Friday, July 15, 2011

To Mothers of Unattached Children

We are sisters, you and I.

You know who you are.  We have a bond even closer than blood.  And even if I don't know you well, even if I don't know you at all, if I knew you in the past, or will meet you sometime in the future...even if I will never again lay eyes on you this side of heaven, our lives are intertwined.  We are sisters.

We are mommies.  We are foster moms, biological moms, adoptive moms;  but we are bound together by more than that.  We are bound together by a common thread.  A broken child, or broken children, that we have been called to mother. 

We are heart healers, which is so hard to be when we ourselves are broken.  Our hearts are broken, too...often by the same children we are trying to heal. 

We've been the recipients of abuse, emotional and verbal and physical.  We've had to turn the other cheek, put up a brave front, treat others the way they would want to be treated even though they refuse to do the same for us.  We have had to show love- real love, yes, but mostly fake love and somewhere-in-between love- to some of the most unlovable people imaginable, all in the name of healing. 

We have the same secrets, sister.  We've lost our tempers.  We've parented in anger.  We've said and done things we regret.  We've tried, at our most broken, to make our children understand just how unlovable they are.  We've hated a child. 

We have the same fears and the same questions, too.  Will I ever love my child for real?  Will I ever look at her without seeing a monster?  What kind of a person will he grow up to be?  Am I making a difference at all?

We are tired.  We are weary.  Some days, we want to give up altogether, beat ourselves into the ground.  And yet we persevere, sometimes because we want to, sometimes because we've been asked to, sometimes because there is simply no other choice.

We have good days and bad days.  Days that we feel like we can change the world, make a difference, and days when we wish the world would swallow us up.  End the turmoil of our lives.  We are filled with guilt for the damage we've sometimes allowed to fester by not being perfect moms.  By being selfish.  By being human.

Once upon a time, my sister, you were a girl with a beautiful dream, and so was I.  We were going to be mommies.  We were going to share a lifetime of love and laughter with bright-eyed, dimpled children that would thrive under our care.  We were going to foster or adopt and give a future to a child who had no future.  Our hearts were loving, our motives were pure, we just didn't know then what we know now.  We didn't know that damaged children take more than love and security and structure to heal.  More than food on the table and a roof over their heads and clean clothes and new toys and a good education and piano lessons and band aids on skinned knees.

Our damaged children need to be loved perfectly, unconditionally, and completely.  No matter what.

And herein lies the problem.  We can't do it, can we?  We've tried and we've failed time and again.  Our kids need the love that only Jesus can give, and we must wake up each day and surrender our mothering to Him.  Or fail.

I used to feel entirely alone as a mom.  Mothers of normal children simply cannot understand the depths of pain and shame and heartache and anger I have felt.  The utter hopelessness.  I still feel alone sometimes, but I've begun to hear whispers from other places...other mommies that are destitute in their despair, too.  I know you are out there, sisters, somewhere under the veil of secrecy and guilt.  And I need you to know something. 

You are not alone.  I understand exactly how you feel.  You don't even have to tell me, but I will listen if you need me to.  I won't judge you.  I won't hate you for how you feel.  I won't even be surprised.  You are not a horrible mother for how a damaged child has changed you.  Good days and bad days aside, you are and always have been one of the special, the few.  The mommies that haven't given up on beautiful even though it's covered in ugliness, even though you sometimes wish you could run the other way.  You have allowed yourself to be put into a place where God can use you to do miracles.  And He will, if you let Him. 

Your dreams are still beautiful.  You are beautiful, my sister.

Once upon a time, I had a beautiful dream.  I wanted to rescue children that had no hope and no dreams of their own.  Be their mommy.  It hasn't worked out exactly as I'd planned or expected, but it has brought me here, to the point of surrender.  And I'm discovering that this, in and of itself, is far more beautiful than anything I ever dreamed up on my own.  


If you know a mother struggling with an unattached child...a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, or with special needs, or with no official diagnoses at all...a foster mom, an adoptive mom, or any mom that you know feels totally alone and misunderstood....please share this.  She needs to know she's not alone.

52 comments:

  1. how is it that my heart is so much closer to yours now after 15 years of not seeing you then when i saw you several times a week? i am so honored to call you sister. i am so blessed to share this journey with you and to know i am not alone. not only am i not alone, but i am in incredible company. thank you dear friend.

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    1. the sad thing is that many of these unattached children become unattached spouses. the pain is thenexperiened by their spouse. this pain was experienced by Jesus on the cross! only He can help us cope! Brother or sister.

