In Grief and Joy: Why We Need Each Other

July 14, 2017 adoption community, adoption realities, Attachment, Kelley B., parent-to-child attachment, trauma, Uncategorized 8 Comments

“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued – when they can give and receive without judgment.” – Brene’ Brown


Long after the helium in the balloons from the airport homecoming is gone; long after the meal train has dried up, the cocooning has subsided, and the jet lag has worn off – we adoption parents settle into what we call our “new normal”.

Many of us find ourselves in not just a new normal but a complete shock and change up of our families. Some of what we now deal with on a daily basis is hard. Yes, we went to the training seminars and read the books. We did our best in preparing our hearts. But we arrive home and the weight of some the pain, the trauma, the terror we now have in our homes finds us falling into bed at night and wondering if anyone gets it…..

“Yea, yea, yea, it’s hard. You wanted this. You fundraised for this. This is the path you took, this was your choice so now you live with it.”

Is this the message we hear? Yes, some of us have heard it…. either from people around us or it is merely a whisper we hear deep in that part of our souls we dare not share. For fear that we will be judged, or misunderstood.

Some of us have shared the hard with the world and those around us. We have voiced the painful circumstances we now find ourselves in. Sometimes it settles on a listening ear, a safe place. But sometimes the reply has been less than sympathetic. In fact the reply may have been rather painful….. and it left us with tug of isolation. So we close up a bit. We pull back and let those covers dim the light in us a bit….

Some of us seek and find “our community” of other adoption mamas to share our hard journey with… and it’s like balm to the soul. We hear, “Your child does that? Mine too!” A mending of our achy hearts occurs. There is something about “being heard” that giving voice to the struggle that is healing and refreshing.

Can we have that outside the adoption community? Absolutely!

But many times it’s our therapist that hears the struggle, it’s our husband that picks us up off the bathroom floor after a new diagnosis. Or it’s held in and the feelings of isolation and the loneliness wash over our weary selves.

Don’t get me wrong. This is not an angry adoptive mom post of “no one understands us, how dare we not have support?” Rather, this is glimpse of what we as adoptive mamas wish we could share but don’t. A lot cannot be shared on facebook or instagram stories. You are not going to see us share the recent rage little Sally had last week – we have a duty to protect our child’s story, protect their healing hearts as they navigate this new world. We cannot add shame to their already broken stories.

Is there a way we can share? Can we say yes this is hard and just have 100 percent support? I am hopeful we can. I am always hopeful that the broken relationships we may have experienced since bringing that new child home can be repaired.

I have hope that we also, as adoptive mamas, can be a voice of the struggles we deal with and, at the same exact time, be the voice of the joy and the gift we get from these kiddos….

So I asked about 20 fellow adoptive mamas to share their struggles here. Anonymously and safely.

I wanted them to have a place to share in hope of healing these mamas hearts.

As you read the statements below I hope it encourages fellow adoptive parents hearts. You are not alone. That is a lie from the enemy. He would like nothing more than you to stay in that loneliness. You can say this is the hardest thing you have ever done and yet still experience joy. We can have both. Grief and Joy can co-exist.

We have each other.

“I don’t post that I’m scared. Scared that I won’t be able to handle the next “anxiety attack” that my daughter has. Scared that one day, I won’t be able to get through to her and she will end up really, really hurting herself.

But I get to see the joy in her eyes when she overcomes one of her fears. When she uses her words and coping skills instead of pulling inward away from the world around her.”

“I don’t share that I only send my son to half day school so that he doesn’t have to nap at school and rock himself to sleep in front of everyone.

But I’m the one that gets to lay next to him every night and enjoy his snuggles that he fought so long to share.”

“I don’t tell that if we didn’t get to adopt our daughter before she aged out, we made it just in time, that her orphanage was offered $150,000 for her so they could own her and sell her over and over.”

“I don’t share that my daughter, home one year, still asks about her “China momma” weekly and cries out for her when she’s upset.

I love that I get to be the one that holds her and shows her (unconditionally) that I’ll always, always be here for her.”

“I don’t share that after three years home, my son still has bouts of anger where he hits me and screams that he hates me and cries in a way that my heart physically hurts in my chest.

I get to hear the sweet “I love you, mommy” and wise beyond years words of what is going on in his heart when he comes out of the trauma induced rage.”

“I don’t share that my two year old regularly has night terrors that last an hour sometimes where he bangs his head and flails around almost like he’s seizing. Night time and sleeping is so hard for him and I haven’t had more than four consecutive hours of sleep at one time in 10 months… and even then I cry myself to sleep most of the time because I’m physically and emotionally exhausted.

I love that I get to be the one he runs to and dances with and laughs uncontrollably with over stuff like wearing a cup on his head like a hat.”

“I don’t tell others how much it hurts when you say “If we had money like you, we would adopt.” As I watch my husband work extra jobs and sacrifice time he would rather spend at home in order to pay off adoption expenses and medical bills.”

