Dissolved: When Always Isn’t Forever. . . Final Thoughts
“For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
2 Corinthians 1:5
Here we are, at the end of this journey. Each of us left with much to consider and ponder. All of you who read these posts will not agree with our choices. Many of you will insist you would have done things differently. And while I firmly believe you are entitled to your opinion, based on what’s best for your family, please respect our right to the same.
Life-altering decisions are never easy; and with all the best information and resources, if we’re honest, there is always a small shred of doubt that we did the right thing. Looking back can be helpful for guiding our future, but we mustn’t live there in the present. I have been grateful for these years of healing since the dissolution. It has given me much perspective. The lingering effects of trauma have left no one in this family unscathed. I am able to look and see that what we experienced was real, and not our fault, as we were led to believe. But I cannot change anything, I can only share with you our struggles in the hopes that it will encourage, educate, and give voice to others.
For those of you still in the trenches, you are not alone. You have a voice. We are here to hear your voice. God sees you, He knows your plight. He knows the walls are closing in, and He will protect you when they fall. Not all endings are happy, but they are all what they should be. I trust that this plan was right for our family, and the Lord’s plans for you are no different.
To the rest of you, I’d like to leave you with a few parting words of advice. Things God has so gently (and sometimes, deservedly, not so gently), taught me along the way. Please check the Resources page for helpful links. I hope you will use this to serve those in your sphere of influence.
If you know a family who has adopted children, or there are families in your church that are adoptive families, I ask you to do a few things:
1 Believe them. If someone in your life, who is an adoptive parent, comes to you and shares their heart, their struggles, their concerns, or their questions, no matter how outlandish or inconceivable they may sound, believe them. We were most grieved by those close to us, who knowing us well, refused to believe what we were telling them. Only after I stepped outside the bubble that was my life and was connected to others in my exact situation, did I realize how deeply hurtful and harmful it was to have those you trusted most in the world not believe you. This is one of the loneliest and most isolating feelings in the world.
2 Listen to them. Often adoptive families do not necessarily need nor want your advice. You are looking at things from a completely different vantage point than they. Your normal everyday experience is not theirs. Hear me when I say, I know you mean well, and I know that in most cases, you are only trying to help. But many adoptive families carry great burdens and they sometimes just need to talk it out to get the perspective and peace they need.
3 Don’t help them. I know, sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it? What I mean is, sometimes your “help” does more harm than good. To an untrained person, you may not be able to pick up on the subtle manipulations of a trauma kid. Some parents work on certain tasks with their adopted children for months, only to have their work completely undone by well-meaning people trying to help. Also, if they are still trying to form attachments with their adoptee, your offer to hold the child could hinder this process, no matter how well-intentioned you are. Certainly, offer to help (see below), but please do not be offended when they turn you down. They are dealing with very delicate circumstances that cannot be handled in the same way as you might think. It (generally) isn’t personal.
4 Don’t Ignore The Bio’s. One of our biggest regrets was the treatment of our biological children by others. Most would approach our family and never even acknowledge my boys. They would hem and haw all over the adopted children, telling them how wonderful they were, and never even notice the other boys. Our boys suffered greatly from this. They slipped into their own worlds while out in public. Post-dissolution, our boys continued this habit and had to be re-trained on how to greet people who spoke to them. They did not know how, since no one (outside of my husband and I) ever did. Make sure you give ample attention to the bio kids; they are just as much affected by it all as the adopted ones, and they need encouragement and support too! As an aside, I would caution you to beware of Charming Charlie. Attachment/Trauma kids can be devastatingly charming. They can appear to be the most kind, gentle, fun-loving, helpful children you have ever been around. But when they are home, or perhaps when you turn your back and don’t see them, they are treating their family with disdain, disrespect, and destruction. They will smile lovingly at strangers, and turn around and give their mother a look of death. They can be truly different people behind closed doors.
