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7 Things I Told My Children When I Told Them About My Chronic Pain

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“Mommy, why don’t we go running anymore?”

My daughter’s words hit me like a brick. (Or a cotton ball, which would have the same affect, thanks to fibromyalgia.) I had stopped jogging, something we often did together, with no explanation. I thought about all the things we used to do that I just cut out of my life, forgetting that I was cutting it out of hers, too. I never once considered the confusion and disappointment she must have felt.

I had always been active and often took my daughter along for workouts, jogs, soccer in the park and even dance class. Eventually, the pain in my hips and knees stopped me in my tracks, leaving my daughter wondering why we weren’t doing our usual activities anymore.

After beating myself up with guilt, I decided it was time to tell my kids that I’m sick. But how do I explain it? I felt like I was about to scare the hell out of them and hated myself for having to do it. But kids are perceptive and you can only hide something from them for so long. It’s better to be honest and upfront. Don’t patronize them. Believe me, they will know. I took a deep breath and dove in.

1. I have a sickness but you can’t see it. It’s not like a cold or flu, it is inside of my body.

2. Sometimes I can’t do things with you because my body doesn’t feel good.

3. Some days I feel better, some days I need you to be gentle with me and let me rest.

4. I love spending time with you, but some days I just can’t do all the things you want to. We can still spend time together, we just have to do things differently.

5. I have to take medicine to help my body feel better.

6. My body will always be sick. The doctors can’t fix it, but they help me find ways to feel as good as I can.

7. Mommy is not going to die from this. This last line was difficult, but also the most important thing to convey. I didn’t plan it, but I could see in their faces that they were scared when I told them it can’t be “fixed.”

After tenderly explaining it to them, I braced myself for the emotional outbursts, the tears and panic – but none of that came. Actually, I was shocked and relieved by their calm, rational responses. Once they knew they weren’t going to lose their mom, they nonchalantly went back to painting, agreeing to be gentle and understanding.

I then asked them how they felt about it and if they had any questions. I imagined their little brains being overwhelmed and their hearts crying with fear. Instead, my daughter shrugged me a “no” and my son sat pensively, eyes looking up at the ceiling in thought. I took a deep breath and waited for his deep and meaningful question, my hand reaching out to squeeze his.

“Mommy, can I have some yogurt?”

Originally published: April 19, 2018
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