Learning from illness

Illness has been coming up a lot lately, some of my blogging friends have been ill, and many are sharing their experiences. I have had the blessing of hearing about the wonderful gratitude feelings and lessons they have learned from both experiencing the illness and getting better. Many are coming to new realizations about themselves and their lives. Some are taking their illness as a message from their own body to slow down, set new priorities, and nurture their true callings in life.

Nadia my friend over at Happy Lotus (who was recently experiencing a respiratory infection) explained it this way in one of her recent posts I am what I am

Here is an excerpt;

“What I do know is that sometimes my desire to be a good girl overrides the need to be good to myself. Some people are designed to carry the weight of the world on them and I have always seen myself as that kind of person.

I can take care of everybody but truly ignore my own needs until I am stuck in my bed as I was this week. My husband and friends have been pointing this out to me for years but I never really listened.

Of course, I always knew what they said was right, I just never knew what to do to stop it. How do you change course when you are always on high-speed? It’s kind of hard especially when you have no clue how to put yourself first.

I have no idea how I am going to switch paths but I know that I will. I am currently working on figuring out all the details.”

It is so wonderful how we can learn from illness!

Sometimes we can learn from others who have are experiencing illness as well.

My daughter Ella is feeling better today after a battling a stomach bug for the past few days. I am so proud of how she (at only 2 1/2 years old) embraced the moment and handled her illness with such grace. She is so brave! Of course we were with her all the way, spending a long night of heading to the bathroom back and forth every few minutes… we assured her not to fear, that this is a normal part of life and sometimes happens when we catch a bug or eat spoiled food. Slowly after the initial period of throwing up had past, she enjoyed sipping on her favorite herbal tea (chamomile) to sooth her tummy.

As parents, how we approach illness when it comes to our own children can have an effect on how they perceive it as well. Do you approach illness with compassion and understanding? Or is it considered a battle that must be won? I wanted to share with you my thoughts on illness and wellness… this is a post I wrote back in 2007 on my blog The Herbalist’s path. Enjoy!

Holistic Wellness and our Kids

Many times I hear statements like “my kid wont take herbal teas” Certainly some herbs can taste bad or too strong to a kid, but there may be something deeper going on. Are herbal teas only introduced when there is a “problem”? Have you asked yourself as a parent how you view healing and medicine?
Traditional Western medicine is necessary and often life saving, however the mind body connection and the miraculous ability of the body to heal itself with the assistance from nourishing foods and natures medicine is often ignored. The Traditional Western medicine approach is to attack disease, you feel as if something is being done to you and that can often feel very invasive. A child is going to naturally want to rebel from this approach, it is scary and intimidating. “Take your medicine” can sound like something of a punishment.
Holistic medicine is about nourishing the body and living a healthy lifestyle. When I say “nourishment” I don’t mean to simply take vitamins and minerals and eat good foods. Nourishment is a healthy loving emotional environment, exercise, rest, herbal remedies, connection with earth, connection with community and loving one another. It’s reading fairy tales to your child, planting a garden, taking time to listen, & having a loving home. Involve your children when collecting healing medicines from the wild, show them how to make healing teas and infusions, help them to cultivate a healing kids garden. My mother and I often wildcrafted together and Ella being only 9 months old has gone with me on all of my outdoor adventures. Kiva gives a wonderful example on her blog of spending the day with wonderful wise women and her daughter Rhiannon.

We can be good role models for our children by showing them the beauty of their bodies and nature. Approaching sickness as if it were an enemy or something bad reflects badly on the child. If we teach our kids that sickness should be avoided at all costs, or attacked, we are denying that illness is a natural part of life. Even if you are extremely healthy, if you participate in life illness or “problems” will eventually occur. Explain issues when they arise in an age appropriate way that the child will understand, let the child be involved rather than approaching illness as a problem that needs to be attacked. Explain that the natural remedies support the bodies own ability to heal rather than a remedy being a magic bullet cure.

The “detox” rage is in my opinion is not approaching herbal medicine with a holistic view in mind. The extreme idea that we are somehow dirty and full of toxins is damaging. This illusion that we must live perfectly and become more pure will only lead to disappointment and disconnection from our bodies. Health is not about attaining perfection. There will be birthday cake, pop cycles, and chocolate. Balance is the real key, everything in moderation, even moderation! Extreme ideas are just as damaging as not taking responsibility for your health at all.The inner stress and guilt this causes is the opposite of being holistic. This view does not teach our kids to feel relaxed about themselves, enjoy life, be confident about their bodies, and celebrate good health. If and when illness does arise the child will feel defeated, like they somehow brought the illness on themselves because they are not “pure” or “perfect”.
The goal is not to somehow fight the enemy of illness and toxins. The focus should be on avoiding unnecessary illness by nourishing ourselves with local grown foods, herbal medicine, exercise, fresh air and getting out in nature. When illness does arise we can attend to it with compassion instead of guilt, fear, and blame like the child is somehow doing something wrong and needs to be punished by “taking medicine”
If natural holistic living is part of your life as a parent, the child will be much more likely to accept it. Children are inundated with media messages that health is a perfect size 2, and skinny, COOL, active young people eat at McDonald’s (or other fast food). Our goal should be to empower our children and try to send a different message.

