Voices from the heart…of a birthday

So, sometimes this adoption stuff is a kick in the heart, not only a kick in the gut  There is such beauty and gift and joy.  But make no mistake, there is such heart-ache….and breath-take. Attachment is a lifelong gig, I think.  Attachment and the navigation of those depths and shallows of the heart is an ongoing diving expedition.  It has it’s own phases {weeks, months, days, hours} and tides that ebb and flow.

My Little Man has been working through some stuff lately.   One of the things that doesn’t get mentioned much in the blog-o-verse, or even too much in the literature and the reference books on adoption is that birthdays can be a mine-field.  Of course, right?  Well, yeah, duh.  But, too often, that’s easy to forget.  Too often, it’s easy to overlook that part of it, the loaded moment, the undercurrents.  Because the kid is excited, amped, hyper, for their birthday.  It’s all about the presents and the party, right?  And the parents and family, ideally, they are also so bonded in that it’s just another happy day, another kiddy birthday party.

But, it’s not just that; maybe not ever, I don’t know.  As my kids get older we have moved into different waters in the adoption issues.  I have posts rattling in my head and am not sure how to get them out or if I should.  Heck, even this post was supposed to be a short mention.  But it’s almost impossible to snip this stuff down to a sound bite or a visual blip.

But for this post, we are talking about the heart of a birthday.  Specifically, the backseat voice of my son’s heart on this birthday.

We were driving to basketball practice, again…the night before his birthday.  It was dark in the car, kind of quiet, he had the sniffles and it was drizzly out, we were a touch late.  A standard night.

Then he said, “Mom, I remember when I was a baby and I first met you.”

I said, “You do?”  {He was three months old}.

He said, “Yes.  Do you remember?”

I said, “Yes. I sure do.”

He continued, “I remember you cried and you said, ‘Oh, I love him so much!’ Didn’t you?”

“I did, honey.  That’s right.”  I paused, kind of holding my breath, waiting to hear if he had more to ask or say.

He did.  “I also remember the last time I saw my birth mom.”

“Do you?”  {He was weeks old}.

“Yes, she was crying.  Do you think she cried then?”

“I know she did honey.”

“Well, I remember.  I remember her kissing me and saying ‘I love you.  Blessing, blessing over him. I love him so much.'”

I was blinking now, trying to drive in the drizzly dark with my sweet tender son in the back seat.


I had to gulp, “Yup, buddy?”

“Do you think she said that? I remember?”

“You know, honey, I think she did.  I just bet she did.”

“Yeah,” he said “that’s what I remember.”

Just like that we were at the gym and he was clambering out of the car, running into practice.  Just like it was any night.

I guess, it was.  But I just had to take a minute behind him, to gather up the pieces of my heart that had just broke again a  little bit for my boy.

Adoption is an event.  But it is also a thread of attachment that continues to tug.  With echoing voices from the deep….from the deep jagged shoals in both of our hearts.  Just like that.

Gleaning Grief

I have hesitated to write about this.  But, after all, I think I need to, if only, ever, for my own processing.  And, because this blog is my way of processing…and maybe, with a little luck, my way touching on a point in common with some of you out there too…I’m putting it up.  Please, don’t flame me.  It’s a nervous making post.  But it’s honest.

So, with disclaimer all claimed, here we go:

We have had an odd summer of grief here at the coffee house.  We knew some of it was coming, we could see it on the horizon.  But some of it….well, some of it hit us like a beam smacked up side our heads.  And it’s been exceptionally difficult, as grief is and will be.  And it’s been exceptionally nuanced, as grief is and can be.  And it’s been healing in it’s own exceptional way…as grief sometimes, with luck, can be.

Now, I will also add, on the front end of all this because it’s so important….  In no way will I ever say that grief is something good in and of itself.  Grief is an evil in that it defines loss.  Grief is a hardship.  Grief is a….grief.

But here is what I’ve been thinking about and what I’ve been trying to tie together in my own heart and mind.  I think it’s even Catholic in so many ways – but mostly in the transformation that can come through suffering. (C‘mon, you knew I had to tie that in sooner or later.  Might as well throw it out there right now).  You see, grief is a suffering.

