Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Grief, Pt. 2

Finally, I'm going to try and write about grief. Not my grief this time, but that of my older son.

I stumbled upon a blog recently, called Grown in my Heart. It's actually a collection of blog posts in the form of an online magazine. It's a small site, but informative upon perusal. One of the first things I did after familiarizing myself with this site was to click the "Countries" button at the top, just to see if they had anything on Ethiopia.

And they did.

Not much, but a few articles. Two of them are about a therapy session for a little girl adopted from Ethiopia. While the article itself was a worthwhile read, it was the picture that really struck me.

I don't believe I can post their picture here legally, but I can post the link and a quick copy and paste should bring anyone curious over to the site.

The picture in question, totally unmissable, is a child's drawing. It shows a heart, with the jagged "broken" line running through it and little hearts coming out the bottom beside the words "loves fall out." There are words in the heart (sad, mad, hungry, angry, scared) and phrases to either side of the heart (lost my mom, scared, hungry, I lost my sister, I got sick). Just looking at it was painful to me, both for this girl and for my own son who's early existence could be summed up by this picture pretty much.

And then my eyes were drawn to the top of the page.

In a child's scrawl, "This was when my heart broke."

Oh my God.

It was like a sledgehammer to the face for me.

In my mind's eye it was like I was seeing not the girl's fragmented and painful thoughts, but those of my own son.

I was seeing a cute, bubbly cheerful baby, happy and giggly like Ambrose, smiling at a loving Mama, reaching for a laughing Baba, watching his older brothers intently.

I saw his mother growing weak, perhaps struggling to pick him up, likely struggling to even feed him. I saw this happy baby beside an unmoving body, whole life changed, whole world altered. No baby should be left like that. I saw him being moved, taken from the home he was born into along with his brothers, wondering where the warm arms of his mother or the laughing voice of his father had gone, not understanding that he'd never see or hear them again.

I saw him fight to adjust to a new home, learning to walk, teething, and fighting with a cousin over a meager breast milk supply. I saw him learn to talk and run and laugh and smile and then suddenly he was in a big car with 9 other kids, and driven 5 hours in the sweltering heat to a new place with new smells and a new language, given shots and having blood drawn, being dropped off in a room with dozens of other scared children.

I saw him dazed, confused, angry.

No child should go through this. Ever.

I saw him sad, crying alone, then learning to cry inside. Saw him learning very quickly that the only way to get that shiney toy, the greatest tangible joy at that time, was to just take it and run, and to fight back, hard, if another kid tried to do the same thing. Saw him learning that we laugh and sing, not cry about our pain even when it's killing us.

I saw him, in my mind's eye, learning that the only constant in his life, the only person he could ever rely on, the only person who would ever truly be there for him, was himself. No adult, no mother, no father, no aunt, no brothers or uncles or cousins or nannies, would ever be there for him forever. He learned this very early on. We may stay for a bit, just long enough for him to get comfortable, but inevitably, without warning, it will all change again.

No kid, no teen, no adult should ever learn that lesson...

And here I sit knowing how my kid got here, how he came to be, how he became so hard headed and obstinate and bossy and utterly impossible at times.

I wish I could go back in time and fix it for him. I wish I could take it all away. I wish the images of a dying mother and father were not forever ingrained in his heart. I wish he had never had to fight for food or shoes or toys or love. I wish there had always been open arms for him, the same warm, loving open arms, the same smells, the same voice, the same, safe world.

But all I can really do is provide as much as I can now.

And so every day is patterned, every event planned and warning given. Every day he goes to school I always pick him up the same way with the same exact type of sandwich (wheat bread, no crust, 2 jellies and peanut butter wrapped up in a white towel waiting in his carseat), and make sure we follow the same routine (eat 3 pills all of different colors in the car, say the same things, play the same games, get home and have the same pattern before nap). I have to win every battle or the tantrums are atrocious, I have to prove over and over again we're in control even when he loses all rationality and won't listen, literally, to a word we say. I have to stick to schedule, have to introduce changes ahead of time, have to help considerably with transitions as even going to another room on some days can cause a melt down.

And in so many ways.... it's working. Some days the pattern can be a bit off and he rolls with it. Some days he doesn't test me at all but just relies on me and absolutely trusts me. Some days he's actually willing to put down his own need to control every situation and allow us to control him without issue. These days are more frequent.

But I know in my heart that we'll never be 100% there. He'll never trust us 100%, though 99.999% would be nice. He'll never trust this world as much as Ambrose likely will, and he'll probably always be afraid of being left, always be afraid of losing control. He's a Javert, has to have rules and needs to stick with them to the end. And I guess... that's just how it is.

I wish I could take away his grief, and I wish I had no reason to grieve myself. He grieves for his Amaye and Abaye, his aunt and brothers, his nannies, and his homeland, even if he himself doesn't see it yet. His actions and reactions prove that it still sits strongly with him, as it should, and as it always will. And I myself grieve, for him losing his innocence so early, growing up so fast, learning at such a young age not to trust, never to believe in those you love, never to lay your guard down, never to relax. I wish I could take the pain away. I wish I could change his past. I wish I could heal, fully and completely, a broken heart.

Raising Paxton has been a lesson on learning what you have to work through and what you have to work with. So, so many issues I used to believe we could work through. I've learned however that there are things you just have to learn to work with. Patterns, routine, control, grief... we work with these things.


I feel I'm losing my aim here, and for that I'll blame Mr. Teething who's been sleeping better but by no means sleeping through the night.

I'll leave this with a note that, again, we don't regret the process with Paxton.

At all.

We may regret not handling everything the way we ought to, or not seeking help from Project Enlightenment sooner, but we by no means regret the child or the process.

And to prove it? We're going to do it again.

Our I-600A went out today.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

There have been different times during the last few years that I have asked myself why I purposefully open up my heart and my family's hearts to the sadness and greif that comes with our adoption journeys and it is because it is sooo worth it. Congratulations on your new journey!!!