What loss looks like four decades later

When I was two years old…


…my mom left.

When Tess and Jude were 12 months old, they were taken from the only home they knew.
When Mimi was 23 months old, she was taken from the only mama she knew.

So how do we process not being chosen?

I don’t remember any of those younger years or the time when she didn’t come back. I don’t suspect Tess, Jude, or Mimi will either.
But not having any recollection of it, is far from meaning it doesn’t shape a large portion of one’s soul.
And future.
And how one would live the rest of their life.

I could go into a lot of details. But I’m not going to.

Don’t get me wrong. I was loved. I was cherished. I was held when I hurt and guided gently the way only parents do. My papa remarried and raised me with all the things he thought a treasured daughter should have, including a mama that was there for it all and raised me with love as if I was her very own.
Indeed I am her very own.
I am hers.
Her daughter.
I was brought up in a pretty stinkin’ normal family.

I treasure Tess, Jude, and Mimi as if they were born to me. It is no different.
They are my daughters and son.
And I’d like to think they are also being raised in a pretty stinkin’ normal family.

I knew my story all along. And so do my children. There has never been and never will be a moment that they don’t know. As a child and teenager, I would have been the first to tell you that I knew my story, and it wasn’t a big deal. These things happen… happened to me… and life goes on. I still had my father and kept my culture and extended family. Unlike my youngest children.

But all these years turn decades later, I am still haunted at how profound it can be.

As often happens in my life, seasons pass and often my grief is again brought to the surface. A wedding. A birth. The holidays. A party. Birthdays. And it can come right back. The loss of a parent is huge, and even under the best circumstances, it can be emotionally challenging even four decades later.

Why do I still struggle?
Why do I still grieve?
Why can’t I just count my blessings and get over it?
Why can’t I surrender this pain to Him?
Suddenly there’s a reminder, and I spiral back.

Denial
Anger
Negotiation
Grief
Fear
Acceptance
Denial…
for 42 flippin’ years I fight the cycle.
I’m still fighting this cycle four decades later.

So it should come as no surprise that Tess flips out during Jude’s birthday. I should be completely on my toes at the holidays, prepared for my child’s anger or bargaining to surface. And it does. Tess struggles for control when the routine changes. Jude withdraws and gets anxious if there’s too much going on. Mimi becomes demanding when she feels unsafe in her world. I’m gonna hang on tight as they grow and change.

Of course the mama in me wants to protect them, my own children, from this haunting cycle of grief and anger and fear.
As the mama, I don’t want them to hurt. I want to take it all away.
As the child, I know that’s just not always possible.
This thing that is adoption is born of hurt and loss. And that I understand with every ounce of my being.

I think what I most want to say, from personal experience, is that we parents can’t always fill the loss or
repair the damage for our children, our beloved children that weren’t chosen by their first families.
We can’t always fill the void.
I’d like to think mama love is a cure-all, and indeed so many things are possible with love. As adoptive parents we have seen firsthand how love can transform a child. But love isn’t a panacea for our children. Love can not take away the loss. They may grieve for four decades and more, and it’s ok. So when it resurfaces, I will hold their hands and acknowledge their pain as mamas do for 42 more years and longer if need be. And they will feel that love in the midst of their grief.

I know there are a lot of questions.
And not a lot of answers.
And no real ending.
And that’s part of it too.

Still trying to work through it,



Comments

  1. This is such a powerful post Nancy. I’m sorry for your loss. Your children are blessed to have you as their mother.

    Warmly,

    Liz

  2. Nancy, I am so glad I followed the facebook link to this post. Your words are powerful– so helpful to me at a mother of adopted children, especially as we are in the middle of the violent and deeply painful grief of one of ours right now. I really appreciate your willingness to share something so deeply personal with us so that we can love our children with greater understanding and wisdom, and patience for the reality of loss. What a gift this is! May you experience blessing back as you have given it so freely! (I am going to share this on our Hope at Home facebook page so that others can benefit!)

  3. Nancy, this is such an important post. SO important. Thank you for putting your personal story out there for all of us to read… and learn from. Thank you.

  4. And I’m so glad you chose to share, your post is going to be a blessing to many :)
    Our stories are so personal … God made us all so magnificently unique!
    I also experienced loss – my father left my mother (and my two older sisters) on the day I came home from the hospital. And I didn’t find out the truth, the down and dirty truth, until I was 16. It truly broke me. But I was seeking answers and knew I didn’t know the whole story – I had no idea how ugly that truth was.
    For me, I think God wants me to rely on Him to do what He will with my heart. When I go back to that place of feeling abandoned and heartbroken for “little me” (I found myself mourning more for me as a child, than the me in the present) I just need to turn it all over to Him and let Him have His way. Whether He works to heal my heart fully, or use those wounds to grow me, or to be a salve that soothes me, I must trust Him. And when I trust Him fully, that is when I do feel healed. For me, it’s a matter of trusting the Surgeon to cut away what needs to go, and also trusting Him with what He leaves behind.

  5. Love this, Nancy. Beautifully said, and so true. We cannot, no matter how badly we want to, take away our children’s pain and real and heartbreaking sense of loss. It’s just not possible. Only God can repair what this world breaks.

    • Stefanie–Thank you. This is the first time I’ve spoken about it in a such a public format, and it’s a bit scary. I will add, not in my children’s case because I can not speak for them, but in my own, this loss is interwoven with who I am. It’s not really a matter of fixing it, bur rather learning who I am through it. I think God’s plan isn’t to repair it at all, but teach through through it and magnify the blessings and the strength… although some days I don’t feel all that strong. I guess some things aren’t meant to go away. Not sure if any of that makes sense. It rarely does when it comes to this issue.
      nancy

  6. Thank you so much for this post. Your insight, honesty, truth, and transparency are greatly appreciated.

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