Yeah, I’m gonna repeat myself: Grief is a suffering.

But, with a great deal of grace and the eyes and heart to see it, PARTS (NOT all) of grief can be a transformation.  Ahh, I’m getting ahead of myself.  What a surprise.  I guess I’d better back up and explain.  Deep breath….

I killed our dog.

I know! It was as horrible as reading that is.

In fact, it was much much worse.  It was hands down the worst thing I have ever done.  Just typing this makes my hands kind of shake and my stomach flutter with sick and nerves.  {Whoa, did you hear that? Those tens (I’m not kidding myself, I’d love to say hundreds but this is my dinky blog….less than tens??) of clicks of readers clicking away in disgust??? I know! I heard them too….. See I told you this post wasn’t gonna be pretty or popular…..But this blog is not only ponies and rainbows….}

Anyhow.  I couldn’t eat for a week.  I still can’t park in the same spot.  I ran her over. I didn’t mean to, and wasn’t even racing out. I had no idea she was there. I’m still simply horrified by it and some nights I wake up thinking about it.  Because I loved her.  But even worse, my kids loved her.  And she was just sweet and stupid and it was just the most horrible accident. Literally, Horrible.  I got out fast and saw and I think I must’a screamed (and I’m not a screamer despite what you might imagine). My big sons came running out and I had to run in to stop the girls from doing the same.  And I had to tell them.  And then I had to run after them as they ran screaming.  Quickly I had the two who would take it hardest corralled next to me on the back steps and we wailed and cried and I kept saying “It was an accident, I’m so sorry.”  And they kept forgiving me and wailing from the shock.  All this time my amazing awesome manly sons took care of it all. They cleaned up, made the phone calls to Tom and the vet and my best girlfriend.  They helped the smaller kids and the teen sort out what to do and what not to do.  They canceled appointments and then they helped hug and console.  And then we all hunkered down, to begin to get over the shock.  We all piled onto our big huge sofa and found mindless movies so that we could pretend we were watching. We began the steps of grieving.

And here is where it was awful and horrible and hard and exhausting and yet, and yet….. where some of the good can be found.  Because I have to pull from this. I have to or I will go nuts.  I can’t not, I’m not made that way.  [Perhaps to your pain but for those of you who couldn’t stand my ramblings you’re gone anyway. I heard the clicks.]

Anyhow.  I prayed and prayed for a way through this.  Because you know, that pup was intended in large measure to be a “therapy” pup for my girl from hard places.  And ya know, accidentally running over the dog is not on the worksheet in the therapy-parenting workbook….  No. It’s not.  So, how do you do something so antithetical to TWO years of hard work and slow progress and not have it all slide backwards to back beyond the beginning? How?  I don’t know.  But even my first screams of horror were prayers, “Oh my GOD help!”  Literally.  Oh, my God.  Help us all. Right now. I don’t know what or how to handle this.

And I didn’t know.  I didn’t know.  So I just kept doing the next thing.  And that meant, I held the kid, each of them, together, separately, in pairs, however I found them.  We cried together.  We looked at each other, knowing what wasn’t being said.  The sad.  When one kid would drift off, I’d give them a bit of time, minutes maybe, but I’d find them and pull them into my lap and cry with them.  Let them tell me again and again and again how sad they were.  I told them, “I know.  Me too.

Really, it was hard work.  Is still some days.

But, of course, the first shock of grief ebbs and the days get filled with time and distractions.  And life continues in it’s messy busy way.  And it did.  We hung close to each other for awhile, but even that, soon enough was replaced with the schedules of summer day camps and hot sports outside and swims to cool off.  And those things helped heal too.

Now, none of this is the gleaning.  All of this is the normal, if there is that, grieving after a loss, and this loss was only a pup.  Not a human.  So it was a smallish loss, in some ways, considering what it coulda been.  Really.

But, in this loss, what I have seen is that it has added a new layer to our family.  It has added a new bridge to our new daughter, the one who has had so much too much grief in her life already.  The difference with this one, and perhaps the reason she actually did surprisingly well through it, considering….is that this grief was shared.  By us.

This grief was the first big grief that we all shared together.