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  2. Lisa, As the mother of 5 adopted children, you have put into words my thoughts,as if you know me. Thank you, so much for sharing!!! Sandy

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  3. Lisa~ You sing out what is so very true. The abused become the abusers. We, the mommies, only want kisses, cuddles, love & story telling. What we get is rages, lies, bullying, abuse, hatred, fear, betrayal & destruction. I can see the possibilities in both my adopted RAD children. I can see how awesome they will be! I can speak for them, & carry them with hope into a bright future. One I have carved out for them. One they will prayerfully not reject. And for those watching....I am NOT enabling them. I am speaking life into them. For those who are critical, I am strict because it is necessary for their health. Remember, I wanted teddybears, cuddles & story time. What I got was a porcupine that attacks me while you arent around. Don't dare to judge me & my circumstances. If you can do so much better, here's my son for a month. Have at it! Don't forget to buy extra bandaides, for you. Extra Tylenol, for you & when you can't handle it anymore, know that my kids where placed with me because I am the PERFECT parent for them. How can you profess to have faith yet doubt that?! I am their perfect mommie & will do whatever it takes to see them productive, non-chaotic, & caring..which comes hard for them both. Thank you for parenting your own children. Thank you for having faith in my ability to parent a child with trauma. And thank you, to those of you who don't run and hide the first time my children create chaos. The first or 2nd or 3rd time they call CPS to "tell" on us. The times they use poop instead of play-doh. The times your $ and jewels were too tempting to not pocket. They are not worth less than your children. This was DONE TO THEM. Lisa, thank you for seeing into the heart of the matter. Bella <3

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    1. I feel so connected again after reading all of this. Thank you ladies for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Stunningly beautiful!! My heart goes out to you. Saying a prayer for your continued surrender and the healing of your children.

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  5. Wow! This is really good and these are my feelings exactly. Thanks for writng this blog!

    Sherry

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  6. Thank you... your words have answered so many prayers!!

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  7. Thank you for the reminder we are not alone. I just prayed for the LORD to bless you in a special way today, as you've blessed me.

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  8. Awesome post. I am the single mother of a girl who will be 18 in a couple of weeks. She has RAD and PTSD and ADHD. So many times I asked myself why I continue to fight for her. Once I came close to surrendering my parental rights because she had driven me to the brink of collapse, emotional and physical. But I couldn't do it. Instead, I got help for her through a therapeutic wilderness program, followed by 9 months in a residential treatment center. I have had to accept that she will never be 'normal,' will always struggle with relationship issues. She has finally, after almost 7 years with me, accepted that I love her and that she wants to be part of this family. That's all I can ask: for her to feel loved.

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  9. Thank you Lisa for being courageous enough to post this... Thanks Charly for posting this on you site. Nothing could have said it better than this. I am a mother of 7 of which the 2 youngest were adopted. To say it's been easy or hard, or even life-changing is a gross understatement. Life altering is more or less like it. I didn't plan to learn all the lessons of life I've learned, to have my heart crushed and stomped on til there was no more blood left to squeeze out of it time after time, moment after moment, and just when you think for the gazillionth time they are finally arriving and getting it, and are finally going to make it, your world comes crashing down yet again one more time as you try not to be shocked it happened again. Because... you know they can do nothing to shock you, RIGHT? Apparently NOT! I keep thinking after going through all of this that NOTHING can shock or shake me ever again and then to my utter surprise, it does. No matter what you do, say, or how much money you've spent or no matter how many sacrifices you make or had made and continue to make in that particular child's behalf, I've learned IT WILL NEVER EVER BE ENOUGH OR GOOD ENOUGH: because they will ALWAYS find something wrong with it and especially with you. The attacks on us personally are the hardest to swallow. Only the Pure love of Christ can sustain us and them. I've learned it's okay to let them go even if I feel guilty for doing so.

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  10. Thank you sister! As I read this to my husband, he had tears in his eyes and I knew he had the same expectations as a Dad! His heart hurts so terribly too, he just doesn't show it as often as I do. Thank you for touching our lives!

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  11. Thank you...I needed this more than you know! Or maybe you did... ;-)

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  12. Thank you so very much for being so transparent. I too am the mother of an adopted R.A.D daughter, along with 7 other children, two biological. The trials and heartache of parenting that one child is almost unbearable, without Jesus it would be. The roller coaster of emotions is never-ending.Your posts are so real, people who don't truly know first hand could never understand, and I oftentimes feel very alone in this. Thank you again, I am glad that my friend, and fellow sister of a R.A.D. child told me about your blog.
    Love In Christ, Wendy

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  13. A brilliantly honest post - love it and can totally identify!

