Better Together

I read a powerful book years ago called “The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog. What traumatized children can teach us about loss, love, and healing.”  The book is written by Bruce Perry, a child psychiatrist who shares stories of some of the children he has worked with over the years and how early traumatic experiences affect their brains. At the end of his book, he emphasized the concept of community as a way of preventing trauma to children and it really impacted me.  He says “the most traumatic aspects of all disasters involve the shattering of human connections” and “recovery from trauma and neglect is also all about relationships-rebuilding trust, regaining confidence, returning to a sense of security and reconnecting to love.” 

In the book, Perry contributes the success and healing of the children profiled to the strong social network that surrounded and supported these children.  The power and importance of relationships have been undervalued and underutilized in today’s society. He breaks down the fall of family stating that for generations humans lived in small groups consisting of 40-150 people, then in the year 1500 families in Europe consisted of 20 people, but by 1850 the number was down to 10 living in close proximity and in 1960 just 5.  In year 2000 the average household size was less than 4, and 26% of Americans live alone.  He explains that parents in the past did not have to raise their children alone, they had extended family and a strong family network to assist in this.  This greatly benefited families and children.  When a parent was frustrated they could call the aunt who lived next door and she’d take the baby and let Mom get a break, or Grandma lived in the home and cooked the meals, etc.  There was less child abuse because frustrated parents had support from multiple sources. 

When I was in graduate school we talked about giving and taking help and our professor stressed how much courage it takes someone to ask for help.  He challenged us to think about the last time we reached out to ask someone for help and reflect on the experience.  Was it hard?  Did you have numerous people available that you could ask?  What was their response?  How did you feel?  It was a humbling exercise.   Too many perish because they could not muster the words…I need help.  And too many actually ask for help only to find those closest to them unwillingly to assist them.

We need each other.  In all of our successes and accomplishments, we can begin to attribute these to ourselves, as independence is heavily celebrated.  But what I have learned is that if you live this life long enough, you will need someone.  And not just when you’re down, even the successes of life are so much sweeter when you have others to celebrate in it with you.  As a social worker and therapist I have seen over and over again that the clients who broke out of poverty and generational cycles were the ones who had some kind of support.

As a special needs mother and military spouse, dealing with the everyday challenges that come along with autism are heavy enough. But add on top of that numerous deployments and tdy’s that take my greatest source of help and support (my husband) away, I had to learn how to break out of my comfort zone and ask for what I needed. My help came in different forms than I originally thought it would, but nevertheless there were people in my life who were more than willing to lend a helping hand whenever I asked.

I remember when my husband was gone to Korea for a year and Spencer fell off the swing at school and hit his head really hard on the ground. They called me from school because they could not get him to stop crying, and because of his language delays, he could not tell them what was hurting or how he was feeling. They were concerned he could have a concussion so they suggested I take him to the hospital. I frantically took him and my other 2 boys to the hospital to have Spencer checked out. I was so nervous as my 2 boys with autism hate the hospital and usually tantrum as soon as we walk through the doors. But the staff at the hospital were great, a nurse came in and gave the boys popsicles, put on cartoons and sat with my other two boys while I went with Spencer to have an x-ray. When I got home my neighbor checked in on us and when I told him about what happened, he asked why I didn’t call them. I told him the boys wouldn’t have stayed with them, and he said “well we could’ve come and sat with you in the emergency room.” I couldn’t believe it. That they would inconvenience their busy lives and schedule just to sit there and be with me and support my family. There are people willing to make sacrifices just to be there and support you. Don’t let the one or two no’s discourage you from continuing to take risks and asking. Your yes is out there waiting for you.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (Amplified) 24 And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, 25 Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching.

Self-check up time. How are you? No, really, how are you doing? Are you hurting? Are you in need of something? Is there someone you can reach out to? If you’re doing good, when was the last time you checked in on the people in your circle? Are they okay? Is there something you could do to lighten their load? Let’s be intentional about giving AND receiving help.

When is the last time you asked for help? When was the last time you were an answer to someone else’s problem?

11 thoughts on “Better Together”

  1. “Don’t let the one or two no’s discourage you from continuing to take risks and asking. Your yes is out there waiting for you” – Yay for courage and vulnerability!

  2. Shawntae,
    You are right we must take risk. That one lesson I have learned is that there maybe a thousand no’s but that one yes could change your life!

  3. I emigrated to another country to be with my husband and set down roots with my kids. But gosh, it feels so isolating to be 6000kms away from my family! It took a couple years, but eventually even I had to admit that I can’t do this all alone. I needed to build my own family-like support network here. And it’s been an amazing journey to develop my own little “village”, usually with other immigrants who are experiencing exactly the type of isolation and overwhelm that I’m dealing with!

    Asking for help is so difficult, but once you rip off that bandaid, a whole new way of living opens up to you and your kids 🙂

    Love this, thank you for sharing!

  4. Great post! I can relate to childhood trauma, it’s conditioning, and relationships having a major impact on children and the healing journey they must take as they get older. This sounds like a great book, I’ll have to add it to my roster! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Love this post. So thought provoking. It’s sad that the family has diminished to much over the years. I had to raise 2 autistic daughters by myself with little help from family. I couldn’t ask for help for fear off being seen as a failure. But also because my family likely wouldn’t have helped! Childhood trauma sadly toughens you up into believing you can cope alone without help. Going to look up the book The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog, having studied psychology to masters level I didn’t even come across this book!

  6. It really is hard to ask for help sometimes but most of the time, once you go and ask you are answered back with a yes. And that really does help build more relationships with other people.

  7. This post is so accurate. We are lucky to have family close by and they help out whenever we need them. It really DOES take a village to raise a child, and how great when you don’t have to ask for help? Sometimes I just wish we could go back to the model when all generations lived together ;). Thanks for sharing!

  8. This is so good! When is the last time you asked for help? The part of your story when your neighbor said they would have come to the hospital to sit with the boys is so touching. Sometimes our help doesn’t come the way we think but it’s there! Such an eye opening post. Thank you!

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