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Coping as a mother when your child is seriously ill



Fabiana Santos - published on 07/05/17

One mom has discovered four big things that helped her through the toughest times.

Ever since I started the Tudo sobre minha mae blog with my friend Camila, we have tried to share the best of our experiences, readings, and lessons learned. This is where we give our hearts. I will not go into much detail for now, but what I can say is that I’m sitting beside my daughter’s hospital bed while she recovers from an infection that, had it not been treated in time, would have taken her from me.

What do we do when faced with such difficulties? First of all, and this is something I learned when I lost my father: Without faith we cannot endure it. I need to believe that there is a power above my motherly power, above the power of medicine, to provide what I most want: my daughter’s full health. I don’t know what someone who doesn’t believe in anything does in such a circumstances. I need to believe in God and say to Him, “Hold this because it’s too heavy for me.”

The second action I would call the magic of strength. It is a supernatural strength, which I believe God gives to all mothers (yes, dads, I’m sorry, but I’m really talking about the mothers here). It’s a wellspring of strength that enables us to be practical, to listen to what the doctors say, to make decisions, to stay awake watching her breathe, to be ready to swallow tears and to appear in front of her with a smile, telling her a thousand times how much I love her.


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The third great insight in this process is that of each thing’s real size. I would call it the discovery of what is important. This is a time when it feels like I’m doing a hardcore analysis of the events of my life … What things did I make a big fuss over that were really nothing? What is really relevant? Why do we complain so much for no reason? I don’t want to forget this experience when it’s over because it needs to serve some purpose, to help me to be better.

The fourth way to cope with a child’s illness is to cling to a support group. And be ready for it to appear! I know a lot of people are cynical about this world, but I’ve come to believe that there are good people out there who are ready to help.

I can say that even though I live outside Brazil, I have built a solid base of practically-family friends who support me. Also, what is life today without the connections of Facetime, WhatsApp, or Messenger? Each message I’ve received has incredible power. And I did not realize it, but I ended up cataloging each friend (or someone from the family who is far away) in boxes according to my needs: I have someone who helps me with practical issues, I have someone who reminds me of how much faith I have, I have someone who provides optimism, and I have someone who makes me smile even in the midst of the storm.

I know … real, physical contact is always so much better. But in my case, while living far away from home, technology brings me love and hope in the form of text messaging (yes, including emojis!). You could say it’s a crazy way to receive such noble feelings. And I will tell you that it works.

Today a dear friend will send me a video message so that I can face the next challenge with more balance. Would her hug in person be better? Most likely, but I believe hugs can come in many forms. My faith, the daily magical portion of strength, finding out what really matters, and the support of so many beloved people is helping me through this.

Fabiana Santos is a Brazilian journalist who is married and lives in Washington DC. She is the mother of Felipe, 12, and Alice, 6, the beautiful warrior who inspired this post.

This article was originally published on the blog Tudo sobre minha mae.

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