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  14. I love what I have read.. I have adopted 4 children and I can so relate.... You took the words right out of my mouth.
    Thanks so much. Dana

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  15. Stunningly transparent, helpful and encouraging. Would you be willing to let us feature this post on "We Are Grafted In" (www.wearegraftedin.com) It is a Christian adoption website/forum. We'd love for our readers to be able to be encouraged by this post. It is so good Feel free to contact me with questions. I'd just need a brief bio and a pic to use when it is featured so we can direct readers back to your blog here.
    Stephanie
    co-administrator of WAGI
    smurphy 28 AT juno DOT com

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  16. I'm not even sure how I discovered your blog but I'm enjoying getting to know you. I have 3 adopted and 2 biological. We are estranged from one of our adopted kids, the oldest. I talk pretty openly on my blog as well. You have a gift for finding the humor in the trial and I thank you for that. Blessings! Marty

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  17. Amen sister, your posts are so true and "REAL" to my heart...thanks for the honest comments about life with a child that has many abv. behind there name...RAD, ODD. PTSD..etc...

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  18. A friend sent me this link after going through a difficult time with our adopted daughter. Thank you.

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  19. I feel like you have seen into my heart and mind. It means so so much to know we are not alone in this.

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  20. It is true that nobody outside our homes really has any idea, nor can they possibly, what raising a child with a trauma history is like. I have decided that my daughter is actually bonding with me very closely, more like melding with me in the only way she can -- by infecting me with the trauma, rage, distrust, self-loathing that she actually carries around inside her. Perhaps that is why it is the Moms primarily (or the primary caretaker) who feel the abuse most profoundly -- because the child is sharing their most horrible inner world with us - they are allowing us to see what they think and believe is the "real" them -- they want us to see the "them" that is so hurt, the aching them -- although we can see the light that shines in them (my daughter is only on the lowest tip of the RAD spectrum, so I am lucky, and I can't imagine it getting much worse before I was in collapse -- so I can only shudder to think of what you other Moms are going through with full-blow RAD children.) If I try hard enough, I can put a positive spin on why our children feel the need to vomit their abuse onto us, the people who most love them -- because they truly want us to feel what they feel, to really "get" them, to "understand" them -- we must first feel what they feel -- hurt, damaged, rage, disappointment, loathing, distrust, hopelessness. So YES, we must love through a higher power, Jesus, Mary, or whatever God you pray to -- pray hard to love all of them, even the damaged part, and to remember that they are only who they are because of things out of their control and frankly, we have no control either. Only through the grace of God can we parent these children with love as we were raised to see love -- I have learned a whole new meaning of "love" in raising my daughter. It this the motherhood I had dreamed of, NO -- not in my wildest dreams or imagination did I ever see myself in this situation-- heck, I had no inkling truly of what RAD really was. But I still must say, my daughter has brought to me a much deeper bond with God.

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  21. Wow. Thank you my sister. I know this is an old post but you described my heart, dreams and pain. Thank you for the encouragement. I just found your blog but am already following and can't wait to read more.

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  22. I have been called to mother four children with various special needs relating to early childhood abuse, neglect, and trauma inflicted by their early caregivers. The DX's in our house include attachment disorder, reactive attachment disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, fetal alcohol (and drug) exposure, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, sensory integration disorder, and asperger's syndrome. It's quite a mix... and yes, mom is the physical and emotional punching bag more often than not. Thank you for this. - Carlie1875

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  23. This made me cry. This is my life, too, I just discovered your blog and look forward to reading more. Thank you for making me feel less alone.

    Jen

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  24. This blog post was healing to my heart. So many people do not understand what we go through. I think every parent experiences the "I hate you because you won't let me (insert random thing here)" every now and then. It is a different story when you experience these things on a daily basis.

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  25. Tears.... Thank you for posting this.

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  26. Thank you for writing this! You truly understand. I really needed it today.

    June

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  27. Just came across your blog. Oh, to know someone who truly understands...thank you for this post!

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  28. Thank you. Really needed that today. In all this, I'm learning to think, feel, and overcome as our children have been thinking and feeling. With Christ, my husband and I can help them overcome. Bless you for this encouragement.

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  29. I have felt so alone and tired…And it is so hard to explain to my family these feelings. Thank you for sharing this. I feel less alone today.

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  30. Thank you for hearing the whispers of my heart. I fear that my parenting if the difficult one is damaging the others. I need to dieter to Him daily, and in my sinfulness, I am struggling with that! My prayer it's that God's love for this child will take over for the lack of my own.

