A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water - Eleanor Roosevelt
Some events in life have such a tremendous impact that you view your life as “before” and “after” this life-changing occurrence. For some of us, that event was our child’s diagnosis of life-threatening food allergies or anaphylaxis. Many of our kids were diagnosed after months or years of unexplained hives, wheezing, eczema and ear infections. For others, one bite of a peanut butter sandwich or a sip of milk changed life forever.
For years, I’ve been amazed at how parents, particularly mothers, integrate what needs to be done, and how sometimes this transition leaves them a stronger, and even happier person on the other side. These women seem to become more competent at dealing with life’s blows, but also more mellow. From what I’ve seen, not all parents get there, at least not on every issue. So what’s going on here?
I recently got some clarity on this issue from author, columnist and life coach Martha Beck Ph.D. I am thrilled to be training with Martha Beck and on a recent call, she explained the “Change Cycle” to us. I finally had a framework for understanding what goes on after a shocking diagnosis, and could see clearly how and why some parents got stuck. As the parent of a child with Down’s syndrome, she knows how traumatic a child’s diagnosis can be. [For more on the Change Cycle, read Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the life you were meant to live.] I found her insights so valuable in understanding how much I had changed since my son’s diagnosis. Let’s see if you can identify where you are in the change cycle and if perhaps you might be a little gentler with yourself as you move through each part of it.
There are four squares in the change cycle. Square One is where the catalytic event hits. (i.e. diagnosis) Square Two happens when one begins to dream and scheme about a new ways of life even with the new diagnosis. Square Three is when we take action on our new ideas. This is where the real work occurs. And finally, Square Four is when we enjoy the fruits of our labor. We have acclimated to a new way of life!
It helps tremendously just knowing that what you are going through is normal and what’s more, that there are specific things you can do to support yourself and others through each stage. So let’s take a look at each stage.
When a major change occurs in your life, you’re in Square One of the change cycle. Boom: it hits! Your child has been diagnosed with life-threatening food allergies. The doctor explains “Your child must never be without an Epi-Pen. A bite or trace amount of the wrong food could be fatal!” Martha Beck calls this square “Death and Rebirth” In our case, it is the death of the spontaneous, carefree mom and the birth of the mom of a child with life-threatening food allergies or in simpler terms, the mom of a child with special medical needs.