Blog  /  Parenting, Special Needs  /  The Balance of Laughter and Tears | Raising a Child with Special Needs

the balance between laughter and tears

Do you know who said, “For every laugh there should be a tear”? It was Walt Disney. All of us probably enjoy that thought for great books and storytelling, movies and shows, but for real life, it seems most would prefer laughter and smiles all the time. That makes life more fun and enjoyable, and, well – happy! But if all we did was laugh, and if life was just about having a good time all the time, I wonder how much we’d appreciate it. Sometimes I think we need those deeper valleys of sadness, grief, disappointment, and challenge to really appreciate the times when life is lighter, fun and even outrageously wonderful.

Having shed a good many tears over the years (almost 30) of caring for our son with special needs, I have come to realize that those many tears have also been balanced with many times of laughter – sometimes with our son, sometimes at him or ourselves, and sometimes just because it was the best way to let off the steam and pressure of life that can often be stressful! Proverbs 14:13 reminds me that, “Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, and the end of joy may be grief.” Yes, we might wear a smile on our face yet have underlying sadness, pain, or challenge. Life is difficult, but we can find that the joys and sorrows balance most of life for us.

I used to wonder if God could really give us just what we need. Can we really “make lemonade from lemons” as one saying goes? Does God really open a window when He closes a door? Prov.11:1, “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is His delight” might just be true as we begin to look for that balance. Before long, we’ll be able to see it more clearly…not being given too much of one thing and not enough of the other, but just what we need.

I’ve had to, over these years, make it a point to recognize, look for, and find both laughter, and tears, joys and sorrows. In human nature, most of us tend to notice the negative and forget about or not see the positive. Here are a few things that come quickly to my mind.


  • Not having my son healed
  • My son not being able to talk well (started talking around age 12)
  • Not having the freedom to do some things because our son can’t participate
  • Not an empty-nester, thus can’t do things with our friends who can pick up and go whenever they’d like
  • The death of both parents within 5 days of each other
  • The loss of all four of our parents and a brother within a few short years


  • How many wonderful people we’ve met because of my son and his disabilities
  • My son never says anything unkind or spreads gossip
  • We’ve learned to be content in whatever we CAN or CAN’T do
  • We realize we’ll have a companion in our son for a long, long time
  • We have many funny stories of which to share from our son and our parents that will keep us smiling

So, today, I might just take a few minutes and list the things going on in my life that are positive, fun, and bring laughter. I’m thinking I’ll keep adding to that list and look at it from time to time when I’m feeling low, disappointed, sad, or really frustrated. I know I need to make it a purpose to concentrate on that which is positive.

How about you?  What will your list look like?

Joe and Cindi Ferrini

Joe has practiced dentistry for 31 years and serves on the National Board of Directors for the Medical Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. He and Cindi are on associate staff with Campus Crusade. Cindi is a homemaker, speaker, and author (Balancing the Active Life, Get it Together, Tis the Season). Together they authored UNEXPECTED JOURNEY: When Special Needs Change Our Course. The Ferrini\’s live in Cleveland, Ohio and have 2 children at home and one married.

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  1. Darcy says:

    You always take us to the heart of the matter. Thanks for reminding us to choose joy.

  2. Joy is not usually our first emotion…but we can choose it to be. Sometimes we fail, but we usually get second chances.

  3. Bethany Seto says:

    I also have a daughter with special needs, but she’s only 3 years old. I already feel both the joy and pain of raising a child with special needs, and your post had me thinking into the future. Will she still need total assistance at 30? We don’t know. Her prognosis is a total mystery because her condition is so rare. But your perspective on the positives of having an adult child who still depends on you is encouraging. Thank you.