A chronic illness kept my son home and unable to attend school from the age of 14 through the end of high school. While his friends were out at parties, learning how to socialize outside and in the school hallways, he was in bed, fatigued, full of fear. In the beginning, the focus was all about the physical pain, but it didn’t take long before that gave birth to an intense emotional landscape. Days would pass, and he would not leave the house. He needed to be close to the bathroom round the clock.

Teachers from every subject came toGetting up in the morning was next to impossible the house on a weekly basis—a revolving door for five years. That one hour of focus and learning would land my son in bed for the remainder of the day. This was the best arrangement, though, as his getting up in the morning was next to impossible and staying in school the whole day just wasn’t happening. We tried it for a while, and I was in and out of the school picking him up to leave, more than he was ever there. He needed some consistency, so homebound schooling was it. There is something special about one-on-one learning; it’s all yours. It also has its limitations; it is isolating, and you don’t have the group dynamic and social lessons that a classroom provides.

My husband and I were his support and lifeline. Occasionally, a friend would come to visit. We couldn’t really see past one day at a time, one therapy appointment at a time and one doctor visit at a time. The time required to maintain his schedule was demanding. I cut back my work hours, and became available for him first and foremost. He was very lonely; loneliness can be extremely demoralizing. Essentially, his emotional and social development had arrested, and his stable home became his safety net and cocoon.

This went on for six years. I was exhausted and afraid of what was going to be for my son. At the same time though, I was blessed with an intuition that I had to maintain self-care in order to be a loving, anchored caregiver. I was developing new strengths and new relationships. I took two local weekly woman’s Torah classes, had a daily chavrusa (learning partner) on the telephone and was a dedicated part of a weekly chaburah (group learning) on a teleconference call with my rabbi and spiritual mentor from Ashdod, Israel. This was my lifeline.

I realized how essential it was to work on refining my character, speech and behavior, so that I could feel more confident and empowered about how I was managing my son’s situation, my role and my marriage. I was developing a stronger spiritual awareness amid the craziness and unknowns, and for the most part, was coping better. At the root of all of this learning was an awakening that if G‑d runs the universe, and everything that happens is from G‑d and for our good, then so was this situation with my son.

As strong and resilient as a person might be—and I consider myself to be an 8.5 or 9 on a scale of 1 to 10—some situations will either tear you apart or build you up, put a wedge in your marriage or draw you closer, and even change your relationship with your friends. As a parent watching a child struggle to find his or her way out of the dense woods, covered by dark heavy clouds, it can be excruciating.

It is said that the worst thing in the world is watching someone you love suffer in pain. Watching my son suffer physical pain was very difficult. Watching him suffer emotionally was certainly the hardest challenge I have been given to date in my adult life—even harder than losing both of my parents, and that was extremely painful. Drinking an extra glass of wine might have helped me fall asleep easier, but it didn’t change the pain. Therapy sessions certainly helped to sort things out and get perspective. Having two personal rabbis to listen and never judge, and provide encouragement and praise, was often the strength that got me through. Having friends who praised my capacity to manage my lot was always a tender and meaningful buoy. I was becoming more trusting and faithful as a result of these challenges.

Over time, my son slowly learned how to engage the world as he came out of his shell. It was as if everything was a new experience for him. There were endless questions about how to handle every kind of social, real-life situation—the very beginning of a sense of being alive. He needed time to grow up on many levels and catch up on many more.

Undoubtedly, we are not made to handle daunting situations alone. There is no rule book. Our friends have the very best intentions, are kind and supportive, but they may not understand what we need or what to say because they’ve never been in the same situation. I learned that my faith was my strongest ally, my teacher and anchor. I discovered I did not have to be alone. I was always grateful that I had the constancy of my relationship with my husband, but I needed something more.

I needed a guaranteed place to cry out, to release my frustrations, to ask for direction, to acknowledge my doubts about what would be. This is how I communicated with G‑d. Invariably, I always felt lighter.

As a witness to this journey, I saw opportunities to learn how to parent as a loving educator, practicing humility, shedding many tears and calling out “Dear G‑d, please help him find his way, and please help me help him.” I would talk with G‑d, aloud, asking for direction, acknowledge my doubts about what would be with my son, and my desire to grow more faith that things would be OK. I had so many chances to find a balance between being encouraging and accepting, listening and offering guidance, laughing to lighten a moment or offering a hug, and above all, developing practices that strengthened my relationship with the highest Power of all, the Almighty. I could weep and feel stronger, cry for help and feel supported, say nothing at all, and be heard and understood. Faith was my language of rebuilding myself every day. As long as I have that, I feel whole and better able to cope with the unknowns.

Now, at 26 years old, my son is achievingMany days, he feels good about himself good grades, has a leadership position in a campus community organization, has made friends and has good relationships with his professors. Many days, he feels good about himself, and many still, he feels anxious. Practicing being present has proven very helpful as a way not to get overwhelmed, and being committed to building stronger mental health is a continuous priority that I believe will give him the confidence to find his direction.

My husband and I remain behind him, and we see the positive trajectory becoming longer and stronger. He is building his launching pad, so when he is ready, there will be the foundation and building blocks that he needs to fire away and endure. He is made of different materials than many of his peers, who are already out there in their own places, earning money and paying their bills; but let’s remember, there is no one size fits all. We are all made uniquely, with one-of-a-kind experiences tailored just for us, so we can learn what we need, be ready to move forward at the right time and the right place, and live a life we are meant to live, always with G‑d’s helping hand.