Helen with her amazing daughter Maria
“Sometimes we can’t always see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Each person has a unique life experience and often sharing that story is a huge inspiration to many. It doesn’t require earthshattering events to touch the lives of others, it only takes actions showing love or compassion. This week, we continue exploring aspects of shame and how it directly impacted someone’s outlook.
Nearly 3 years ago, I connected with Helen on social media. Her posts intrigued me and soon, we began messaging on a regular basis which developed into a warm online friendship. Helen also has a beautiful daughter named Maria about whom she often posts and reminds us how privileged she is to be her mother.
One day, she recounted to me the day that Maria was born. There were no difficulties during the delivery and when it was finally over, she couldn’t wait to hold her little angel in her arms. However, fear and concern quickly appeared on the faces of the medical staff and they swiftly carried Maria out of the room. Helen’s fears were soon confirmed when she was told that Maria was born with a rare chromosome abnormality which among many issues, robbed her of the ability to speak and to this day is in need of constant care. She was also told that there was a strong possibility that Maria would not make it past her first birthday.
Upon hearing about her daughter’s condition, Helen’s first thoughts were, “Why me, God”? “I always tried to do live right and honest, why are You punishing me”?
This kind of scenario is the perfect display of how shame can paralyze us. Helen thought she must have done something bad yet she did nothing wrong; nor was God punishing her. Shame often successfully influences us to believe it was something we did and not knowing what that act was only exacerbates our shame.
Like most of us, Helen’s propensity towards shame began many years prior. As a young girl she was frequently ridiculed, abused by those she trusted, and rarely felt self-esteem. This kind of upbringing is an extremely fertile environment for shame to thrive.
Shame begins at an early age; often before we learn to speak. Sadly, it frequently is put upon us by ones we love yet they don’t realize they’re doing it. Parenting can be filled with frustrations and sometimes we lash out at our children just to gain back some control. We may blurt out something like, “Stop asking me all these stupid questions” not recognizing it very well may make the child feel shameful. There are countless other examples of how shame unwittingly is planted within us by those we love who never had any intention of doing so. Now, imagine all the times it was done specifically to make you feel shame and you’ll begin to fathom the depth of its negative influence over our lives.
Fortunately, Helen’s story took an unexpected turn. When Maria was around 5 years old, Helen noticed, despite not being able to communicate, she always showed a gigantic display of unconditional love. Maria knew no prejudice nor spite; she only knew how to love and wasn’t afraid to show it. For someone who once questioned, “Why me God”, she now happily asks, “How was I so lucky”?
“Having Maria has definitely made me a better and stronger person,” Helen admits. I for one am privileged to know Helen. You’d be hard pressed to find a more caring and compassionate individual. Many times she’s shared with me how much joy there was in helping a total stranger with never expecting anything in return.
What’s also important to remember that this is Helen’s story. You or someone you know with a special needs child could have a very different outcome. In no way would I ever suggest or imply that your situation needs to be similar. I am here to help educate you about the difficulties of shame and not to give you reasons to experience it. Whatever your story is, I only hope that it does not burden you with additional undo shame.
In next week’s post, we’ll discuss how to recognize shame and examine a few techniques how we can heal and become victorious over it. If you have questions about your own difficulties with shame, please feel free to reach out directly to me. This is my purpose and passion in life. Thank you and I look forward to your comments.