In 2014, an adoptive mom moved our audience by candidly sharing her family’s experience with post-adoption trauma. Today, her words still resonate deeply. Enjoy this special guest post from the Lifesong Blog archives…
I sat on the hallway floor in the dark.
I was hugging my knees which were pulled tight against my chest, sobbing, and begging God to intervene.
It was after midnight, and the noise of the raging coming from my son’s bedroom seemed to drown out my prayer. It was my husband’s turn to try to calm our son, so I sat alone in the hallway.
This night was just one more chalked up in the new normal that had become our lives. Once again, our other children had been sent to sleep in the basement with the hope that they could actually fall asleep far away from the noise and destructive behavior that seized their new brother.
“We had gone through all sorts of ‘training’ for adopting an older child. We had been duly warned of the hazards of trauma, abuse, and neglect. But for some reason, I thought the difficulty would have boundaries.”
I thought all that was hard would happen during daylight hours. It never occurred to me that our nights would also be sacrificed.
I didn’t know that the entire family would be displaced night, after night, after night, after night, after night. I didn’t imagine that it could go on for month, after month, after month, after month. And I thought that the negative consequences of past baggage had to have a limit. I assumed that once he could see he was safe with us, that his healing would be swift.
The full reality hit me there in the dark.
His healing wasn’t going to be quick.
In fact, maybe he would never heal. His anger, fueled by adrenaline, wouldn’t really wear out or become spent. Fear jealously guarded the gateway to his heart, mind, and spirit. It didn’t just control his behavior, it owned him. It defined him. This fear claimed its territory and struck out in rage at anyone who dared to get close. And now, this fear sent sinister feelers out to claim new territory. This time it gripped my heart and conscience.
What if? What if he never stops raging? Or what if he never heals? And what if God doesn’t intervene and help us? What will become of our family? What has become of our family? Will our marriage sustain the stress? Will there ever again be peace in our home?
Now, like my son, my fear was beginning to turn to anger.
I cried out loudly to God now.
I wanted Him to hear me, and who could hear anything with the raucous noise coming from the bedroom?
My prayer to my great shame went something like this:
God, we didn’t do this to him! We weren’t the ones that caused the trauma, abuse, or abandonment! I didn’t sign up for this… to pay for someone else’s sin with my life! If You don’t intervene and heal him, we will never survive. God, make this go away. Take him away from us. I do not want to pay for someone else’s sin with my life!”
Tangible darkness closed in around me now. Not just middle-of-the-night darkness, but spiritual darkness that mocked me.
Who did you think you were? Did you actually think God could use you to bring healing? Failure. It has not even been a year yet, and you have failed.
Later, when at last I lay in bed, guilt and shame were the blankets that covered me.
The next morning, my husband told me that he found our son looking at himself in the bathroom mirror.
Tears were streaming down his face forming little puddles by the sink.
And he was talking to himself in the mirror, “Stupid boy! Stupid boy! Stupid boy!”
As this was relayed to me, I also began to cry. My own heart hurt with such pain as I wondered—what has our son suffered that he should have such rage and such self-loathing?
And as I cried, asking God to forgive me, I wondered how I could in one moment ask God to be taking it all away from me, and then just a few short hours later, be crying with compassion for my son and wanting nothing more than to hold him close and protect him.
Oh, how incredibly generous and tender is the Lord.
“His gracious response to my wondering was to remind me that He, too, in a time of extreme anguish prayed and asked to have ‘this cup’ removed.”
His cup, though, literally meant paying for someone else’s sins with His life. And in Gethsemane, He surrendered.
The first time He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”
The second time He prayed, He took it a step further, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”
Unless I drink it? Could it be? Is it possible that Jesus is asking for a cleaner, less painful, less messy way to our salvation… our healing? A way that doesn’t require fully entering into our condition by actually drinking it in, ingesting the suffering, and therefore, allowing it to change Him forever and become a defining part of His identity?
He asked His Father three times for another way! But there was no other way.
My own healing began with Christ’s surrender at Gethsemane.
At this moment, God revealed to me that I was reaching in, not entering in. I was keeping my son’s past and all the consequences at arm’s length, like scrubbing a child clean in the bathtub by leaning over the edge, but not being willing to get in the dirty water myself.
That morning, by God’s grace, I surrendered my way of doing this parenting thing to God’s way. Not that I get it right every moment or every day.
“But knowing that He has gone before me is like shooting adrenaline into my veins.”
Our past becomes our son’s past. His past becomes our past.
God’s Spirit worked generously that morning. He broke the shackles of fear and freed me to surrender my way of parenting and my identity to my heavenly Father. And in so doing, He taught me how to truly enter into my son’s suffering by allowing it to become a part of who we are as a family. By reminding me that He had been there and done that, it suddenly felt much easier to go ahead and get messy.
Only in God’s way of doing things can we actually become more beautiful by drinking in brokenness! He did, after all, answer my prayer to intervene.
He did it by leading me to Gethsemane, where healing begins.
We offer Post-Adoption Care & Counseling Financial Assistance awards grants and loans to adoptive families, helping you access useful resources, like:
- Counseling (for your adopted child, siblings, or yourself)
- Trauma care, like EMDR therapy
- Neurofeedback or other interventions