Fear, worry and anxiety can surprise us. As parents, how we handle fear matters. 6 practical steps we can take when fear rises.
A Normal Morning
Today was just a normal day. I woke up and spent time reading my bible, praying and journaling in the warmth of my bed. I felt great.
A quick shower, and the kids were awake. I spent some time snuggling with my 4-year-old, talking about what we to do today, and we prayed to start our day. By now, we could hear my daughter squealing and playing in her room. We cracked the door open and peaked in to find her jumping up and down in her crib, giggling as we entered. As always, she was ready to go and full of joy.
Thanksgiving on the way, these sweeties to spend the day with. I went downstairs with smiling kids, and an even bigger smile oozing off my face. Today would be a good day.
I served breakfast and sat down with a piping hot cup of coffee to check my email before heading out to run errands. Nothing important in my email and the kids were still eating so I opened Facebook and started to scroll down the news feed.
The second post stopped me in my tracks. I spilled that hot coffee on my hand. It burned, but my reaction to the coffee was nothing compared to what I read.
A college student in a coma from an allergic reaction for a week. A grim outlook. It didn’t even sound like he’d eaten a nut. A contact reaction. Later that day, I read of his death.
I can’t adequately describe the tightness in my chest and the intensity and loudness of my heart throbbing wildly I looked across the room our son. Innocently eating breakfast, giggling with his sister. All smiles and silliness with a mouth full of cereal.
My eyes welled up with tears instantly, and I walked out of the room. I tried to compose myself. This news was much too heavy for a 4-year-old to bear and he doesn’t need to see me cry. When he is older, perhaps I will let him see my tears over these stories, but for now, I spare him.
It saddens me that this is not the first or last time that I will read news like this. To say my world is turned upside down is an understatement. It releases fears that I usually give to God and move on from. But today…
The fear rises…
Welling up with a ferocity and power I can’t control. I suddenly find myself paralyzed by fear and subject to my own terrifying daydreams of my worst fears. My mind wanders to places it shouldn’t be allowed to go. Thinking horrible and terrifying things, down a rabbit hole I go. The story of a child being harmed or dying is enough to make ANY parent find heart stopping dread in the possibility of what could happen to their own child.Fear rises, sometimes out of no where. Thinking horrible and terrifying things, down a rabbit trail I go. #fear #parenting #worry #fightfear Click To Tweet
News of severe and fatal allergic reactions occurs too often, usually also reducing me to tears and fears. It wasn’t even a month ago when I was reading about another child who had a fatal reaction on Halloween. With each child lost, the evidence is gathered; this isn’t a one-time news story. These deaths are too frequent. Too real. They make me realize our own frailty and to fear this outcome for my son who has a peanut and tree nut allergy.
These death are accidents that happen to vigilant and responsible people. It is not carelessness. They are doing everything they can to protect themselves and their loved ones from allergic reactions. Then suddenly, an unforeseen, unplanned interaction with an allergen, and suddenly what should have been a normal day becomes deadly.It's the unknown, the what-ifs that create the most compelling fears. #parenting #foodallergies #motherhood #worry Click To Tweet
On what started as a normal day for me, I suddenly find myself trembling, my white knuckled fist clutching a tissue while struggling to catch my breath. I desperately plead with God to not only save this young man and comfort his loved ones, but also to protect my own child. And to help me simply continue on with the day and enjoy my children who are here with me now, safe and sound.
A Relatable Story
We may not all be food allergy parents, but we all encounter fears that hit close to home. Fears for a child’s safety and life are relatable to all parents, but how we handle those fears varies. The idea of this child and his loved ones started that fateful day just as simply we begin every day is startling to consider. Unassuming. Hopeful. Joyful. Surely, they were unaware it was the last day he would ever wake.
As food allergy parents, keeping our kids safe and being vigilant is always on our mind. However, most of the time, we don’t wake thinking today will be the day a reaction occurs; that this could be it. We don’t think about how even if we do everything right a reaction could occur and an Epi-Pen may not save them. But it could be a reality we may face, any day.
Too often, I find myself soothing my fears with the Epi-Pen. Not good. News like this reminds me that an Epi-Pen isn’t a cure. It’s not a security blanket. It surely gives them a fighting chance, but for a severe reaction, sometimes it is no more than a Hail-Mary.
It. Might. Not. Work. There are no guarantees. It’s not just food allergy parents; all parents face the possibility of accidents, or other health related issues. These stories and deaths remind us all of our inability to control all the things that affect our children. So we stand with them.
These families are living the truth we often want to forget and often fail to understand or acknowledge. Proof that food allergies can be deadly. Deadly reactions do happen to responsible children and adults. Food allergies are not just a nuisance we live with. They are a real, powerful reality that requires vigilance at ALL times.
