specifically, going for runs, attending yoga classes, and coffee dates by myself helped create the space and time I needed to process my feelings.
4. Lean into Your Community
Another key part to helping me work through my fears was relying on my community. Relying on others takes a huge amount of vulnerability. Glennon Doyal Milton, author and blogger of Momastery writes in her book, “Love Warrior,”
“We can choose to be perfect and admired or to be real and loved. We must decide. If we choose to be perfect and admired, we must send our representatives out to live our lives. If we choose to be real and loved, we must send out our true, tender selves. That is the only way. Because to be loved, we have to be known. If we choose to introduce our true selves to anyone, we will get hurt. But we will be hurt either way. There is pain in hiding and pain outside of hiding. The pain outside is better, because nothing hurts as bad as not being known.”
For me, leaning into my friends allowed them to become deep pillars of strength in my life. I even joined a “Mom’s Group” at my church. We met weekly, hired a babysitter for all the kids, and created a space share and be seen. Mom’s groups are not for everybody, but community is. Allowing, even one person, to truly see you will be a healing experiencing.
I knew nothing about hearing loss at first. The lack of knowledge was a breeding ground for irrational fears. I knew it would be vital to equip my heart with accurate information. I read everything I could, searched the Internet, and followed other families on social media sites. The more I read, the more I saw, and the more I learned, the more my hope grew.
Rooting myself in truth, knowledge, health and community allowed my fears to become less debilitating. Consequently, my heart and mind began feeling hopeful, empowered, and joyful. While I still worried, I didn’t feel frozen in the fear. I continued to let the relief and hope wash over me.
The diagnosis of my children’s hearing loss was, at first, a fearful experience. With time, I was able to lean into the fear I was experiencing and experience hope. While our fears never truly go away, the debilitating power that fear can have, does. When those feelings come back, as they do, I continue to acknowledge them, let others speak truth to me, take care of myself, rely on my community, and educate myself. This process allows what at one time felt all consuming, turn into a beautiful and hopeful part of our lives.
Read more Hearing Loss Advice I Wish I Had Known on my personal blog, MelissaHyder.com.