Love Is Half the Battle

“Love is a wonderful healer but it cannot undo brain damage.”

When starting the FASD journey, I came across a parent’s testimonial that struck a deep chord.

Sarasota-based Kathryn Shea wrote a compelling story about raising her adopted son Seth.

Stories like Kathryn and Seth’s made me feel part of a larger whole, less lonely and ever the more determined to succeed.

One part of her story stayed with me: “As a social worker, I believed nurture always won out over nature, and with love, a nurturing environment, and appropriate stimulation, he could overcome anything. Love is a wonderful healer, but it can not undo brain damage.”

After five years of parenting T, I can say that I agree with Kathryn.

Love will not cure the long-term effects that prenatal alcohol has done on his brain.

From time to time, when talking about T, family members would make comments like: Maybe one day, his brain will heal after being surrounded by love.

I find these well-intentioned comments frustratingly naive. It incites the same reaction in me as when politicians offer thoughts and prayers after a tragedy like a shooting.

Just like thoughts and prayers, while comforting and healing, won’t stop future shootings, love alone will not make T’s life easier.

Without educational supports, societal awareness about FASD, investments into social services, policy changes, and increased effort to reduce the harmful stigma surrounding FASD, T and others like him will continue to face challenges.

Recent fall family hike at Guildwood Park.

However and a big but… With that said, I strongly believe that love is half the battle.

Providing a child with a loving environment can help set a solid foundation to build their resiliency and to face the challenges.

When I attended an FASD seminar years ago, the speaker spoke about how trauma impacts the brain’s development and whereas the opposite can help influence the individual’s trajectory in a positive direction.

I’m a pragmatic optimist. I believe in the power of love to shape one’s destiny. I also just happen to believe that love alone is not enough.

To give kids like T a fighting chance, we have to invest in infrastructure, policies, resources, advocacy and education about FASD geared towards making their lives better and ditto the lives of their caregivers and key players, such as educators and employers.

It continues to dismay me how little is known about FASD by the general population, especially when it is more prevalent than one realizes.

This is why Kathryn Shea’s story inspires me. I have followed her family’s story over the years, checking in on her and her son Seth from time to time from a stranger’s distance.

Not only has she shown such compelling love for her son, but she’s dedicated her life’s work to making the world a better place for individuals with FASD.

Just last month, an FASD clinic, the first of its kind in Sarasota, was named in her honour.

As described in this article, Shea was instrumental in opening The Florida Center’s Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Clinic in 2005, the only clinic of its kind in Florida.

What touched me the most about reading this recent news story was seeing the now grown-up Seth in the photo, joining his parents in the ribbon cutting ceremony.

This story made me feel hopeful.

Hope, like love, is half the battle.

21 thoughts on “Love Is Half the Battle

  1. You are right and I never realized it until this post. All the physically and mentally disabled adults I have seen and had as clients were primarily adults with autism and cerebral palsy, I never had a client with FASD.

    1. Thanks Diane. It is very funny how we came to become blogging friends through a connection of food… and yet your professional experience relates to my personal journey. Never a coincidence!

      I will say that sometimes FASD doesn’t get diagnosed so you may very well have encountered someone in your lifetime who had it. I look back at some classmates in school and think to myself now, probably FASD. So much more awareness is needed for sure! 👍🤞🏻

  2. If only love was all it took. Good thing T has no shortage of that though. Let’s hope that T and other kids with FASD continue to have the supports they need. And let’s hope that people like you and Kathryn continue to share your experiences to increase awareness.

    1. Thanks Linda! 😊 I think you said it best, it’s all about our individuals parts to raise awareness and share experiences.

      It’s a beautiful today. Hope you’re out something nice hiking!

      1. The whole weekend beautiful! We mostly did stuff around the house, including cleaning our oven for the first time (so it was nice to have all the windows open). We also went for a couple of walks around our neighbourhood and checked out all the various halloween decorations. I bet T is getting excited for Halloween!! Hope you had a wonderful weekend as well.

      2. That sounded like a wonderful weekend! Hope there weren’t any surprises in your oven, like a dead animal or something. 😆

        We had a wonderful weekend with family and on a pumpkin farm. Gearing up for Halloween!

  3. I love the blocks photo at the top – it resonates so much with all the blocks you are talking about in the post. Thank you for educating me about FASD and the journey you all are on. For whatever part of the solution love is, sending both love and support to you!

    1. Thanks Wynne! The stone blocks are from a local park in our city with some interesting public sculptures.

      And thanks for sending the love and support. They do matter and help for sure! 🙂

  4. Beautiful, inspiring, honest, relatable, a much needed kindness in a world of impatience and anger. “Love is a wonderful healer but it cannot undo brain damage.” Whether it’s FASD or long term untreated abuse and terror, not even love can fully heal the broken victim. We hope and pray they do. We try to give us much love and understanding that it may be enough to heal someone we care and help that person navigate through life and their own inner challenges. We are truly lucky to have at least half a bottle of unconditionally love because many don’t even notice or understand our need for them. Adults and Children are going through difficult , pervasive Mental & Emotional Crisis, and only a few knows how to give and help. Thank for your this post. So many needs it. I need. It. Take care.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you got the point I was trying to make. 🙂 I thought after I posted that people would misunderstand it as saying I was against prayer and hope… these are all absolutely important in supporting one’s healing and recovery from harm.

      You bring up such a good point: some of us are lucky to have our bottles already half full and to be constantly half full. Many in this world don’t even have that. And for that, I will be always grateful. Thanks for that reminder!

      1. So true. So much hunger and deprivation in the other parts of the World. Other countries when they say “I’m poor,” that means they could hardly eat once a day. Thanks for an honest post that is very relevant and important.

  5. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to hear those “love will heal all” comments, not only are they not grounded in reality but they kinda imply that T can’t live a full life just the way that he is. “Heal” can be a negative word in this context I guess. Maybe a way people could rephrase that sentiment: his brain will thrive because he is surrounded by love.
    True love accepts people as they are and like you said, its equally important to do advocacy to make world a better place for people with FASD.

    1. “Maybe a way people could rephrase that sentiment: his brain will thrive because he is surrounded by love.”

      Thank you, Lizi! This is a wonderful thought and insight.

  6. Ab my friend, this is extremely touching. I won’t pretend to fully understand the care that is required for both T & Seth, I can though relate & agree that love won’t cure everything. I made the mistake of believing that as a young mother. There’s so much I want to say but I feel I’d be rambling. As for family, sometimes people mean well with their intentions & don’t realize they’re just annoying & it’s best to say nothing. I never know how to console people when someone dies, so I just sit & listen. I’m glad that Kathryn has been encouragement for you.

    1. Thank you, Tammy! Ramblings are always welcomed and appreciated. 😊

      Sitting and listening is honestly the best thing to do sometimes – and I know I’ve been guilty of saying annoying things too, so I know. 😆

      Lastly, I do want to clarify that I absolutely believe in the power of love, hope and prayers. They bring me tremendous comfort. I just think that in the case of helping those with disabilities, we as s society need to do more than lip service and make foundational and structural changes.

      Anyway, I’m rambling now as well. 😂 Take care and have a good weekend!

      1. Thank you for that 3rd paragraph! That’s pretty much what was in my head, it’s just challenging to get my thoughts out since I began having the seizures. It’s so frustrating because I’ve always been able to articulate so well. I believe in love definitely, there’s simply been times where a support system or guidance would’ve helped. Hi-five!!!💯

      2. I’m sorry about your post seizure challenges, Tammy. If it provides you any reassurance, you articulate yourself amazingly well. I would never have noticed if you didn’t mention it! 🙏👍

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