I had a great conversation with a fellow adopting friend yesterday. She brought up a question regarding yesterday’s devotion which I thought would be a great foundation for today’s devotion. If you have not yet read yesterday’s devotion, I encourage you to read it here and then rejoin us for today’s message so you will have some context. Yesterday we discussed how many of our children will be from a different country and will therefore have a very different cultural heritage than our own. The question my friend posed was essentially, “What if my child isn’t interested in his culture because it is a reminder of all that he has lost?”
I love that her mother’s heart is already so attuned to the specific needs we will all face as adoptive parents someday. Perhaps for many pursuing domestic or foster adoption, your child may not have the experience of losing his or her culture or homeland, but the loss of the first parents, first siblings, hometown, genetic line, family name, and family history will be felt and carried for the rest of his or her life. It is our children’s burden to carry. We can try to share the weight of this burden with our kids as best we can, but at the end of the day this is a part of their story which they will be working their whole lives to try to make sense of. And as parents to these incredible kids, we cannot reliably predict what may or may not trigger a surge of grief for our little ones, especially once they reach the age when they are cognitively able to process their adoption stories for themselves.
I don’t think it helps to be in the current culture where parents are expected to foresee and remove every possible struggle their children will potentially face. The pressure exerted on mothers and fathers to do all and be all for their kids is a modern turn in the culture of parenthood which can make any parent feel inadequate. For those of us who are not starting out with our kids on day one or are raising kids who have already undergone significant trauma, this is an impossible standard to achieve and we find ourselves feeling helpless and like failures before we even enter the playing field.
So how do we handle this then? How do we even begin to create a game plan of what is to come? How do we avoid setting off triggers of grief while not encouraging them to live in denial of their pain? How do we celebrate the unique paths God has chosen for our kids without constantly reminding them their story is a different genre? How do we walk this tightrope of celebrating their adoption into our families without constantly aiming a spotlight on the lives they lost upon entering their new ones?
I don’t have an answer.
Yes, we can reconsider how we celebrate Gotcha Day or Adoption Day. Yes, we can create life books to help fill in the missing chapters of their histories. Yes, we can be especially cautious on their birthdays as they will inevitably be reminders of their separation from their birthmothers. And while all the tricks of the trade may prove to be helpful and provide some measure of healing or progress, we have to acknowledge that these will not fix the root of our children’s grief. The truth that we are so scared to admit and say out loud is that we can’t fix what happened to our kids before we entered their stories. The damage was already done. The pain and confusion of our kids’ relinquishment set a path of undetonated triggers in front of our kids’ feet, and we were given the seemingly impossible task of navigating an invisible minefield towards redemption and healing.
As we stand on the edge of this minefield, we are faced with three options. The first option is to remain frozen and terrified in our tracks, afraid to take a step in any direction because we could inadvertently set off an explosion of grief in our kids. Therefore we set up camp right where we are and while we might not set off any triggers, we won’t make any progress towards healing either. The second option is to grab our children by the wrist and begin sprinting in the direction we think is most promising, setting off mines as we go but dragging our kids on towards the finish line without slowing to address the fresh wounds the mine opened up. The third option requires more faith, more vulnerability, and more risk. It requires us to hold our children by the hand, pray for guidance, and take slow and steady steps in the direction we feel God is leading us. When we hit a trigger, we don’t make a mad dash forward. Instead, we sit down, examine and address the new wounds our kids have faced, and grieve right alongside of them until they are ready to stand up again, brush off their knees, and ask God for the next direction.
The more I begin to wonder how I will overcome my child’s grief, the more I realize that it is not my child’s grief God has called me to resolve. That is God’s role. My role is instead to have courage and recognize God’s love for my son is infinitely more than my love for him, which is hard for me to even imagine. If I want to help my son, I need to be courageous enough to walk with him boldly through this minefield, knowing that while my plans might be half-baked, God’s are perfection. Somehow, God is going to use my imperfections and my mistakes for His glory and Desi’s good. He can use yours too!
Verses to Consider:
This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. –JOSHUA 1:9
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. –REVELATION 21:4
The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. –PSALM 34:18
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. –MATTHEW 5:4
And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. –ROMANS 8:28
A Prayer for Your Day:
Lord, nothing makes me feel more helpless than watching a child mourn for something that was lost, and now I am being called to [child’s name] for that specific purpose. I want to replace the [mother/father] [he/she] lost and be the answer to all of the problems and pain that [he/she] will undoubtedly feel. God, it pains me to know that I am not the answer. By your grace I will be a blessing and will fulfill an incredibly vital role in my [son/daughter]’s life, but I am not the savior here. You are. Lord, only you have seen the full extent of what my child has lost and so I cannot determine the steps to fill those voids, but I know you can. God I can see countless ways I could potentially cause more harm to my child’s already scarred heart, and that freezes me with fear. But I know you have called me to be courageous even when I have no idea what to do. Your word says that if I submit to you that you will make my paths straight (Prov. 3:6). I submit my child’s grieving heart to you so that you will show me how to be an effective steward and parent to this sweet little one you so graciously gave me.
In Jesus’s name,