“I don’t tell others that my child who is “so adorable” because he’s had to learn to be charming to get food or attention while living in the orphanage. I also don’t tell you how when you give food or attention to him, my other children notice and they are hurt.”

“I don’t tell how my heart breaks every time I hear my son tell me he is ready to move somewhere else now and have a new mom. It hurts to hear how much he does not understand that he is home forever now, no more moving from person to person.

But there is joy in knowing one day he will totally understand how much a part of us he really is!”

“I don’t share how hard it is to hear from your daughters therapist that she actually could talk. She’s selective mute and is just too traumatized to trust us to speak yet. How much I wonder what happened to her in the four months no one knows where she was or why closed doors make her panic.”

“I don’t tell how I burst into tears when the EMT, kneeling by my unconscious child, asks, “So you don’t know any of her medical history?”

But I get to be the mama that picks her up and wipes her tears and holds her close when she finally comes to… because that’s what real mamas do!”

“I don’t talk about how I feel like an outsider with many of my friends now because they can’t relate. I don’t feel “normal” anymore. 

But my relationship with the Lord has been taken to a whole new level – I’m more dependent on Him than I ever was before and I’ve never seen Him work in such miraculous, obvious ways as I have in adoption.”

“I don’t talk about how I feel the wind knocked out of me still today when I have to fill out those new patient doctor’s forms and I can’t not answer what kind of birth you had, when you started walking and talking and eating or what your families medical history is…..

But joy comes when I watch you open your eyes after another surgery and you look into my soul and say, mama I love you and I am so glad you are with me, you know who I am, but without words because you still have not mastered that yet.”

“I don’t tell anyone that after a year being home with our son, who is nine, that I haven’t attached to him. It makes me cringe to hug him.”

“I don’t share that when I tell you it’s been a hard summer it because the lack of structure and schedule for my kids from adoption has made me daughter start hoarding and stealing food again and we have had to lock the pantry and lock her in her room at night for safety.”

“I don’t share that I cried all the way home after picking up my daughters handicap tag.”

“I don’t tell others that my husband and I wanted to run the other way after getting our son in China. We were certain we had ruined our sweet family and our children’s lives forever. I don’t tell you I slept away the first two days in-country because it was an easy “out” and escape for me.

But after being home for only one week, we were ashamed of ourselves as we were even more certain that we had given our family another precious gift. We knew we’d all be ok and we actually needed him way more than he needed us.“

“I wish I could throw it out there to the world that my little boy only fake hugs me. But let him meet a stranger and he gives them the most genuine hug on the planet. It breaks my heart over and over and over again.”

“I wish I could share that our little girl picks and picks at her own body when she is stressed, especially when she is alone at night in her bed. She will completely remove entire fingernails and toenails. She has been home three years and still has night terrors. What happened to her in her first two years? I’ll never know and it breaks my heart.

But the joy of being part of God’s story for their lives far outweighs the negative. What a gift. God doesn’t need us and yet He lets us be a small part of their lives changing forever. How blessed are we?”

“I don’t tell about the night I collapsed on the kitchen floor as the reality of a confirmed diagnosis for our daughter set in. (“You signed up for this,” is what I heard back.) Or how often I look at her now, so carefree and happy, and desperately wish I could freeze time because I fear what the future may hold for her. 

I want to tell others what a privilege it is to watch our daughter blossom in ways people likely never dreamed possible. She has brought laughter and joy into our home that we had no idea we were missing.”

“I don’t share how ashamed I am of the times I yelled at my son and saw deep fear in his eyes. I don’t tell how sometimes when he struggles I think, “Life would be so much easier if we hadn’t adopted him.” I don’t tell about how I used to beg God to help me feel deep love my child and that it took years to get there.

I get to have a “redo” now and use my voice in a healthy way when correcting behavior. It’s never too late to parent our children from hard places the right way. I get to know deep in my heart that although life may have been easier without adopting our son… it wouldn’t have been as purposeful or beautiful, and I probably never would’ve been motivated to heal from my past.

I get to feel real, deep, true love for my son! That prayer was answered, and we have both worked so hard to get there.”

“I don’t tell that my son still rages four years home. That we select very carefully who we hang out with now because of his triggers.”

“I don’t share that our mortgage is late almost every month because of the medical bills. But that all we have to do is look at the sweet face of our child we adopted and not regret one thing.”

“I won’t tell that our marriage took a huge hit with the combination of trauma long months of hospitalization and separation, critically ill child, back-to-back adoptions, and co-sleepers led to a separation between my husband and I that was physical and emotional and that we had to fight our way back to each other. I also won’t tell you that the whole family suffered from PTSD and have anxiety issues that we are working through, due to months of trauma and change and a feeling of complete lack of control.