Leave A Reply (5 comments so far)


  1. Angela
    2389 days ago

    Angie– yet another wonderful post. I read this as I sit here at my desk at work with a heating pad on my neck and shoulders trying to recover from what appears to be a pinched nerve in my neck. Over the weekend this was so debilitating that I was almost in tears with every movement. I still ran around like a crazy woman, though! I asked my daughter’s to pitch in and help me because I wasn’t myself– but of course, being teenagers their idea of help and mine are a bit different! :-) I finally decided the stress of arguing with them was too much while I try to heal, and I sent them to their father’s for a few days. I even tried coming in to work on Tuesday morning– too soon and without giving myself adequate rest. I did come in today, but I cancelled plans with a friend for later- not because I don’t want the company but because to have it I would have to drive to pick him up and return him home– and it’s too much.

    I know it’s my body’s way of telling me that I am stressing over too many things and I need to step back and relax a little. As difficult as that can be, I know I have to. I have damaged myself in a way that is able to be put at bay, but may always flare up and cause me issue if I am not careful. I often tell friends that as a single mom I don’t get the “luxury” of being ill because life happens all around me that I need to be a part of. I have to learn to stop this and take that “luxury”!

    As for teaching our children that illness is a part of life– what a wonderful concept. I know I try to show compassion when they are ill– but I also find myself pushing them when maybe I shouldn’t. I do tell them that illness is a part of life, but I’m not so sure I do that in a postitive way. It’s more like “well, it’s just the sniffles and they are a part of life– so deal with it, get out of bed, and head to school”. That isn’t really the healthy approach! When they were younger and got the sniffles, I was there with hot water bottles for ear aches, warm drinks for tummy aches– and lots of nurturing love and tenderness. As they get older, I find myself treating them the way I treat myself- and that’s not fair to them.

    Thank you for this post! As always, it’s thought provoking and makes me look harder at myself as a mom– and hopefully change some negative behavior!

  2. Angie
    2389 days ago

    Hi Angela! Too bad you didn’t live closer, I could give you a massage!!!
    I am glad this post resonated with you today. Thank you so much for being so open here in the comments. Your self -awareness is amazing!
    Please make some time for yourself and be compassionate toward yourself, as you said, how you treat yourself is how you treat others. Unfortunately, sometimes ‘do it for you!’ does not really resonate with us because a lot of us were conditioned that we are supposed to be all things to all people (super mom) but when you come to the realization that it could be effecting the kids, sometimes that is the ‘wake up call’ we need to push us into action.
    Don’t worry, I am guilty of this myself. I have this inner drive and tend to put too much on my plate. Something I am working on changing.
    Nothing is more important than your well-being…. that may sound like blah blah blah, but it is so true and so simple, when you are centered everything just tends to fall into place.

  3. janice
    2388 days ago

    Hi there! I’m sorry wee Ella hasn’t been so well. You make an important point in both parts of this great post, Angie. The way we cope with our children’s illnesses and prepare them and talk them through, determines their approach to illness and disease for the rest of their lives.

    I’m a kind ‘nurse’ but I don’t make too much of a fuss and I never, ever show anxiety. My son’s temperatures always reached 104 with the slightest infection (he’s been a bit better since he had his tonsils out and they don’t go beyond 102) so I’m an expert in quick and efficient temperature reduction! I knew they’d both probably be sick after the tonsilectomies, so we practised a ‘swift handing over of the precious teddy before vomiting’ routine before they went in to the hospital. They had fun practising it, but as well as preparing them for some potential unpleasantness, it actually came in handy!

    What you said about them associating certain drinks with illness is so wise. My son’s never touched chocolate milk since he had it once just before he vomited. Those memories go deep.

  4. Nadia - Happy Lotus
    2386 days ago

    Hi Angie,

    I am doing my Sunday blog rounds and what a surprise to see that you mentioned me in your post. Thank you so much. I am honored.

    Illness is one of those things, I truly believe, that are signs that there is an imbalance of some kind. Otherwise, the illness would not happen.

    I never used to think like that but then I read Caroline Myss’s “Anatomy of the Spirit” and that opened my eyes.

    Life is meant to be simple but we so complicate it. I hope Ella is feeling much better. :)

  5. Angie
    2385 days ago

    Hi Janice! Ella is feeling much better:) Thank you so much for your insights, yes our children learn from our attitudes~ it is amazing how intuitive they are!

    Hi Nadia, you are so very welcome! I enjoy reading your blog!
    I agree we do tend to complicate things at times…
    Nice to ‘see’ you here, thanks so much for stopping by!

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