Yuh.  Read that again.  BIg big stuff.  We’ve had some family losses; but most were  before she came home, before Gabey came home.  But since she’s been home, thankfully, nothing.  She’s lost so much, so many.

But those losses were all BEFORE.

And she had them alone.

They are separate for her.

Even when she processes them now, here, I can’t share them with her.

None of us can.  It is apart.  Which can only add to it, it seems.

But this one, we did it together.  In fact, this one, we went through all the steps of processing: the shock, the wailing, the angry denial, the dumbfounded sinking in of it, the aching hurt of it, the remembering, the finally being able to talk about the puppy, remember her, laugh about her, the sometimes heart-bruise showing up again.  We did and do all that, together.  Separately, but also, together.

And that, that processing together is  bonding.

That’s what you do with family.

It’s not a bonding process anyone would choose.  Really. Not.  But it does still fill the function.  And the hopefully healthy stepping through the cascade of it….that too, has tremendous value.  {Which is NOT to say that we did so fantastically at it all, we stumbled our way through just like anyone ever does}.

Gleaning from grief.  Sounds kind of morbid, like a vulture even.  I don’t mean it that way.

But that opening horrible day of our summer; I really think it helped us to prepare for the other griefs that were lining up for us.  Chris was leaving in a big way.  Jon was gonna leave again too.  It was a big deal.  Great grief amidst excited joy.  But for the sibs, grief, change, hard.

This horrible event beginning our summer gave us a little road map and the assurance that we could get through it.  We’d cry.  We’d wail.  We’d sniffle and run to have time to ourselves, then come back to check in, sit near each other pretending to watch bad tv.  But mostly, we’d be together, sharing that change, sharing those looks.

Without that process, together, we’d never be able to move to the open clear land after grief.  That’s the place where you can laugh, even after the loss.  We can joke that Chris has tripped on his habit up the stairs as he learns how to wear it.  We can laugh about Jon and his new crazy roommates.  We roll our eyes with a smiling wink over using Brother Peter Joseph’s new religious name and the strangeness of it.  We can even joke that the puppy was not so terrifically bright and remember that really, every single time she saw Tom…….. she’d pee on the floor.

And then, we can smile, a real one without tears, and laugh.

>Grief Box


 So, yesterday was another day of undefinable mood for our Marti.
And yes, many days with any teen girl are days of undefinable moody mood….but this one had a different tone.  Some of the clues, right away, that we were gonna have “one of those days” were that she got dressed in a gray sweater dress, despite temps starting in the 70’s and said to rise into high 80’s.  I told her that it was warm and gonna be hot, but there was no changing.  So, sweater dress it was.  Saturday also was a foreshadowing of the day; with double naps.  Naps are one of the ways that she copes and pulls in when she is blue (Not a terrible coping mechanism; quiet but oddly disconcerting).  Another, now classic, sign was that her hair was slicked back tight against her head; a sure sign of some dis-regulation and blue or black mood descending or already in. 

Seeing these signs, right at the start of the day were clues.  Tom and I went kind of automatically into mood-day mode and knew to let much slide, not make too many demands, make sure food was set out and available as soon as we got home from Mass and tried to keep to as standard a Sunday routine as possible.  Now, the day could’a gone way way south, and might have in months past.  This one was just very very quiet; with an obviously blue Marta.   She was aloof and yet shadowing us around too; which is this whole contradictory head-spinning quiet hard behavior; so I figured it was better to address it all head on instead of pretending that it was just a regular Sunday.

One of the tools that a dear friend has suggested to me is a “Grief Box.” She came across this in one of her Hague training videos and mentioned it to me, weeks ago.  I finally went and watched the whole grief training video last week.  It is a good video, worth watching, especially if you are new to the older child adoption world or the world of grief in our children.    So, seeing as it was a Sunday afternoon, with time a plenty, I thought of the grief box.   

