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To My Friend Whose Child Is Starting a Tough Medical Journey

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I wrote several months ago about my dear friend who found out her daughter would be born with a congenital heart defect. Going through (at the time) a frightening prenatal diagnosis of our own and then a subsequent open-heart surgery, I can relate to some of what my friend is feeling now and about to go through.

If you are struggling to find the right words to say to a parent whose child is facing surgery or who is about to start a tough medical journey with their child, I hope you see something in this letter that your loved one will take comfort in.

Dear Friend,

I want you to know my heart hurts with yours.

I want you to know I’m not here to say it will be OK, because there is nothing OK about seeing your sweet baby endure this kind of trial. But I pray you find some peace in the middle of these unthinkable circumstances.

I’m not going to say God gives children with special medical needs to special parents, because I don’t believe that’s true. But I can’t imagine a more special couple than you and your husband to raise your sweet girl.

I’m not going to tell you any phrase that starts with, “At least it’s not…” Or “It could be worse,” because these chapters in her story, your story, are painful. Period. I feel the path to healing can only begin when we recognize there is something to be healed.

I’m not going to say, “Let me know how I can help.” Instead I will just do whatever it is I know you need help with. I’m not going to say, “God only gives you what you can handle.” Instead, I believe God is the only way we are able to cope through the inconceivable events life sometimes brings.

I’m not going to tell you, “I know how you feel.” Even though you may sit in the same cardiac intensive care unit as I did, your family’s journey and your feelings are uniquely yours.

woman holding newborn baby
Jillian and her son.

Here is what I will tell you. What your daughter and your family are about to go through is not fair. At times it may be tear-stained and gut-wrenching.

But even in this unimaginable journey you are about to begin, there can be good, too.

Your daughter may just teach you more in her first year of life than you’ve learned in your first 30. Through this, I believe you can become more compassionate and understanding.

If you let it, your worldview can become bigger. You may worry less and embrace life with more vigor. Through this, she can become stronger, and so can you.

When you walk out of those hospital doors, when the smell of the ICU has finally left your clothes, this chapter, although closed, never actually ends.

The challenges you all are about to go through can infiltrate every page of your story.

Because if you let it, I believe the pain you feel now can one day make the colors around you seem brighter, it can make work seem less daunting and can undoubtedly expand the immense amount of love that is already in your hearts.

Follow this journey on News Anchor to Homemaker.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could go back to the day you (or a loved one) got a diagnosis, what would you tell yourself? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

Originally published: March 11, 2016
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