Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Grief of my Son

Adoption is not an event.

It is a lifelong journey.

A lot goes into the process of adopting children, whether domestic or international.  There is a financial component.  There is tons of paperwork.  There are classes to take, and home studies to complete.  It really is an exhausting process, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  All along, we look to that day when we meet our kids and can finally be a family and feel like that is the ultimate goal.  

In some ways, I would relate it to marriage.  There is so much planning and preparation for the wedding, but really the wedding is only the beginning.  The true work, joy, challenges, love and sacrifice come in the marriage.  Living out the vows you made when life isn't easy, is where the rubber meets the road.

Once you bring your adopted children home, that is when the real journey begins.  Unless you have been to the classes that are required as part of adopting or been intentional in reading about adoption, you might be surprised to realize that the challenges that are faced in adoptive families are something that will last a lifetime.  I have found that in our family, these challenges come in seasons.  I am sharing all of this, because I want to bring about awareness.  Those that want to adopt need to be ready and those that support those who adopt, (I hope everyone falls into one of these categories) need to know the reality so that they can be a strong support in the midst of these challenges.

So far, most of our processing has been with Isaiah.  Laila attached really naturally to us.  She was 9 months old.  She just came on board and hasn't really had a lot of questions during her almost 4 years with us.  She does mention her brown skin and our white skin, but not really in a questioning or upset way.  It seems like it is just a fact to her at this point and really no big deal.  We don't make a big deal out of it to begin with.

My philosophy in sharing their story with them is to answer all the questions they have, but not constantly be bringing it up.  I let them lead.  When something arises, we talk through it as much as they seem to need and then we move on.

A couple of months ago, Isaiah asked if he was in my tummy when he was a baby.  I told him, "No, you weren't."  He moved on and a few days later, he said, "If I wasn't in your tummy, then whose tummy was I in?" You should have seen the look on his face when he said this.  It was priceless!   I told him his Swazi Mama's tummy.  I think after my response, he asked if he could have a snack.  That is kind of how our conversations go.  He will ask a question, I will brace myself, run through my mind all the different directions this could go, answer him, brace myself for the next question, and then he changes the subject to something really random and insignificant.

A few days later, the floodgates opened.  Isaiah obviously had been processing his questions and my answers.  He said to me, "Where is my Swazi Mama?"  You see, up to this point, I don't think he has consciously processed the fact that his mother died.  He was only 18 months old.  He doesn't really remember.  I had to explain to him that she died.  It was so hard.  His little face just dropped.   He started weeping.  We were in the truck at the time.  I pulled over to a parking lot, gathered him in my arms and cried with him.   He was saying things like, "She was such a good mom.  I miss her so much."  It broke my heart.  Because of things I know about her, I could agree with him and tell him that she was a good mom and loved him very much.

I'll admit, there was a part of me, as his mom, who hurt a little to see him saying these things about his birth mom.  He didn't really remember her.  He just found out about her a few days before.  In that moment, I had to put my feelings aside and realize that this moment was not about me.  It was about my son and the grief he needed to process.  I sat there, held him and told him how sorry I was.  I told him I didn't know how it felt to lose a parent because my parents are still alive, but that his Daddy could understand because he lost his dad.  I told him he should talk to him about it some time.

The most precious part of the time came from Laila.  They are biological brother and sister.  So, she lost her mom, too, but she obviously did not grasp that.  She leaned over to him, patted his cheek over and over and said, "It's okay, buddy.  I'm sorry you lost your mom."  It was adorable and hilarious all at the same time.

I am sharing all of this for a few reasons.  First, I have several friends who have adopted.  There are 3 in particular that I am in communication with regularly.  I am finding that all 4 of us are dealing with adoption related struggles in behavior, but each manifestation is very different.  What I am dealing with today will look very different when Isaiah is 10 or 16 or 20.  I share because when I hear of others' struggles, it encourages me in mine.  Secondly, I want to remember these times and record them for Isaiah and Laila.  I want them to see my heart in walking through this with them.  I want them to someday know how very important their story and how they process that story is to me.  Third, I want to encourage those of you who know someone who has adopted to reach out to them.  Maybe you were a part of their journey to bring their children home, but have stepped back now that the process is complete.  I would say to you:  Please continue to journey with them!!  They need the support of their community.

Grief is a very real part of this process for everyone involved.  I pray for God's wisdom every day as I go hand in hand with Isaiah and Laila.  I want to honor the woman who gave birth to them.  She loved them and did not choose to leave them.  I think about her a lot.  I know very little, but the little I do know makes me so proud of her.  I am sure she never would have imagined that her children would be taken to another part of the world to be a part of another family.  I hope I get meet her in heaven.  I have so much I could tell her about our son and daughter.  It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the possibility.


  1. wow. what a heartbreakingly beautiful post, laura. what a treasure these posts will be for isaiah and laila.

  2. You know, I still cry to this day thinking about my birth mother. Not because I wish she'd raised me. But because she didn't. That sentiment doesn't change the deep love I have for my mom, Marilyn. It doesn't change how much I appreciate what she did for me. It can't take away what she gave me. But a part of my heart will always belong to Rebecca. Those feelngs are still hard for me to sort out, at nearly 40. I don't love my mother and my mom equally, I never could. I love them uniquely. With you in their corner, I know that your children will also be able to get to that point, too.