With the help of Thich Nhat Hanh’s teachings on emptiness, Stephen Holoviak realizes that to fully know and accept his autistic daughter he must let go of his hopes and dreams for her.
Our daughter, now thirty, is autistic, nonverbal, and has pervasive communication issues. She was an infant when diagnosed in 1981. Back then there was little knowledge of autism, even among health care professionals, and not much in the way of support.
My wife and I soon learned that our journey to raise her in the way we envisioned would challenge every definition of love we ever thought possible, and would eventually lead us to the profound Buddhist teachings on emptiness.
Like many parents whose child has just been diagnosed with autism, we turned to our local minister for help. While he was empathetic, the only guidance he could offer was that it was “God’s will” and we are never given more than we can handle. Unfortunately, this offered little solace for our daughter and no help for our sagging spirits. We abandoned Christianity, along with its lure of receiving a miracle if only we prayed long and hard enough.
nick parker New Zealand says
dear steve and family, thank you for your article. it was very good for me to read as i had an autistic daughter for 12 years until she died . During this time and after we experienced the whole range of emotions that you speak about. i congratulate you for finding the dharma to help you. i was not so fortunate as i only discovered the healing power of the dharma after my baby was gone. This time of intense suffering has radically changed us to the point where we could not understand or sympathize with everyday people leading their everyday lives. we recieved little or no help from our organized religion and had discarded these as useless. Your experience with the dharma and your daughters condition would be hugely valuable for other parents who are facing similar experiences. It was only when last year , i happened to hear Thich nhat hahn on the youtube teaching Buddhas wisdom on suffering did i really start to heal , both mentally and physically. Once again thanks for your article ,Nick
Beautiful post, showing that the Buddha's teachings can be applied to all situations no matter how grim they might appear. The article made me tear up with hope for your family. Thank you for posting such a wonderful article.
It is a beautiful story. I am really touched.
It is a great story for any parents (or any of us) even they are not in the similar experience. I wanted to forward this story to the parents whom I know, but I hesitated because most of them could not understand fully the teachings even they are Buddhist. Finally I sent them the story link with the note that "just appreciate the truth love of parents to children and the happiness they found even in the difficult time".
I myself learn to live as my children (of 9 and 10), and see them as my teacher: no attachment character. I also help them not to put many layers on them, so that later in life they can peel off the onion layers faster.
Steve, thank you for posting.