Beacon Press: After the Worst Day Ever
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After the Worst Day Ever

What Sick Kids Know About Sustaining Hope in Chronic Illness

Author: Duane R. Bidwell

For those who care for chronically ill children, a new understanding of hope that equips adults to better nurture pediatric hope among sick kids—articulated by the children themselves

As anyone with a chronic illness knows, hope can sometimes be hard to come by. For parents and caregivers of children with serious illness, there can be a real struggle to move beyond one's own grief, fear, and suffering to see what hope means for these kids.

Duane Bidwell, a scholar, minister, and former hospital chaplain who has struggled with serious illness himself, spent time with 48 chronically ill children in dialysis units and transplant clinics around the United States. Chronically ill kids, he found, don’t adhere to popular or scholarly understandings of hope. They experience hope as a sense of well-being in the present, not a promise of future improvement, an ability to set goals, or the absence of illness and suffering. With this mindset, these kids suggest a new understanding of pediatric hope, saying hope becomes concrete when they
  1. realize community,
  2. claim power,
  3. attend to Spirit,
  4. choose trust, and
  5. maintain identity.

Offering textured portraits of children with end-stage kidney disease, After the Worst Day Ever illustrates in their words how sick children experience, maintain, and turn toward hope even when illness cannot be cured and severely limits quality of life. Their insights reveal how the adults in a sick child’s world—parents, chaplains, medical professionals, teachers, and others—can nurture hope. They also shift our understanding of hope from an internal resource located “inside” an individual to a shared, communal experience that becomes a resource for individuals.

Rich and moving, Bidwell’s work helps us imagine anew what it means to sustain hope despite inescapable suffering and the limits of chronic illness.
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“What a powerful, courageous, and honest book! Drawing on years of pastoral experience, scholarly wisdom, and meticulous research, Duane Bidwell takes us inside the lives of children, letting them speak for themselves about their trials and amazing resilience amid debilitating illness. A godsend for those who care for sick children, the book’s five hope-filled practices also speak to those of us needing hope in an increasingly precarious world.”
—Bonnie Miller-McLemore, author of Let the Children Come

“Duane Bidwell goes past the fear of chronic disease and dis-ease that strikes across the life span. Listening to the wisdom of children and youth on their own terms brings high rewards, and the compelling stories and sound methodology in After the Worst Day Ever are a gift for those who live with chronic illness and those who care for them.”
—Daniel Grossoehme, senior research scientist, Akron Children’s Hospital

“I cannot say this enough: I needed this book when I was a pediatric staff chaplain. Sitting with patients and their families after receiving a life-rupturing diagnosis is fraught with fears of what not to say. How are they feeling? Where is the divine in all this? Bidwell cajoles the reader to listen to the children: the experts in their lived experiences. Hope is not an isolated experience, they show us, but one practiced in community. May we all practice hope in a way that fosters creativity, centers experience, enhances resilience, and nurtures the authenticity that Bidwell’s patients offer.”
—Rev. Joshua T. Morris, Union Presbyterian Seminary

Author’s Note


Realizing Connections

Claiming Power

Attending to Spirit

Choosing Trust

Maintaining Identity

Learning from Children

Practices of Hope Among Chronically Ill Children

A Note on Methodology

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After the Worst Day Ever

ISBN: 978-080702469-0
Publication Date: 3/19/2024
Size:5.5 x 8.5 Inches (US)
Price:  $25.95
Not Yet Published
Will Ship On: March 2024
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