Sobbing in the Bathroom
Food allergies require empathy and help from the community. This particular story followed news of a school administrator who made light of food allergies, and of parents and community members who thought she was actually funny. She rightly paid for her comments with her job, but these children and families pay with a life. A precious life. There are no appropriate jokes when it comes to this.
All these thoughts swirling, I found myself in our downstairs bathroom, sobbing as quietly as possible. I’m not sure I can explain this to my 4-year-old today but know the day is approaching when we will have to. So here I am. Broken. Helpless. Fearful. Sucking air.
The burden is heavy and far too real. I wish he didn’t have a food allergy, but he does. Staying in the bathroom all day weeping isn’t a choice. I will not squander the moments with these kids wallowing in fear. While I can’t prevent the fear or the unknown, I do have control over my own actions.
SO I pull myself together and focus on what I can do.
6 Things We Can Do When Fear Rises
When fear rises, life continues. We don’t have the luxury of stopping our days. People depend on us. Many of us experience fear at home, in the workplace, or out in the world. So we keep going because there really isn’t any other choice. In my case, it started with composing myself enough to open the bathroom door and take the step out. The kids are too little to be left alone for long, and I can’t stay in here all day.
Prayer is our best resource to fight things we cannot control. We serve a God who is both sovereign and able. While we can pray for solutions and deliverance from our fears, we can also ask God to walk with us through the fear. We can tell God how it makes us mad that this problem even exists, and how helpless we feel when faced with the reality of our worst fears. And of course, we ask God to work a miracle. He may have other plans, but we can certainly ask. Have you tried praying through your fears? Are you honest with God about the needs and your honest feelings?
It is hard to trust God fully with our children, or anyone we love deeply, isn’t it? Often God’s way includes suffering, and we don’t want our loved ones to suffer. While we know God will be with us and our loved ones IN the suffering, it’s hard to not know what we will have to walk through.
When fear rises, I trust you Lord becomes my mantra. I’m partly declaring my faith to God, but also preaching it to myself. God gives us these children to raise and care for. He is Lord and is sovereign and faithful. We can ask God to help use trust Him to protect our children when trust doesn’t come naturally.
No matter what you fear or who you fear for, we can be certain God will see us through whatever happens. We can trust in His character and promises in scripture to give us rest and peace:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29 (ESV)
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
What verse or truth can you use to battle anxiety and worry? Consider memorizing it and recounting it when fear rises.
While we certainly need to trust, God calls His people to action. When possible, educate and advocate. Part of doing what I can includes educating and advocating for the safety of our son in regards to food allergies. Unfortunately, there isn’t always much we can do. When we can, we should act! What is one step you can take when fear rises? It may be education or it may be as simple as sharing what is happening and asking for help from your community.
As parents, one of our jobs is to equip our kids to protect themselves. It won’t be long before they’re out on their own, whether we are ready or not. As they slowly take steps towards independence, we surrender more and more control. It is imperative we equip them to practically keep themselves safe. For food allergy kids, it’s reading food labels and asking wise questions about every single food they consider eating. In what way can you equip yourself or a loved one to practically battle fear?
It sounds cliche but we need to be people of gratitude. When fearing the worst, we need to give thanks it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a great time to consider all the friends and family who come alongside us to keep our son safe. And to those who don’t understand but still try their best to help us. We thank God for His protection, and we can also thank people, our village, who help us. For whom does your fear remind you to give thanks?
Rising Above The Fear
My son smiles as I walk in. He and his sister won’t know why they receive such intense hugs and kisses on the head. Today, they are oblivious. I’m glad I can protect them from this reality for a little while longer, but the time is coming when they, too, will have to know and understand these things. Today I am grateful my son is a carefree 4-year-old boy who knows there is food he cannot eat and medicine he has to carry. For now, he thinks nuts will make him feel sick and knows to ask before he eats anything…
But he knows nothing of death. This looming potential threat won’t always be hidden from him. His own fears will be tangible, real and heavy. The responsibility will be huge. My daughter will have fears for her brother’s safety, just like my husband and I do. I pray that by the time they have to carry this burden, I will have learned how to carry my own so I can help them carry theirs.
In the long run, I can’t control this, fix it, or heal my son. I can’t make his allergy go away, even though I would gladly take it on myself if I could. I will keep moving on when fear rises because there will be plenty more days like this. The fear creeps up often; when I’m unprepared with alternative safe food, when we’re in an unknown church, school or home, when a dessert loaded with nuts passes by us in a restaurant, when I learn my son ate something before a label was read, and when I read stories of those who have had reactions or have paid the ultimate price. I will keep looking forward and prepare as best I can for the days when I send him to kindergarten, summer camp, and someday, college. I know this fear will certainly be present in the days to come, but I cannot let it rule me.
So I hug these two little ones tightly. And today, I rise above the fear.
When Your Child’s Food Allergy Leads to Anxiety, Kathleen O’Hagen, Today’s Parent
The Day I stopped Judging Parents Of Children With Food Allergies, Joe Medler, Scary Mommy