What causes anxiety, grief and loss?
Finding out that your child has sustained a Spinal Cord Injury can cause mixed emotions and may lead to many lifestyle changes. There will be changes that you will need to make to areas of your life to help you raise your child. These changes may disrupt your current family routine and can cause stress to other family relationships. You may have some anxiety about dealing with change or have worries for what the future may hold for you, your child and your family.
You may have a range of different emotions such as shock, guilt, anger, sadness, fear, blame and loneliness or may grieve the loss of your original plans as parents and your child’s future.
Feelings of grief and anxiety are a normal part of adjusting to caring for a child living with a Spinal Cord Injury. These feelings are not just for this situation. All big changes in life can bring with them a loss of comfortable and predictable routines, as well as the fear of what is unknown.
Tips for coping
Be Informed and Organised
Some fears and worries are unfounded and occur due to a lack of accurate information. Having a good understanding of Spinal Cord Injury will help create a feeling of control. Being informed reduces worry due to “not knowing.” Knowledge about Spinal Cord Injury will help you cope with the uncertainty of the condition and explore options to help your child.
Write down questions you have to discuss with your doctor and ask for information.
You may have lots of new information, medical appointments, additional therapists and health professionals in your life. All of this means a lot to remember now. Think about what type of organisational skills you already have. The use of calendars or diaries may help you feel more organised and in control.
Focus on the Positive
Families with a positive approach to raising their children will experience less anxiety. They will cope and adjust when faced with challenges and adversity. Focusing on small positives makes a big difference.
Accept the support of trusted family and friends. Work with your child’s treating health team and remember it is difficult for everyone in new situations.
Accepting support will help you create a network to lean on during difficult times. Feeling like you are on your own may lead to higher unnecessary levels of distress and anxiety. This will affect the whole family unit. Some families find being involved with parent support groups very useful and a helpful forum for gaining skills and sharing experiences.
Social workers, psychologists and your treating team are available to talk through issues with you. A support network in the community can help to strengthen your family and help you adapt to change.
Whilst anxiety, grief and loss are normal reactions when you find out your child has sustained a Spinal Cord Injury, these feelings should reduce with time. If you experience prolonged anxiety, feel overly worried or sad, it is best to seek support to help you overcome these feelings and try new or different strategies to manage.
Maintain interests outside of caring
Research has shown families who maintain their own interests outside of a “caring role,” report high levels of resilience, and long-term ability to adapt and cope to all of life’s challenges. It is important not to ignore your own physical and mental health needs and create balance in your family life.
You can find further information about managing anxiety, grief and loss at:
Beyond Blue is a not-for-profit organisation with a lot of information about depression and anxiety.
Relationships Australia provides individual and family support: .
Northcott provide a range of services for families – .
LiveWire is powered by Starlight and is aimed at teens with disability and illness.
Things to remember:
- Be informed
- Be realistic
- Be positive
- Accept support
- Maintaining interests outside of caring.
- There are many people to support you and your family and lots of information for you to read and improve your understanding.
- Anxiety, stress and grief are all normal responses to an initial diagnosis of Spinal Cord Injury. If these feelings are prolonged you need to seek support and counselling to assist you in adjusting to your new family situation.
Written by The Children's Hospital at Westmead, Sydney Children's, Randwick, Kaleidoscope Hunter Children's Health Network and Northcott