You will learn who your true friends are. People will drop you like a bad habit when you have a special needs child. It is painful when they vanish, when their facade of an iron bond becomes nothing but a wraith-like illusion and their once-promising words of ‘always’ become empty . You will feel betrayed, sold out and hurt. You will learn deeper than you have ever before the raw meaning of the phrase, “Fair Weather Friend.”

But you will find new support in other places. Places you would not expect. And people you would never expect, or seek out or think about in a million years. Maybe not new “friends,” – bonds built on your past, shared experiences – but new allies, sympathizers, comrades and – dare I say? – selfless Christians. You will find them in church. In the grocery store. In the eyes of other special needs parents and one evening you find yourself having a conversation and a drink with another special needs dad of whom you have almost nothing in common with, except the strange alternative reality you both have inherited and live in. And, when that tends to define most of your paradigms, your time, your physical and mental boundaries, that is enough.

In the meantime, it can be overwhelming when someone reaches out with kindness. And beautifully, stupefying overwhelming. With that honest act of nothing to gain, just a desire to show you and your family love and comfort. When the neighbor you barely knows offers – though tentatively – to watch after your special needs child so you and your wife can go on a date. When a church member always make a point to kiss him on the head. When the couple you see strolling the aisles of the hardware store, stop you, ask about your child and – even with your defenses high and your tongue ready to unleash a torrent of insults – you become diffused as they relate about a grandson they have with special needs. They leave you with a smile, a prayer and bit of understanding. You find this person who doesn’t dress like you, talk like you, listen to your music or live in your world, loves you and loves your son unconditionally. And you realize and re-realize, bonds made over drinks and jokes are fun. But, bonds made through shared pain and hope and understanding and love supersede all.

You can read more about hope and healing here.