Why Me? Why My Child? Wisdom Found in the “Hero’s Journey”
Wisdom found in the “hero’s journey”
Personal growth and expansion is so wondrous – the opening of a lotus flower – an I’mage from Buddhism. Representing a soul that is awakened – becoming more patient, loving, kind, and generous in spirit and appreciating even the smallest of victories. Those of us who are parenting, or have parented, a child with special needs experience this inner shift. As we com e to love and accept our child, honor differences and speak our truth, our inner landscape takes new shape.
The journey, however, is difficult. It is a mystical one really; it appears in every religion and spiritual teaching according to historian and philosopher Joseph Campbell. As he studied mystical teachings he identified twelve steps in what he coined a “Hero’s Journey”. This is also found in our fairy tales and movies, e.g. Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland and Star Wars. The journey begins with a Call to Adventure, followed by the entrance into an unfamiliar world. It ends with the Hero coming home to share his or her wisdom. In between, there are dark nights of the soul, trials and tribulations, spiritual aides/mentors and rewards. In the middle of the journey the Hero faces his deepest fears.
After reading about the Hero’s Journey, I began to see myself and my daughter as Heroes rather than victims of circumstance. I held my head higher and felt more confident in my leadership endeavors.
With time it also answered my questions of “Why Me?” and “Why Alexandra?” I have come to believe that our collective purpose here on earth is to grow and expand our soul and to become better people. My difficult childhood left me with a closed heart, timid and rigid. My daughter’s life changed all of that. Alexandra was born in the Dominican Republic in 1984 and we were advised to leave her in the hospital to die. She was so vulnerable. She was born with spina bifida and needed me to protect her. To do so, I had to find my inner strength; the courage that had always been there but was hidden by fear and shame. As my former self died, I began to stand erect and forge new pathways for not only my family, but also many others. As parents of a child with special needs we all answered the Call of Adventure that is namely Motherhood or Fatherhood. Little did we know that the decision would entail a mystical journey into dark nights and more trials and tribulations than we could have ever imagined. Many of us remember in detail the moment of diagnosis or our own inescapable admission of something being not quite right with our child. The challenge to be listened to by specialists and the fortitude needed to get our children services. Through it all, without even noticing, we become stronger, more capable and more loving which is just what the world needs right now. Maybe that is why there are so many children being diagnosed with special needs.
In my twenty-five years of mentoring parents of children with special needs, I never found one parent who didn’t feel they weren’t a better person because of their child. What if that, in and of itself, was the reason for our children’s challenges? What if we chose each other before this lifetime? What if we chose this challenging path? What if we came into this lifetime in order to show the world what real love feels like. That is what I have come to believe.
How do you answer the questions, Why Me: Why my child?
Our answers will vary. The importance is in seeking our own truth. The lotus flower continues to open as we spend time in our inner world. This is a time of reflection, possibly meditation or deep breathing. This is a time to ask ourselves the big questions of life and ponder our answers through our own writings or readings.
Our lotus flower also opens as we share our love and wisdom with others. Our paths are unique for a reason. We have a greater calling in life than many. As such, our path is not to be filled with grief, sorrow and regret but rather love, strength, joy and yes even Heroism.
Paula Petry, PhD. Paula has her doctoral degree in special education from the University of Miami. Paula is the founder and honorary advisor of Parent to Parent of Miami. Paula attended Harvard’s Executive Leadership program and developed leadership programs for students and parents. She is a Light Body practitioner through the Four Winds Society and studied arts in medicine at the University of Florida, Shands Hospital.
Photos courtesy Yoshikazu TAKADA/Lotus Flower/ Flickr
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This post originally appeared on our March/April 2015 Magazine