Easter Desolation Initiates Special Needs Support Group, by Kate Anderson
Last year's Easter season wasn't very joyful for me. I was looking forward to it all Lent. I always do because it's my favorite holiday. I love how happy everybody usually is on Easter after a month and a half of sacrifice and penance. It's such a fun holiday for me. Plus, Jesus is risen from the dead and did so for each one of us.
But last year was different. Lent was OK. I gave up a few things that were really hard for me. Easter wasn't a good day at all. My husband and I fought after Mass. We got into a fender bender on the way to my aunt's house for Easter dinner. I attempted to see the positive in the situation and tried to remember tomorrow was a new day.
But the bad days continued. I wasn't happy. I prayed but didn't feel God was listening or even there at all. I felt like I was being punished for having a bad Lent. I was in a period of desolation. I also had other things on my mind.
A few weeks before Easter, we went to the park and my kids needed help with everything on the playground. All three of my kids have special needs and are developmentally delayed. I watched the other kids on the playground, the same ages as my kids, climb ladders and go down slides that my kids weren't able to do on their own.
But these weren't just some random kids. They were my nephews. And I watched as they explored the playground needing little to no help at all. My sister and her family were visiting us in Colorado. My nephews and my kids are just 8 months apart from each other. My oldest son Nicholas was in his walker. My middle son Daniel wasn't fazed. He was eager to try everything they were doing. He wanted to explore the tunnel, and climb up the ladders, and go down the big slide.
After helping Daniel climb a ladder that was challenging, he seemed defeated and we settled for the easier part of the playground. The stairs he could climb on his own and the smaller slide that doesn't scare him. Nobody said anything because they probably didn't notice what happened except for me. It was just my own insecurities.
That's when it hit me. My sister and I live totally different lives. We have completely different parenting styles. Our kids are different. They're healthy, independent, and can go to things much easier than my family. I realized we no longer have anything in common, except our faith. This hit me like a ton of bricks. My sister is my best friend and we talk all the time. They don't live here so our families aren't exposed to each other very often. The isolation became very real to me in that moment.
I suppose that day was still on my mind during that Easter season. I was talking with God about it every day, but felt like He wasn't there to comfort me. I realized I needed mom friends that were on a similar journey as I am. Because that's the only way I was going to get through this difficult time.
I had Catholic mom friends, and I had special needs moms friends separate from each other. I was in a women's bible study that I'd been leading for three years. I had been in support groups online and on Facebook and through our children's hospital. I needed to put everything together. I needed to talk about my faith with other special needs moms. That's something I didn't have, but desperately needed. I researched Catholic special needs parents groups and found nothing in my community. I decided I had to create my own.
A month later I met with the priest at my church to talk about starting a support group for parents with kids with special needs. The meeting went really well and he was incredibly supportive. He agreed that it was something important and very needed in the Church. We waited to start until the fall so we could advertise it at the parish fall festival.
After months of prayer, I quit my bible study after three years and put all my focus into this group. I was at a point in my life where this is what I needed in my life. I had to completely put my faith in God that he wanted me to start this group and that he would bring me members. I didn't have a list of people interested or anything like that, nothing to go off of, no foundation. I met with one person before our first meeting who I knew for sure was interested, but that was it. I had absolutely no idea what that first meeting was going to look like. I was going in blind.
I prayed for one more person to show up to our first meeting. I wanted three of us to be there. I put my faith in God and he answered my prayers. Three people were at the first meeting and now after 8 months, we have six people in our group. We meet monthly and we read scripture together, talk about our struggles, and laugh with one another.
We were able to have our meeting in person in March right before stay-at-home orders for the COVID-19 pandemic went into effect for Colorado a week later. Last week we met on Zoom video chat since we couldn't be together. It was very informal which was really nice. We laughed about gaining the Quarantine 15, talked about the positives from being at home, and how much we miss being able to go to church in person.
This group has brought me so much joy. The fellowship and community with parents of similar journeys and faith is something I am truly grateful for. In a time of desolation during a season that's supposed to be joyful, God gave me such a great gift in the end. I didn't see it in the moment, but He was there with me the whole time. I'm glad he used me to start this wonderful group. And I'm happy to say that this Easter season has been a blessing so far.
Kate lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. You can read her writing at her blog This Special Journey.