But I will tell you of the absolute joy that’s found in coming to the end of yourselves and finding a strength in Jesus that is like no other and the bond that is built within a family that can still stand after being hit hard… And the complete awe and strengthening of faith that comes in seeing God move mountains and do Miracles before your eyes.”

“I don’t tell you that while both of my boys are adopted, I really only feel like I have one son. I don’t share that I can’t wait to wrap one up in cuddles, yet cringe when I hug the other. I don’t tell you that I am continually frustrated with myself over my inability to truly “love” them both equally.

I want to tell you how amazing it is to sit at the dinner table with my sons, in the flesh, and reflect on the all of the work it took to get them here and simply marvel at the goodness of God! Who else could author such a story?”


“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they are never weakness.” – Brene’ Brown

Thank you to all you brave mamas. Those who shared here and those who battle the trenches every day with courage and strength. Find each other – and whisper, “Me, too.”


8 responses to “In Grief and Joy: Why We Need Each Other”

  1. Jenny says:

    Thank you. I’m so lonely after moving back to the U.S. From China. We adopted our son and daughter and moved our new family of six from China after living there for two and a half years all at once. It has been traumatic and I don’t have any friends except my husband here yet. Most of the time people can’t (understandably) relate. This was comforting to read just to know that there are others out there. I think a major shock I wasn’t prepared for when moving back was that we are just as conspicuous a family here in the States as we were in China. Although most of the time our adopted kids get “positive” attention from strangers, I still feel people cross boundaries with them they wouldn’t with my obviously biological kids. Sometimes I want to scream, “They aren’t in the orphanage anymore! They have a mom and dad! You can’t just touch or talk to them as if they are public property!” I’ve even had to ask some well meaning people to essentially ease up on the attention and it was embarrassing and hard for me, although my adopted kids were eating it up. I hate that.

    • Kelley says:

      I’m so so sorry! I can imagine how hard that is. What state are u in? My prayer for u is that u can find a group of adoptive mamas that get it and can be in this with u. It’s so hard and we all need that

    • Joslynn says:

      I would love to connect with another mama who has LIVED in China and returned with adopted kiddos. I also loved in China for 2 years and came home with 2 new daughters. Find me on FB! Joslynn Jones McLaughlin

  2. Mama2four says:

    Thank you all for sharing. I needed to hear these things. We are four years home, and I still do not feel the deep love and affection I would like to feel. My daughter’s personality grates against me. I have prayed and prayed and prayed. Progress has been made, but I still have so far to go. I feel very alone in this. It’s good to know I’m not.

    • Kelley says:

      Your not alone. And I know exactly how u feel. We have three from china and attachment has been sooo hard with one. I pray every day it gets better. Don’t loose hope. God will not leave u in despair. He is with us every step. Love and hugs to u sweet mama

  3. LB says:

    We adopted 3 from China and 1 has been moved into a new home as her complete lack of attachment was destroying our family. We don’t know if it will be a permanent move or temporary right now, but we are enjoying this time of respite after years and years of full on dysfunction. The other two kids are doing amazing and literally feel like they have always been here, so it’s so different having the worst case scenario vs two best case scenarios. Our adult bio kids..still living at home..are so relieved to have time to be a family again after so much turmoil. I love adoption but so many factors go into what makes families successful. I can say from personal experience that every scenario is different..some families go through the hard and come out with their child doing so well. In our case, we went through the hard yet really it never was hard truly because our child was never typical in anyway. It’s like we adopted no one as even with all the best therapies and endless years, she just never could recover from the horrible damage that happened to her in the years before she was with us. She did well physically here and made some headway educationally and even liked us..but those early neglectful, abusive years left her a shell of a person. While we all love her so much, the attachment to her was only one sided….and she remained unattached sadly, no matter how hard we tried. Our social worker actually was relieved when he heard we had her removed as he never saw a case like this. He always told us, you did so exceedingly well with her..though of coarse, we still…want and wish to do more…but we have had to accept all of this is in Gods Hands. I look back sad and also with more resolve. I hope if someone is out there going through similar circumstances..know your not alone. For those who are thinking of cautious but also know you are needed. I am sickened by the fact children need families. Not tomorrow or the next day, right now. My child has value. A lot of value but had she had parents earlier, her story wouldn’t be so far what it is. International adoption and orphanages are not all bad nor not all good. Circumstances are what they are and orphanages, foster homes do what they can. But kids need a family! How many kids can’t ever be helped because the damage is so deep, probably some..but what about the kids who can be helped and loved..most can be helped and go on to be amazing family members. I don’t ever want to forget that every person has value, they matter. To love and not ever be loved back is better for me then to have never tried and me ending up missing the love and gift of the kids I do have. Adoption is a true gift…the good, bad, ugly, broken, happy, joyous, sad…all of it. That’s what it is to take that leap. Stories begin and end and begin again. I am happy I chose to begin my story and let God show me the ending..but irregardless..I will someday stand in the presence of God knowing that I lived a life doing much that mattered. Because these kids, all of them..they matter.

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