Now, I know, a lot of these sort of suggestions need to be done with a proper licensed therapist.  Well, we don’t have one for Marta at this point; it’s complicated tremendously by her lack of language and cognition.  So, with that, it was just us and we were winging it as usual (hopefully not to anyone’s detriment – but really ya never really know in all this, flying blind and all)

Anyhow, I sat and talked with Marta about her feeling sad.  I asked her if many days she feels sad and she agreed.  I asked her if she was “afraid she would forget the sad things?”  She agreed again.   I talked with her that sometimes when we have many things that are sad and hard it can feel like we have to hold on tight to them all, every day.  I acted it out, she nodded.  I said, “Would you like to make a box, a safe box to keep, that we could write down all the sad/hard things and put them in your box?  So you can keep them safe; not forget.  And if you wake up feeling sad, you can open the box and think about them, or show me? “  She said yes.

So we picked out a shoe box.  I pulled out a small pile of construction paper and helped her cover the box in the colors she picked out.  She wrote “Marta’s Sad Box” on the top.  Then we sat and  made a list of the sad things she  holds onto, her losses (the one’s she willing to try with this).  We talked about each one of them.  She talked, I listened.  Her list was what you’d expect from a child who lost her culture and family: parents, home, country.  One of her items surprised and yet, didn’t at all: English.  Yes, english is one of her “sad’s.” Because it’s hard.  And she can’t speak it yet, not really.  And it’s very hard to learn under the best of circumstances.  And she has that deck stacked against her.  But if it’s a grief thing, it can go in the box.  It’s her box, her pick.  I wrote each thing simply on a slip of paper, and she drew a picture of it on the back of the slip.  Then she put it in the box.  Then we closed the box up, lid on.  Then I told  her she can keep it in her room and we can talk about it or about anything at all, ever.  Hard, sad, angry, bad things, good things, old, new. 

She went to her room for a short bit, again.  I went in, after a little bit, and told her again, that she can talk to us, me, dad, about anything, any time.  That I was different than her first mom.  But that I loved her and have big ears to hear and will be here.  She hugged tight and smiled.  And last night, well, it was still a smiley good day sticker, not a “hard day” claimed.  Though I pointed out to her that in truth it was hard, and that was ok.  She shook her head and hugged us tight.

So, I’m wondering, have any of you, with kids from hard places or hard starts, have you used a “Grief Box” and has it helped you? If so, please leave a comment, tell me how it worked for you.  If not, have you used something else? Some of these “hards” are so very hard.  Especially without the language to process it all, how to you help your child to acknowledge it, process it, and move beyond it into a healthier place? I’d love to hear your ideas.

>Marking the Days: Attachment Edition

>Last week I wrote about being the Second Best Mom.
Part of that post pointed out how hurt I was by Marta’s perception that EVERY day was hard with me, in one way or another. I mean, talk about massive “mom fail.” As I considered all this however, and talked it over and through with dear coffeedoc….it became clear that we needed a way to mark that really, NOT every day was awful.
We have had, truly and real time, some or many good and happy days.

This is not to diminish the concept that every day IS hard in that I am not her first, adored, mom and thus it is INTRINSICALLY hard, more difficult…the building of this new relationship.
Because that concept is accurate and true and will be in play for, um, ever.
But I’m not sure if my daughter meant something as broad spectrum as that when she made a kind of rueful, “Oh well, that’s the way it is” kind of face and told me that every day was hard with me. I think, I worry, that she was remembering every day as hard. Therein lies a problem

When we globalize (using terms like “always””never”) any problem, as we, or I, am so wont to do, reflexively…then we are shooting ourselves – and whoever gets swept into that global memory vault – in the foot.
We are really kind of crippling that relationship.
At the very least we are seriously undermining it and any progress that is being attempted.

I don’t want Marta, or me, to remember EVERY day as bad. Or hard.
Because they are not.
I tend to be a cynic and/or pessimist to some degree and I can EASILY zip right over there and rememer only the hard stuff too, so I ‘get’ this.
But it’s a mistake.
I think it’s our human nature to remember the bad, perhaps because it stands out glaring against the good. But that pondering gets all big and philosophical and is a whole ‘nother post or series of them (And probably best done by someone far above my pay grade).

