As most of you know, the baby went back to his biological mother and father about month ago. As you can guess, the summer was difficult and dealing with my own grief as well as the grief of my children has been a task I’ve only been able to take on with the help of family, friends, and most of all, my Lord.
One thing I have been reminded of in walking through this trial with my family, is that trauma does not tell time. This may seem like an obvious statement, but it isn’t to a lot of people. Many people assume that my girls, because they’ve been with us for over 4 years, are fine and dandy and most of the effects of their early childhoods have somehow worn off. I feel it’s important for you to understand that there is nothing further than the truth. The past month or so has, once again, reminded me that my daughters, and many other kids I know, will likely deal with some effect of their trauma forever.
I once read somewhere that adoption is the only trauma we expect people to be grateful for. Think about that. The most common view of adoption is that a wonderful family who can’t have babies comes in, takes a child of a terrible situation, and “saves” them. Once they are with a “better” family, they are happy and healthy and all the butterflies and rainbows appear. Here’s what really happens, though:
A child, or children, are taken away from the only family they’ve ever known. The mother who gave them life, the grandparents whom they’ve always shared birthdays with, the cousins they grew up playing in the neighborhood with, the language they’ve grown up hearing, the food they’ve grown up eating…no matter how unsafe, dirty, neglected, or sick their home was, it was all they know, so they are traumatized when they leave. Most of the time they don’t even know they are about to be taken. Then, they are brought to a new home full of strange people, strange smells, strange sounds, and often a strange language. We may feel that they are trading a bad life for a good one. What is true is they are trading the known for the unexpected, control for chaos, family for strangers, home for foreign land. Why should we expect them to feel grateful? Why should we expect them to get over it and move on? When someone experiences the death of a loved one, we don’t expect them to move on, even years later. On anniversaries, birthdays, and holidays, we gather around with our loved ones and remember those we’ve lost, no matter how many years have past. The same goes for our adopted children. Even though healing occurs over time, behaviors change, safety is felt, and family is formed, events happen that trigger their memories of what they’ve lost. Adoption is built on loss, and it’s important to never forget that.
When my girls hear Spanish spoken, crack cascarones on Easter, eat tortillas, or are reminded that their skin color is not the same as ours, they remember. When the baby left, they remembered. When me and Jeff have an argument, they remember. When they see a family of all the same color, they remember. When their bodies feel stressed, they remember. Even if they don’t have explicit memories, their bodies and brains remember what used to be, and as a parent I must enter into that grief with them. And this will be our lives together. Always. If they remember, then I need to remember.
Let us be reminded that trauma doesn’t tell time. That adoption is hard. When you see a family that has been built on loss, honor that, grieve that, and pray for that. In a world where we our constantly being reminded of our differences, and faulted for them, let us, instead, celebrate them and honor them. Let’s sit with each other in grief, and run alongside each other to hope. The most beautiful story ever told was built on loss. Jesus Christ came, lived a perfect life, and suffered a humiliating and painful death. And then He beat death and lead us to Hope. We can grieve what should be grieved, and hope in the One who brings hope. We can weep with those who weep, and comfort them with the comfort we’ve received. We can love those who are different from us, knowing that each of our stories is being perfectly crafted by the One who created us. And that’s what makes us the same.
Let’s remember to remember the pain of others, the Hope of Christ, and the Love we have been assigned to share with this world.