By Laura Richter, MDiv
A Different Dream for My Child: Meditations for Parents of Critically or Chronically Ill Children. By Jolene Philo, Discovery House Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI, 2009. Paperback, 266 pp. $5.99.
Jolene Philo’s book, A Different Dream for My Child, thoughtfully weaves together personal narratives to create a meaningful resource for parents struggling with pediatric illness. Ms. Philo’s experience with illness as her newborn son battled a life-threatening condition gave her incredible insight, which is sprinkled throughout this work. Stories from other couples experiencing chronic and life-threatening diseases with their children are also included, providing a rich experience base on which the book rests. This resource provides practical coping tips as well as inspirational material, making it a great resource for any parent struggling with the illness of a child.
The book is divided into six overarching themes, each of which centers on a different aspect of pediatric illness. The sections explore moments in the disease process including diagnosis, hospital life, juggling two worlds (hospital and home) and long-term health conditions as well as the themes of losing a child and raising a survivor. Chapters are constructed similarly, beginning with a bible quote, which is followed by a short personal narrative. Each chapter closes with a prayer to God and reflection moment, providing thoughtful questions for the reader to ponder. Each chapter is short (three to four pages) and could serve as a thought-a-day reflection or longer term read.
Ms. Philo covers the range of emotions and experiences that grieving parents may encounter after a serious medical diagnosis for their child. She explores handling the diagnosis, feelings experienced as the child progresses through stages of disease, life at the hospital, juggling competing demands once the child has returned home, the realization that a condition is chronic, the depression that can follow the loss of a child, and the unending hope a parent must nurture when dealing with a seriously ill child. Each chapter provides practical information about hospital stays, helpful advice for struggling parents and creative ideas for making it through difficult times. A strong spiritual undercurrent runs through each chapter, reminding the reader that God is present in all situations and moments, difficult or joyful.
Ms. Philo has thoughtfully woven together experience, advice and prayer, creating a meaningful resource for parents struggling with pediatric illness. Though much has changed since Ms. Philo’s experience in 1982 and support groups are more prominent, parents are often left to piece together resources as they move between the healthcare environment and home. Parents who struggle with the difficult diagnosis of a child may experience a host of intense feelings, including frustration, doubt, despair, grief and hopelessness. Ms. Philo reminds the reader that we have endless resources available to us and that God will never abandon us. God walks beside us during the most challenging of moments, working tirelessly to provide the support we need through the outstretched hand of a friend, an offer from a family member, and moments of peace during difficult times.
Readers will find a host of possible resources and inspirational themes to buoy them on the rough seas of critical or chronic pediatric illness. This book will be a great resource for the parent struggling with a recent diagnosis, as well as the parent well into the journey of chronic illness. The short chapters make the book easy to pick up – whether you have five minutes or an hour. Ms. Philo’s sharing of her own experience, as well as that of others, provides an important resource that can be useful to parents at any point on the pediatric illness journey.
Laura Richter is director of workplace spirituality at Ascension Health in St. Louis, MO.