Lipreading Mom Note: Going to college can be stressful, so imagine heading there with a new hearing loss. Elise Bateman was that student. Her story of grieving the loss of her hearing ends on a happy note. Through grief, she found the ability to help others.
Four and a half years ago, I was a terrified 20 year old college student whose “I can do anything” early adult gusto was shattered by the news that I had moderate to severe bilateral hearing loss. I continued studying Psychology and Human Services. While I learned to navigate hearing loss and life with hearing aids, I also entered my first practicum working with children with disabilities. Needless to say it was a time of great personal pain, change, and ultimately growth.
I needed time to grieve—I certainly had my fair share of tears, overwhelmed and sleepless nights of “what if’s”; time to accept all the sounds and connection to life that had slowly been fading from my perception. I also desperately needed to look outside of my own situation. I needed perspective and purpose.
When life changes in drastic ways one of the most important things is to fight the desire to isolate yourself and instead to purposefully engage.
I began working with children with disabilities, while simultaneously beginning my own journey—and it was impeccable timing. In various practicum settings, I gained experience and skills for my current vocation: teaching children who have Autism in preschool and home therapy intervention programs.
Perspective is gained, fought for, and noticed over time, and I am so thankful my calling and loss have coincided. It has been such an advantage to personally experience loss while coming alongside those who, in many ways like myself, experienced a loss they never thought would happen to them—-having a child with disabilities. In both instances there is a remembrance of life before loss—the dreams that look a little different, the mourning of what you wished for and the life you expected to live, and the agonizing season of acceptance.
There is a connection forged between those who experience a life-changing and life-long loss; an understanding that grief is a spiral, life isn’t easy, and that roses have thorns. This is not simply a connection of grief and loss. It includes the willingness to talk about the elephant in the room. Over time, as the shock lessens and the tears slow, it increasingly includes a fought-for and unquenchable zest for celebrating the small things, a remembrance that thorns are on roses.
What many would deem as little victories—–eye-contact, shared smiles, laughter, clapping, and building a tower—are recognized simply as victories for parents and educators of children with disabilities. Disability forces you to remember that life is a journey. It comes one day at a time, and that each life is essential to the big picture. There is so much joy in the small things because they are the makings of big things. And those big victories—taking an unassisted step, signing and then speaking the first word—are celebrated with tears of joy and shouts of hope.
Just like my hearing loss has changed my life, and having a child with disabilities alters family life in many difficult ways; those affected by disability cannot help but notice how it’s enriched life with perspective, perseverance, and joy.
Elise Bateman is a 24 year old currently living in Washington state and pursuing the cultivation of her passions for writing and teaching children of all abilities. This includes an upcoming two month trip teaching children from the Kenyan slum of Kibera at Tenderfeet Academy near Nairobi. She loves photography, hiking, and a good cup of coffee. Elise blogs at From Dull Ears to Discerning Heart.