The Serenity Prayer  serenity

God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr


I came to know the Serenity Prayer several years ago.  As a parent of a child who had multiple disabilities, I was immediately drawn to it message and what it meant to me. Here are my thoughts…


The opening line asks for serenity; a calmness, peacefulness and feeling of contentment.  It’s the opposite of panic, fear or anxiety.  As parents there are so many times throughout the day when you may feel stressed or concerned.  Whether it be going for a walk, reading a book, singing out loud, having coffee with a friend, or simply closing our eyes and taking a few moments to just breathe, each of us has at least one or two things that we can do to feel calm.  The day to day matters of parenting a loved one with a disability can certainly take over your life.

 What can you do to relax and feel peaceful?  Why is it important to feel this way?


Secondly, the prayer asks for the courage to make changes that are possible.  Digging up the courage to make change can put you in a vulnerable position.  It often means bearing your innermost thoughts and putting your personal life on display, which can be difficult to do.

Have you reflected on what vulnerability means to you? 

What does it feel like? 

Are there things from your childhood that may influence why you may feel vulnerable in making change?

What could you change?  Would it be altering your values and beliefs, your family relationships, support systems, or how you communicate?

How would you begin? What are the opportunities for change within your family or in the social system of support?  How do you tell your story and whom do you tell?


Each and every day there is something to learn.  Knowledge can give you with greater insight to make your desired changes.  With greater understanding, you feel strengthened and empowered to discover a sense of peace and find the courage to move forward.

What have you learned from your situation? Can you pay attention to the lessons in each day?


Swiss psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, described the Stages of Grief as denial, bargaining, depression, anger and eventually, acceptance.

Without a doubt, your situation came as as surprise.  After all, you didn’t plan for it. Some people will wonder what could have been done differently yet most likely, there is nothing that could have been done to prevent it.  I have heard many people say that they want to do whatever they can to “fix” their children.  Your dreams may be shattered and you are living a completely different life than you would have ever imagined.  It’s okay to feel sad, helpless and powerless at times.

What can you do to come to terms with your situation? 

How can you support your children and expand on their strengths?

How can you move from wanting what you had originally planned for to embracing your situation and making a good life for you and your family? 


Recovering from an injury or illness takes time.  Emotional healing is no different.  Some suggestions that may be helpful to you are:

  • Allowing time to experience thoughts and feelings openly to self
  • Expressing feelings openly or writing journal entries about them
  • Remembering that crying can provide a release
  • Confiding in a trusted person about the loss
  • Acknowledging and accepting both positive and negative feelings
  • Finding support groups in which there are other people who have had similar experience
  • Seeking professional help if feelings become overwhelming

Wisdom comes from learning, which leads to finding your strength and gathering courage, which helps you to move toward acceptance and healing.

What does the Serenity Prayer mean to you?