What I’m Learning Through My Son’s Illness


Life is full of upsets.

One dictionary defines “upset” as “an unexpected, worrisome occurrence.” Another definition reads, “the state of being turned upside down or over.”

I’m in the middle of an upset. Perhaps you are too.


Uh oh…

At the beginning of this month, our 12-year-old son Aaron went in for an appendectomy. Everything went well. Until a few days later.

He spiked a fever that wouldn’t go away. We got antibiotics. Things got better for a few days. Suddenly his temp skyrocketed, and we found ourselves back in the ER.

I’m sitting beside Aaron’s bed now, glancing over my laptop up to watch him mess with a Rubik’s Cube. We’re on Day 12 of our hospital stay.

Apparently, Aaron bled internally sometime after surgery. The roaming blood in his body cavity acted like a Petri dish for bacteria, and those bad boys seized the opportunity to multiply exponentially, forming pockets of infection all over his abdomen.

He’s on targeted antibiotics. He’s had two big pockets drained. Blood work indicates he’s stable and things are improving. The next 24 hours are important. Either he continues to get better or we’re headed for major surgery to clean out the abscesses spread across the inside of his little torso.

Yes, I think this qualifies as an “upset.” It’s been tough, and more than a little scary.

Life can furnish some pretty big upsets: an illness, a job loss, a relational break-up, a death. These things upend our worlds.


4 ways this upset is affecting us:

1.  Aaron’s illness initiated what I call “the wonderings.”

  • I wondered what was going to happen.
  • I wondered if everything was going to be okay.
  • I wondered multiple times if we were on the right track and doing the right thing.
  • I wondered what we missed along the way that might have prevented all this.

“Wonderings” are part of processing things well, but we’re not meant to stay there long. Ultimately, we don’t know. Our wonderings are mostly conjecture and speculation. Eventually, we have to deal with what is, and make the best decisions we can based on the info we have.


2.  Aaron’s illness has changed things.

There is no longer any routine, as our family knew it. Every night we make a new plan about how to handle the next day and get the other 5 of us where we need to be and when, all the while making sure someone is with Aaron.

  • Some upsets change some things. Other upsets change everything.
  • Upsets have collateral damage. They affect everyone connected with that person. Relationships change too.

Things aren’t the same. They can’t be.


3.  Aaron’s illness has forced us to adapt.

By necessity, we’re doing life differently now. I’m sure there will also be some permanent changes as a result of this. We’re not out of the woods yet, so who knows?

  • The longer the upset continues, the more we have to adjust and adapt.
  • The more we have to adjust, the more fatigued we become. Chronic adaptation is exhausting.
  • Normal has disappeared. If the upset is severe enough, we can even lose sense of who we are.

Adapting takes energy – sometimes a LOT of it.


4.  Aaron’s illness has challenged us to trust.

I can’t make my son better. Watching him suffer or waiting for results isn’t my idea of a good time. But I can still love him. And I can do that by listening to and trusting those around me who know more than I do about what’s happening.

  • We’re not in control of very much. How we interpret and respond to what happens to and around us determines a lot.
  • We’re never fully alone. Someone has tackled this upset before, and many are battling it now. We’re in this together.

Control is an illusion. We were meant to find safe people we can trust.


Peace in the midst of the mess

How is this going to turn out? I don’t know. Hopefully the colors on our Rubik’s cube will line up soon.

I have peace that somehow all is well.

I hope Aaron senses that too.

7 Reasons Why It’s Okay to Hurt


Loss is hard. IT HURTS.

We lose people, marriages, relationships, jobs, health, homes, financial solvency, and so on. Whatever the loss, we grieve.

Why does grief hurt so much? Check out the video above.

In this 5 minute video, I share 7 reasons why it’s okay, or should be okay, to hurt. If you don’t have 5 minutes, here’s a summary:

  1. Grief hurts because it is personal. Every person and every relationship is unique.
  2. Grief hurts because it upends your world. Your life has stopped, while the world seems to go on unaffected.
  3. Grief hurts because it’s confusing. Emotions hijack you. Questions surface. How did this happen? Why? What now?
  4. Grief hurts because it changes you. You’re not the same. Life isn’t the same. Your relationships aren’t the same either.
  5. Grief hurts because others don’t understand. It can be a painful, lonely road.
  6. Grief hurts because it hits the heart. It can crush and shatter it.
  7. Grief hurts, because love is real. Because we love, we grieve.

I’m passionate about helping us heal and grow in the midst of loss and great challenges. In order to keep doing that, and do it better, I need your help.

Could you answer one question for me? Yes, just one. A one question survey about your own grief experience.

Your answer will help me produce more books, courses, and resources designed to help us grieve well, heal, recover, and grow.

Click here to get started. I really appreciate it.

Loss hurts. We’re in this together, and we need each other badly.

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