Join the Crowd
Support groups great prescription for struggling families.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
June 2007 — What does meeting other families living with diabetes do for us? It is hard to describe the impact it can have on how much less alone we feel in our daily struggles with the disease. When I hear of a child who is the only child in their school, or in their school district with diabetes, it makes me so sad for how different that child must feel from other kids on a daily basis. The same is true for parents who don't have anyone they can talk or relate to about diabetes specifically. When I meet a newly diagnosed child or family, I try to encourage them to attend the local support group for families in our area. Sometimes you can tell by the look on their face that they are deciding immediately that they are not the "support group type". Some of them even say that out loud. It isn't as though you want to force them into something that they don't feel comfortable doing, but I wish I could encourage each of them to go just once. It isn't so much the information that is offered by the groups' speakers that is so valuable, although it is. What I want for those families to gain by going to the support group is the experience of not feeling so alone or different from everyone else. That feeling will not change the fact that their child has diabetes, or that they ARE different from everyone else. But by seeing how other parents and their children live normal fun-filled lives with diabetes, it will make their own experience easier to handle.
Sometimes just hearing that other families struggle with the same things you do can make you feel so relieved! Hearing that you haven't been doing things all wrong, or making them harder than they need to be can be a huge weight off your shoulders. Or maybe there is something you have been doing wrong (or could at least do it better), or maybe you have made things harder than they need to be and now that you heard something at this group you can make a change.
Some days, maybe even most days, living with a child with diabetes IS hard. All this time maybe you have felt like you were missing something that if you could just find the key, everything would just click and you would find yourself in a more manageable routine. Maybe you will find that key, or maybe you will find out that you already have it within your family. Maybe you will end up being the family that is the example for other newly diagnosed families because you have it pretty well together. Maybe you will offer suggestions on how to deal with the emotional issues while you get tips on dietary information from another parent because that is their strength. The give and take that goes on at these groups is the true definition of the word "support", and we absolutely all need it. You want your child to be healthy and carefree like every other child you know and realizing that they are not can be very difficult to process and deal with. There isn't a thing wrong with that, and this is a safe place for you to talk about it. It is one thing to talk about it with other friends or even extended family, but there is a level of understanding that isn't possible until it is YOUR child who isn't healthy and like every other child.
If this column has done anything, I hope it has been to make you consider, or re-consider trying a support group for parents of children with diabetes. It can be very hard to take that risk by opening yourself up about something so personal, but I believe you will find that what you gain emotionally is far greater than the risk you had to take. If there isn't a support group in your area, consider starting one. It only takes one other person to share your experiences.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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