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When Affection is Withheld (in Special Needs)

My son held my hand.

Why is that remarkable? It’s the first time he’s held my hand in years. In fact, the last time he’s shown any affection (including hugs) towards me was somewhere in 2007 or early 2008 maybe, which was before the spiral down into his deep, dark depression that culminated in him wanting to take his own life.

It was a bad, bad time, obviously. When something like that happens to a family you give up certain expectations that are less important that keeping your loved one alive. All “normal” expectations are put aside.

I gave up my on son showing affection in the way that worked for me. I worked really hard to find other ways because for me, a hug or “I love you” goes a long way. Unfortunately, that didn’t work for him so we were at odds of how I knew he had any sort of affection for me. I constantly had an inner turmoil, even several times thinking he could take me or leave me as a parent. Which, of course, is ludicrous because I am the best at helping him reach his potential, that much I know now. As time has gone on and he’s become stable, I’d hoped he’d return to his affectionate, pre-death talk self but that is not what has happened.

As it turns out he’s a teenager now and well, he’s changed so much because of all of the big experiences in his short life. He declares quite often that he doesn’t like to talk about his feelings so there probably isn’t much of a chance of me hearing those three little words. I still tell him everyday “I love you” only to hear, “Okay” in return.

So, yes, holding hands is a very big deal. He didn’t realize I eve took this picture, not that I mind him knowing. I’m sure he won’t mind. I wanted a picture of it because I don’t know the next time, if ever, he’ll let me do it again.

Over the years as I’ve learned to live with his way of showing affection. In helping his sister, fixing something of mine without being asked, and running to heat up a heating pad he handmade when I need one, I see his affection. I’ve accepted this is the way he does the affection thing.

But it sure was nice to hold his hand for a few minutes. I’d forgotten what it felt like to have his hand in mine with our fingers intertwined.


Republished from 2012

Be sure to check out Champ’s recent adventure to visit Ireland and a special little girl and family .

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