Therefore, in order to offset this tendency, dear Coffeedoc had his usual brainstorm and came up with the idea of Marking the Days.
I know, no surprise that, the man loves a spreedsheet and a system. He got a degree in engineering for pete’s sake, no wonder, he can’t help himself.
I, who got my degree in art, usually roll my eyes at his systematic tendencies because they come about as naturally to me as breathing underwater.
But this one, I was ready to hear, what with me being all broken and hurt and blue….

Thus we have, for the past week or so, been Marking our Days.
And I’m posting because it’s helping, a little bit, so it’s worth marking in it’s own right.

Here’s how we are doing it; both low tech and high (because that’s appealing to the teen side).
Every night, right at bedtime, as Marta comes to me to say goodnight, I stop and say “Oh wait! We need to mark the day. Was today a hard day with mom or a good day with mom?”
And she, so far, has chuckled and said, “Good day.
And I have said, “Ok, here we pick ‘green, good day,’ Me too, ‘green, good day with Marta.’
And then I hit the green smiley face for each of us on the little Iphone app that Coffeedoc modified for me. And we get that satisfying “zing” sound. She smiles and hugs and goes off to bed. I tell her each night, if it was a “hard day” that’s ok, we can pick the red sad face. So, far she has picked green happy face. I’m sure soon enough she will pick red sad face. {Now, the cynic in me is sure that as soon as I say we’ve had only good days so far, we’re doomed to a bad one, right away….aw} Then in the morning, on our big ol’ calendar (hub central) on the fridge, I draw a smiley face by her intitials and by mine in that block for that day. That’s the low tech, luddite version; but also a constant freestanding visual.

Now all this may seem so simplistic and even stupid. And it IS simplistic, but it’s not stupid at all. I think it’s very smart (thank you tom).
Even the process of stopping and marking that day, at bedtime, is a theraputic thing to do.
It shows her that I’m paying attention, to it all and to her and to her perception of our time and interactions.
It shows her without telling her with words (that are hard to understand) that this is important to me too.
It shows her that I care that our days grow better and better.
It shows her without telling her that it’s okay to have different days and that one day is just that: ONE day.
It shows her visually and behaviorally that it’s easy to remember one small bad thing and forget all the good things.
It shows her, clearly, in electronic light plus inked calendar poster, that she really DOES have good days.
It shows her, I hope, that I know I’m not her first mom and that I understand it’s hard for both of us and we are working on this together.
Our hope is that even this tiny little process can have some benefit.
Our hope for all this tracking is to be able to also have her be able to start tracking and seeing and feeling the healing in her heart and the grief by the building of a new good relationship with her new second mom.

Because second place can still be very good.
Second place can still be a place of happy goodness in and of itself.
So we are marking our days, hard good, red green: baby steps with smiley face stamps.

>Competing mamas

>There are so many layers to older child adoption.
Well, ok, there are so many layers to ANY kind of adoption.
One of the layers that is there in any kind of adoption is “The Mama Thing.”
This whole mama thing is something that is SO obvious that it’s so easy to brush past it, or through it, or ignore it, or presume you know it all.
It’s especially easy to do that if your adoption seems to be one of the “simple” ones: of a tiny new infant, or one that has lost, to death, both parents, and so on.
But I want to remind you, because I think we all need reminding and I was reminded ALL too clearly this past weekend, that it is never simple.
Domestic adoption or International, newborn or older, relinquished, abandoned, orphaned; it’s never simple.  
I repeat: It’s NEVER simple.
And in so many ways and on so many levels it comes back to this; always the mama thing.

I know, another vague lead in. Forgive me, you should know by now I do stream of consciousness typing.  This is my cheap therapy and scrapbook, and  my very lifeline some times.  So, bear with me, this is all so tangled in my head and heart. I get glimmers of full grasp of it all and then, it floats just out of reach again.

Doesn’t she just look like she was crowned mom of the year?

But, I think the bottom line is that we, as adoptive parents, often, unwillingly and unwittingly either step into or are placed into a “mama competition.”
{Putting on my hazmat suit now, give me a minute to zip up…..}
What I mean by that is this: it is easy to somehow, unconsciously want to be “the BEST mama” for this new child (or older child).
That’s all well and good, that impulse, that natural instinct.
God help us all if we don’t have it.

