One of my dear friends, Lisa, who has a child with special disabilities, shared a story with me many years ago that I’ve never forgotten. The author’s point-of-view stems from having a special needs child herself, but I find her insight especially helpful in facing the loss of an expectant future.
Welcome to Holland
by Emily Perl Kingsley
"...it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandt's.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland."
I’m learning that my new life in Holland can be filled with joy. The days are going by with an occasional outing interspersed here and there, but I’ve stayed inside most of the time working through thoughts and avoiding the muggy heat. The girls still have a good two weeks before school starts, and I’m trying to be exciting for them in every way, but my lack of energy and my need to read has kept us in. I am blessed with happy children (which makes the indoors easier this time of year), but this pregnancy is exhausting, and I can barely get to 1pm before my body demands a cat nap.
In the process of accepting a hard mortal hit, it’s pertinent to shift perspective in order to cope with the loss of dreams unrealized. The absence of a stable force in an expectant future is a "very very significant loss," but HOPE in brighter days ahead has enabled me to look up, prepare for a different course, and recognize that there will be joy in my new reality.