5 Educate Yourself in Trauma and Attachment. This. is. vital. Read about attachment. Learn the effects of trauma on children, even infants. Understand that what you know to be normal is the exact opposite of a child who has experienced trauma. In our case, the twins, who were adopted as infants, suffered great trauma in their short three months of life prior to coming to us. Attachment happens in the womb; the children hear voices and experience environment while they are being nurtured within their mother. Once the twins were born, they were taken from this familiar setting and placed in a new home with new voices, new sounds, and new smells. Only to be taken three months later to yet another home, with completely different voices, smells, and sights. This is traumatic to a young developing child. Their brains go into survival mode, and they learn not to trust or be nurtured. This is the reality. Don’t minimize the effects this can have on children. It changes who they are. And once you know more, you can serve others better.
6 Ask Them. Many adoptive parents with trauma children have many needs they do not feel comfortable sharing. For instance, some adoptive children will rage. These are not your average “temper-tantrums”; this is full-on, out of control, blind rage. They will destroy everything – walls, furniture, personal property – with no regard to who it belongs to. The repairs are often costly, and having someone who understands that this wasn’t the result of poor parenting offer to help with repairs is a welcome gift and encouragement. Ask an adoptive parent what types of trauma or drug-related issues their children have. And offer to help with whatever their needs may be. This will not be offensive. This will show the parents that you know these things exist and you are willing to come alongside them and help. Some children have food that will trigger their episodes, so offer to bring a meal based on the limitations they have to place on food. AND please, never offer an adoptive child food. ALWAYS ask the parents first (out of earshot of the child, of course). And don’t be offended if they say no. Food is a major issue in many trauma children, and it has to be treated with the utmost of caution.
7 If you know or see an adoptive parent in public – encourage them. You don’t need to have a lengthy conversation with them, only an understanding nod, or a passing pat on the arm will suffice. There were many times that almost every person in our lives had turned against us. We did not know friend from foe. And the Lord would send a random person to speak a kind word of encouragement to me – it always touched me deeply. It did not take away my pain or suffering, but it often kept me from falling into despair.
8 Educate your church. One of the worst parts of our experience was not having support from our church. Please know, it was not the whole church. There were some who were as supportive as they could be, given their limited knowledge of trauma/attachment. But many did not know what to do or how to respond. Many assumed everything was smooth sailing and never bothered to ask. And many were outright awful to us. If your church takes the time to learn the facts of what adoption in many cases really is, then you all, as a whole, will better be able to serve the adoptive community. We need your support, it is a lifeline to us. And when we do not have it, we begin to die a very slow death. I realize this sounds dramatic, but it really is exactly what it felt like. Be there for adoptive families, respect their wishes, listen to their needs, and come along side them and serve the Lord in their journey.
9 Understand that all parenting is not created equal. If you want to let your kid eat cotton-candy three meals a day, though I do not share your view, I understand you are free to make those decisions for yourself. Perhaps your child has an underlying health issue that requires cotton-candy to treat it. Far fetched, I know, but we had people outraged that we would let our bio kids have a piece of candy, but wouldn’t let the adoptees. This was not an effort to discriminate or deprive them, but because we had seen the effects that sugar had on them and it was not pretty. We were treated as racists, who let white kids have privileges and denied it to the black ones – ludicrous! The truth is, you or I can never know the in’s and out’s of another person’s home. We have to trust that they are making the right choices for their family. Very few are willfully choosing to treat their children poorly. Please know that what works in your home does not always work in another.
10 Pray for them. My life became a life of prayer. Oh, I prayed before this, but now I realized my very life depended on it. I was constantly in the throes of a prayer at any given moment. Sometimes when things got too much, I would literally cry out loud for the Lord to help me! Some adoptive parents are afraid to share their realities, for fear of experiencing the exact account I’ve just shared with you in the preceding posts. If you ask them for requests, they may not feel comfortable sharing, but know they need it. And if they tell you things are “fine”, understand that they REALLY need it.