But, the mirror trick and the trap is that all too often, again, unconsciously and/or unwittingly, that means that we somehow either place ourselves into a sort of weird unrecognized competition with the first mom, or the child does….or both. 
Now hold on, put those blowtorches on “pause,” I am in NO way saying that we all don’t do our darnedest to honor and remember those first mothers.  I KNOW we do. I know only very few who don’t.
But I am saying that in our efforts to connect with this child, we can forget that they have this humungous truly unfathomable primary loss of their FIRST mom.  We can easily sorta forget the immeasurable depth of that loss in the day to day fluff and dross, because it is not ours.  That loss is not our own.  And really, frankly, if it’s not about me, really, it’s kinda hard to keep it on the front burner.  Because yeah, I am just precisely THAT selfish.
I can read and study, I can post and write, I can pray and talk and identify.
But my child(ren’s) loss is not mine.
Only in the furthest reach is it even tangentially connected to me.  It it theirs.  Not mine.
Not this one.
I cannot, ever, fully, experience or appreciate that loss the way the child does.
Because it is theirs and I can’t fix it. 

But, in bringing this child into our home, our family, and our  hearts, we naturally want to be the best we can for this child.
But you know what it is so easy to forget and that we never should?
We/I will never be the BEST mom for this child.
Our very very BEST, my very very BEST, is second best, period.
I am the second best mom for five of my kids.
Just because I’m the one in place does not, in any way, mean that I’m the best mom for them.
Because I’m not.
I lost that competition (“Who’s the best?”) before it ever started, and that is right and proper and bottom line truth.

This was brought home to me this weekend, with my Marta.
My very best still isn’t good enough, and can’t be.
She told me so herself.  After fussing between us, miscued, misread, by both of us..in the after time…She told me, “Every day mom-hard.”
Ow.  I mean….OW! I was bowled over, almost literally.
My type A, defensive self started instantly charting in my mind all the effort all the work, COUNTING the cost of bringing this child into my heart.  Stung, immediately I thought to start scouring my attachment books once again, find a therapist, set up appointments.  (Yes, this is why this post has to be labeled “all about me me me”…..pathetic but there it is)
It was plain to me, though: Massive Mom Fail.
I cried, hurt and overwhelmed by the bigness of it.

But she is right.
Every day IS hard.  
For her, it MUST be.

I cannot give her what she had and lost. 
I cannot give her the life she had and loved and knew and grieves, with her first mom.
I cannot be what her first mom was to her.
I cannot look smell feel touch talk soothe sing discipline feed hug gaze or even sit with her, the same as her first mom. 
I can’t be a mom of an only child, her.
All of her life with her first mom wasn’t a picnic.  There were some ridiculously hard unspeakable things.  Those things may not even be known, or remembered in her grief, or fully understood by my daughter. 
Even so.
That life, the loss of that relationship and life is deeply, daily, still, grieved by my daughter.
And maybe it should be.
And I can’t prescribe or know when that grieving should be done or if it ever will be.
As a dear friend and social worker tells me, the “idea of forgetting is scarier than being angry and being in pain.”  

So, what’s a mom, the SECOND mom, to do with that truth?
Well, THIS  mom, spent a hard emotional Sunday feeling like her insides  had been scraped out and feeling a bit despairing over it all. 

But, after much processing, praying, talking with Tom (Who, yeah, I was feeling kinda resentful about because he didn’t have to measure up this way, or fail to, etc etc etc – why yes, I am that childish why are you surprised?), and to my dear best pal here who brought me coffee and sat sifting through my teary words of tired hurt…..I realize once again what I have known both in my head and heart for so many years:  I am not good enough.
My Type A self has to learn to live with that.  I had thought I had been learning that lesson for the last twelve years.  Oh, no, not at all.  
I will never measure up to the fantasy of the mother that wasn’t known, nor will I measure up to the mother that is remembered and grieved.
Nor should I.
Each one of my kids has the inborn right to honor and revere and put that first mom on a pedestal. 

