My husband sang on the worship team so I sat alone during church services. Sometimes I came late, sat near the back, and cried through one or two hymns. My teenage daughter with autism was struggling with her faith and my other child missed church due to an undiagnosed illness. I was grieving their difficulties and absence. A few people noticed and gave me a hug or a word of encouragement. I appreciated those moments, but most of the time I was alone and few people knew about my grief. Little by little I drifted out of touch with old friends because their children were doing well and mine were struggling. Supportive friends had walked alongside my special-needs family for years—but this season felt different. I felt I shouldn’t be grieving AGAIN. I didn’t want pity from friends—it was getting embarrassing. I wanted to feel like their equal—content as they seemed to be.

Then little by little, I can’t say when, that grief turned into shame that further isolated me. I had nothing to be ashamed of, but shame doesn’t care. It accuses you and makes you feel guilty for things over which you have no control. It tells you that something is wrong with you or your family which caused the struggle. It makes you second guess your decision to give your child some space to sort out faith issues. It causes you to feel guilt that your other child is sick. And instead of reaching out for support, it makes you want to hide so others don’t ask about why your kids aren’t at church. It makes you wonder if people are talking or wondering about you, and it leaves you isolated.

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