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  31. This is exactly how my sister feels ( she said it was as if she wrote what you did). She & her husband adopted 7 children (after having 3 biological) and things went pretty good until 2 yrs ago when my sister became a single Mom to the 7 adopted children (ages 15 to 4). She moved to be close to her two adult sons. Now my sis is at her wits end because of one young girl, whose bio Mom was a methhead while she was carrying her daughter. My sis reads and explores everything she can to find something to help this child. My sis is a Christian and prays all the time as well as friends and the church. Please pray that she can find a way to finally help this child.

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  32. You speak truth straight from the heart! I've been blogging for about 9 months, but last night I posted my first soul-bearing sentences about parenting kids with RAD. Someone I don't know saw my post and sent me to your blog. Thank you for your encouragement. With God, all things are possible.
    http://teamorphans.com/blog/2014/03/31/im-sad-for-my-kids/

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  33. Wow, brought tears as I totally get it and for a moment did not feel all alone with these same feelings. Thank you.

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  34. Thank you. A dear friend of mine sent me your site to read. We have 8 adopted children and it has been quite a journey. It made me cry realizing someone else understands and knows. Again thank you. Jane

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  35. Thank you! You describe this journey perfectly. I am not alone. And I wouldn't still be on this journey if it weren't for Jesus Christ, his grace, his help, his forgiveness, his constant presence - even in the darkest hours.

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  36. I am a newly diagnosed "RAD mom" and I think I found this blog for a reason. I have cried like baby reading the true and honest feelings that come from loving a child with rad. I have been disgusted with myself, hated myself and felt so alone in my suffering knowing in my gut something was terribly wrong with my beautiful Guatemalan princess who is celebrating our gotcha day of 9 years today. Thank you for your honesty! I now feel like someone understands me.

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  37. Thank you for enlightening me with your words today. What you wrote is exactly how I am feeling in the present time. I am not alone!

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  38. Thank you. Once again, God has let my aching heart heal just a little bit more. We are the arms and feet of someone bigger. It was never up to my husband and myself in the first place, it was between God and our children. God bless.

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  39. I cried as I read this. I have known these feelings many times. It's comforting to know that I am not alone . Thank-you, sister.

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  40. I cried so much as I read this. It's so comforting to know I am not alone. I have three step kids who lost their bio mom when they were 6, 3, and 10 weeks old. I have struggled with guilt for not loving them, hating them, wanting to run away and never look back---you described some of my feelings perfectly. Thank you for validating and helping me feel I have support where I don't feel any currently.

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  41. Oh. All my love to you. You so beautifully captured the struggle of parenting a child who doesn't love us in the way we are accustomed to. Do they love us at all? I like to think so. But sometimes... I don't think they do.

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  42. Thank you, thank you, thank you for penning the words that are inside so many of us. Words that we have felt but couldn't quite express. To know we are not alone in the struggle is so very comforting. Praying this goes viral.

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  43. Thank you! Finally someone who understands! I struggle daily (hourly!) with our 9 year old adopted daughter. She's been with us nearly 4 years and I think I'm just now grieving for the daughter we had hoped for but has never arrived. And I grieve for the person I used to be, and will never be again! I hate how this has changed me, how I've become this angry person, one who no longer gives everyone the benefit of the doubt. I grieve for our other children who have to deal with this all the time and don't have a normal home to grow up in. I grieve that eventhough my husband tries to understand, he still doesn't fully understand the depths of my pain, grief or anger. In the beginning, he thought I was crazy, that I was imagining her manipulations, and thought she really was telling the truth. Others thought I was mean and unreasonable when I would lose my cool because I just couldn't take it anymore. And you mentioned the secrets...so true! I often feel so much shame and guilt for how I have mishandled situations, for letting my emotions get the best of me. But we leave out those details knowing others would never understand because they never see the side of her that makes you feel crazy inside..."she's such a good girl...so polite...so well behaved"etc.). Instead we bear the blame for the problems because we are the ones who appear strict, angry, exasperated and unreasonable! Yet despite it all, I'm constantly trying to do something, anything, to help her eventhough I'm completely exhausted and would love to just not care for even a day. A part of me still hasn't learned that I'm not the one in control, that I'm not the one who can help her, and God is still teaching me that I need to totally surrender this to Him. Your blog name, "Overcoming Myself", says it all. Thank you for sharing your heart and experience!

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  44. P.S. I noticed this was from 2011...I would love to see an update on you and how God has been working in your life in the last few years. And words of wisdom you might have for the rest of us now... Praying the last few years have been kinder to your family. :-)

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