Lately, God has been bringing to my attention some things I need to know regarding my children who are adopted, two of which are older and not home with us yet. I’ve been praying He would help me know all I can in order to help them transition and heal. I wanted to share this particular topic with my friends and family, and thought this blog might be the best way. Thank you in advance for reading and those of you involved in the lives of any adopted children, I pray this touches you like it is touching me.
We adopted one of our daughters seven years ago, when she had not even reached her 1st birthday. We were elated to get a baby, and I remember thinking, “Oh, we are so lucky to get a baby because she’s too little to even remember her past life or have any traumatic effects from it.” But little did I know, as well as this sweet girl adapted to life in a new family and home, of course blossoming with healthy food and daily nurture, she had impressions on her brain and for lack of a better word, heart, that would never lift. Now, at the age where she can cognitively grasp what the first year of her life really was and all that she lost in it, there is grief and that shows itself in many forms. God brought the education we needed to help her navigate through the feelings that she couldn’t put words to before…but it is a process, and one we will always be in to some extent. I was incredibly clueless about what was going on inside of her precious heart and mind.
Can I go a step further in vulnerability and transparency here to say that I actually have been angry at her for not being more grateful? How many times have I thought, “But you have this now, you have us now, don’t live in the past. God rescued you! That’s what you have to focus on!” For those of us who came from somewhat stable backgrounds, that thought might make perfect sense if there’s at least some sensitivity added to it. And also, the Bible tells us to rejoice in all circumstances and be thankful, right? Well…
God wanted me to really get this, so He woke me up in the dead of night with a story.
This is the first time I’ve really grasped what an adopted child goes through and how it changes them on the inside, regardless of what they are told or even know in their head to be true. As you read this story the first time, try not to make comparisons with adoption, just read it as if you were truly the main character. Imagine this with me, please:
You are a young adult, living with a significant other. You have a job and while things have never been easy, you think you are doing okay. You’ve never moved, you’ve never really seen past your community where you work and live, but you have familiarity and you like it. Voices, scenes, your daily routine, and ultimately that significant other make up your life. But one day, you lose your job and there are absolutely no other opportunities available. You loved that job. It gave you such a sense of identity. It was your thing and you felt good about it. Now it was gone and before long, you have to file bankruptcy. Bankruptcy! Has it really come to this? You always had this sense of “things will work out”, but it slowly ebbs away as you begin living on the street. Worst of all, your significant other that you had been with as long as you could remember, leaves, weeping. You think if they’re sad to leave, then why don’t they stay with me and weather this storm? If they want to be with me, why can’t we do this together? But they can’t and you end up in a group home with a hundred other adults that are also in the same boat.
You feel an incapacitating weight that daily drags you down as you try to figure out what happened. You have no pieces to try to put together, you have nothing.
Time passes in this exact situation, and you learn to make it through the days. Circumstances reinforce the thoughts and beliefs that have taken hold–that you don’t deserve better or that hope only leads to disappointment– although you do your best to not think or feel anything at all. Others in the group home leave, going away and never coming back to tell about it, always with a new adult who came looking for them all smiles, usually of a different color skin and total gibberish of a language! Your friends do seem glad when they leave with these people, so you begin to hope you’ll have that happen to you, too, even though you really don’t know what it’ll mean on a day-to-day basis, what it’ll truly be like.
And one day, it happens. All of a sudden, there is a person clearly interested in knowing you and taking you out of the holding pattern you’ve been in. You don’t know very much about what is changing, you just know it’s going to be a big change and you are going to have a significant other again. You can tell this by the way they’re looking at you and even hugging you, and that makes you feel good, but you remember feeling good before and where did that get you? You have forgotten what it felt like to have a job you loved and earn your own living, that sense of pride. You have forgotten what it felt like to never question if your significant other would leave, that sense of calm and confidence. You have forgotten what it felt like to not live in the past and future; you don’t even realize you forgot how to live in the present.
You are in a whirlwind of new everything for a couple of months. Everyone around you is celebrating, everyone is asking you if you like your new clothes, your new room in your new house…even your new significant other is looking at you in expectation, like aren’t you thrilled? As an adult, you’ve had enough life experience to understand you are in a better situation. Yes, you grasp that. Having nothing was horrible. The group home stunk. You are glad you have a job again! You are relieved you have plenty of food! You are enjoying the warmth and kindness and attention of your new significant other!
But what you have learned and what you have become cannot be turned off. You’ve learned to emotionally, physically, and socially survive by not getting too excited about anything, by not getting attached or used to anything, anything at all! In that group home, every possession was destroyed, every friend left, every bed room changed, and nobody ever asked you how you felt about it, not to mention all that happened before the group home life. So, yeah, you’re enjoying things for the moment and to a certain extent, but then a shadow falls over your face and while everyone else is celebrating how great this is–because it is great–you just feel scared and sad, and angry that you can’t just enjoy it, that you can’t just toss the past in the past and believe that it is a new day. There’s a fear of jumping in with both feet only to lose it all again. There’s a fear of messing it all up, so that creates a fear of even trying to connect with your significant other or to do a good job in your new occupation. All the feelings of those terrible years are stored deep inside and they come out whenever a situation in your “new life” even barely resembles those experiences. You don’t realize that’s what’s happening, but you do notice that you don’t have the same reaction to things, good or bad, as others do. You eventually get to the place where you know the facts by heart: I’m loved, I’m taken care of, I have a good life ahead of me. But when you’re all alone, you’re really not sure.
Thank you for “going there” with me. I hope something in this story made it real to you, like it did to me. And what we can’t fully understand, we can believe anyway because it’s true, like it or not.
It is my deepest prayer that my girls would have total healing and complete victory. I pray that someday they could be so strong in their faith and belief in God’s love for them that they could say, as Joseph who was sold into slavery by his own brothers yet someday became ruler of all Egypt: “What my enemy intended for evil, God used for good, both for me and to save many lives as well.” We all have wounds that eventually lead to beliefs about ourselves, God, and the world. But when those wounds happen in childhood, the healing takes incredible bravery, patience, perseverance, and help from others who are in for the long haul with that child.
Please remember this when you are with my children.
As a speaker at the Empowered to Connect conference said last year: “My children bled before they came to me, and they shall not bleed under my care.”
I know it’s hard to know exactly what that care will need to look like, or what you can expect from them. So I say, don’t expect anything. Receive them as they are right now. Don’t judge them for what they feel. This may be a one-sided love for awhile. Give with no strings attached, really. Just love them and if they’re not acting loving toward you or others, take them aside and pour your love on them even more. And please remind me to do the same.
Thank you so much for reading.