I am not competing with that first mom.
There is NO mama competition.
I am the second best mama for these kids.
I promised to love them with my whole heart, intellect, and ability, to give them safety, to raise them as best as possible to be the best person they can be. 
That’s the bottom line.
It was never conditional based on their loving me back or thinking I was the bee’s knee’s.   
They never did promise to love me back; they weren’t even asked their opinion.
So, I lost any “all that” crown before I ever started.

But in that loss, I think, I gain.
Because I learn, really, the hard painful lesson, again and again and again, to let go.
I learn to let go.
Because what is so hard to learn and really accept; is that they were never ours to begin with.
First they were their first mamas, but before that and ever, they are their own and God’s.
I’m just a caretaker along the way.
An opinionated passionate fussy moody gal who stands in the kitchen, all-in, with open hands (on the good days). 
I can do that; with prayer and the help of my dear ones, and a whole lotta Grace….I will.

I’m second.
I’m so grateful for that.

>Meeting: Adoption adjustment

>There is a scene in a movie that I can’t get out of my head.
The movie is “What dreams May Come.”
Many absolutely despise this movie, and as a Catholic there is clearly questionable theology throughout….but even so, I liked the movie. It was a visual feast, from the oil paintings of the wife to the Bosch-like horrific visions of hell. But those things aren’t what keeps sticking in my head lately.

It’s the hell scene.
Now, disregard the dicey theology here. Go the essence of it: the meetup.

Robin Williams goes to hell to find his wife.
He GOES to hell and when she is incapable of seeing him, mired in her own pain and unable look up and out of herself (which IS hell)...then he sits there.
He sits with her.
He can’t talk with her, really, she can’t hear him.
He can’t just bodily lift her up and move her out of this place.
He meets her where she is.
Read that again:
He meets her where she is.

And it’s the meeting her where she is that gives her the rung to hold onto, him, and to look up, to blink to awareness of what’s real, for just a moment.

Now, hang with me here.
(And again, I realize that many think this is the worst movie of all time. I get it, be that as it may, this scene has been rattling in my brain – thus blog post).
You moms and folks who are trying to live with a kid from hard places…
You moms and families who are working through an older child adoption, especially teenage…
You moms who have kids who have trauma backgrounds and/or various special needs….
Think about that.
Because we all know that “meeting up” is one of the only ways to help.
We have to meet them where they are…at that moment.
Often, more than often, it’s a mini slice o’ hell.

And we have to go there too.
Because they can’t get out of there on their own.
Kids who have attachment issues, trauma triggers, who can’t regulate their triggered emotions and reactions…they can’t just get out of that personal hell.
We have to go to them.
Which means, we have to go to them, and often go through hell to do it, and yup, sit there a spell with them.
Because they are just kids, or teens even, but kids.

And that can sound so very lofty.
We think, at the start, and say with a trill, “Yes, darling, I will go to hell and back for you!”
But, um, ya know…going to hell and back?
Well it is, um, HELL.
It’s exhausting and makes you (ok, me) want to cry and say “Forget it, I’m done.
I have family and friends sometimes say “Can’t you just tell ’em to toughen up? I mean, cmon!!”
Now as a mom of eight, my standard M.O. is not too much coddling– if kids are crying and such and I know that bone is not poking through skin and a hospital rush isn’t imminent, I say “You’re fine, you’ll be ok.
Thus, my other kids, pals, and family might well expect me to fall into that mode.
However, this is different, exhaustingly so…….I sigh and say, “Well, I wish I could. But nope. Can’t.
Because even though sometimes I try to selfishly avoid and tiptoe around whatever acting out or somatic fallout or whatever is playing out…..if it’s a trigger response (and not just moody teen)…then you can’t ignore it, you can’t go around it, or over it, (isn’t there a kiddy song like that??) you have to go through it.
You have go to it, meet it, and go through it…with them.
Again, sounds all noble, right?
Um, not.
It’s usually messy and causes fallout with the other kids and even between the parental unit types, even for yourself.
Because it’s hell.
But unless you go sit there and BE with them, somehow, it’s not gonna get better.
It might get worse.

So. Ya gotta go.
Meet them.
Wherever they are.

Maybe then, they will blink a bit and be able look up and to breathe a bit.
And then maybe you can both step out of hell, back into the “heaven in our hands”….. back into family.