We are in the midst of a quiet little challenge this past couple of weeks with Joshua. You know, if anyone looked at Josh today, they would laugh in complete and utter disbelief that he was such an incredibly damaged Reactive Attachment Disorder kiddo. He is the most empathetic 5 year old I have ever met, he is warm and loving, he is able to express his emotions and form very strong attachments with others. I say this not in any way at all to garner praise for myself for being some kind of "super Mom", but because he appears so healed that at times it is easy to forget that there is a soul inside there that still has scars that occasionally become irritated by life's events and need to be cared for.
The past two weeks Joshie has woken up with nightmares almost every night, crying out "Where are you momma?" or naming any other member of our family. This came out of the blue as we hadn't had that for a looooong time, so as usual we bring him into our bed to spend the remainder of the night, but even then he has woken up a few times and had to be gently soothed back to sleep. One night last week it was real terror that woke us up with a blood curdling scream...Dominick shot out of bed as we both thought something had hurt him.
As we thought and thought about what could be the cause, as we gently questioned him during his daytime hours, we think we found the raw and exposed nerve...our friends are leaving, and he is once again feeling he is losing someone he loves dearly.
Part of their family is departing this next week, as they move in stages. Now it is real...now he won't see them all the time...now he will once again feel "alone" in some way regardless of whether or not he still has us. Loss affects him differently, it is not just tears and sadness, it is abandonment all over again, it is internalized differently than for you and I. He doesn't yet have the ability to work it out in his mind, to talk about it and draw comfort from others around him. I doubt he could name what he is feeling, but I can see it in his face the past few nights and I could hear it in his panicked cries.
This is not just the departure of "friends", this is our family leaving. I give huge credit to every member of their family for helping Josh heal in the first place. They smothered him in love from day one, they were as nurturing as we were, they added 5 more people to his "love list". They stepped up willingly to have him spend his first nights away from home at their house, even as I was feeling guilty to do so because of his issues. I knew that if he woke up with nightmares he would be loved as if it were us holding him, and that they would not feel "put upon" by being awakened. It is because of those tentative first steps that Josh gained confidence knowing we really would come back for him, and that he was safe and loved when we were not around.
Now we take another step towards healing, as he experiences his first real loss post-adoption and sees that we continue our friendship long distance...that he is really not being left "all alone" as he has so often described his feelings about being in the orphanage. I know people who have totally scoffed at me when I have explained how young Josh was when we adopted him and what he voices about his experiences, thinking we are somehow making it up...that a child that young certainly could not have any real recall of life at 6 months of age or at 11 months of age. How wrong they are. Sure, it is not a real memory...it is an impression that was formed that continues to affect him to this day and likely always will.
It is so easy to see RAD as a thing of the past when I live with the wonderful, emotionally healthy little boy I live with day in and day out now. But RAD is there, lurking under the surface, just waiting for a vulnerable moment to rear it's ugly head. I feel like the Centurian guarding the gates of his emotions, ever vigilant and prepared to fight, if necessary, to keep him stable and moving forward with life and loving relationships. Luckily, we have been blessed with loving friends in many directions that help us in that battle, who understand and love him too.