Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sponge Mom

It's been a rough few days, with today being the topper. We've had a funeral, emotional breakdowns (Angela), ill children (Matt) running a very high fever this evening, a flat tire and unexpected expense of having to replace all 4 while on the road, and...well...still some joy in the mix.  Just being together is that joy.

Last night was terribly hard on Angela, as memories surfaced during an evening get together with family and close friends of Jake's.  Somehow I ended up sitting with my two most emotionally vulnerable on my lap, Angela and Joshua, and was so glad that my newly minted teenager was in my arms when it all overcame her.  This poor kid, man, there is so much healing that still needs to occur.  At least it is happening, and I am very grateful that our relationship has progressed enough that she feels safe to let go.  But man, we have a very long way down this road.

Last night she was grieving the death of her birth grandmother, something that she never really had the chance to do.  Events were buried deep within, and never surfaced until this past year.  Sitting there on my lap, safely cocooned while witnessing the healthy grieving of others, she was able to let some of that out.  She is absolutely the furthest thing from a typically dramatic teenager, this was just more pain that needed to be expressed.  In many ways, I sensed that for Angela, this was the chance to finally acknowledge the depth of her true loss.  She also sadly has intertwined with this loss the fear for her own life that was present at the moment of that great loss, and that confuses the issue for her.

After her tears subsided we went for a walk outside, and she said she hates thinking of her grandmother even though she loved her, because she gets so scared and she doesn't want to remember that night.  I don't blame her at all, but I reminded her that she was letting her birth mom take her grandmother away a second time by allowing her memory to be only of that scary last day together.  I explained to her that the sum total of her grandmother's life was not that terrible moment, but was all the love and protection she had given the girls up until the time her mother took her grandmother's life.  I told her how sad it would be if she allowed her birth mom to have this much control over her memories of her grandmother, that it would be like a second death.  We leaned on one another there in the cool desert evening, crying again together for this great loss and the courage it was taking Angela to face all of this finally.

Today at the funeral she did quite well until after it was all over, then as she got in the car after the casket was lowered she lost it.  We've come a long way in a year and a half, but this wound will be years in healing.

I was proud of how all the kids handled themselves this week, and today all but Angela elected on their own to go in and view Jake and pay their respect before the casket was closed.  I know each was very scared to do it, and I never would have even suggested it, but one by one, they each looked up at me and said "I'd like to go see him." and off down the hall they went.  I admire the courage and poise each of the kids has, and never would have had it myself at their age.

Last night, in the can on the way back to our hotel, the subject came up about what heaven might be like.  None of the kids believe in a literal heaven with streets of gold and all that we are told.  But I love their ideas about heaven even better.  It was Josh who piped up and said "I don't believe in some of what they say it will look like, but I do think God will wipe away our tears once we get there, and we'll never cry again.  That would be nice."  Then Kenny the family Theologian said "I think tonight was a little like heaven, like God uses each of us to wipe each other's tears away.  I think sometimes heaven can be here on earth too.  Just like everyone being there to wipe away the tears of Uncle Peter and Auntie Beth, or you and Dad wiping away Angela's tears.  That's God using all of us to make heaven here."

The more I am around our kids, the more I dig their theology.  It is so much more Jesus based than what the scholars espouse.

I am pretty much on overdrive at the moment.  In an email to a friend last night I wrote something I just actually saw clearly, and it explains why at moments I feel so wrung out.  I have spent the past 10 years absorbing the pain of our children's past in an effort to help them heal.  It is like being Sponge Mom Square Pants (because I am a total square, we all know that!).  I suck up as much of it as I can possibly take in as they gradually let it out.  After all, we can't leave the mess lying there on the floor between us, if I don't absorb it, they might reabsorb it themselves after working so hard to gain the courage to let it out in the first place.  It is worth every moment of effort and every tear shed myself, but man, it is exhausting and it sometimes takes a long time to recover from it myself.

It's not only absorbing that pain, it is trying to remain ten steps ahead of it in terms of strategy...what would be the most helpful right now?  Are there feelings that need to be drawn out?  Am I missing something that I should be "getting" here?  What is the underlaying cause of this eruption?  Is this a time when silence is best?  Do I dare suggest what I am thinking or will that push the emotion further down? How can I "name" this emotion for them in a way that will make sense to them?  All of this while I know deep down inside there is only so much I can do, that this is all a process that I am merely witness to and not at all in control of.

I was awake almost the entire night last night after all that transpired with Angela.  I can't shut off some of what comes unbidden.  I literally laughed at myself as I thought "How in the world can I get myself together enough to get ready for our huge trip in a week and a half?  I just want to sleep for 5 days.", but I don't have that luxury, nor can I let my guard down as there will be more emotionally to follow this, and I need to be at the ready when it appears.  One of the sad things about older child adoption, aside from missing out on so much that you;d love to have of their early years, is that you are constantly pressured, knowing you have such a limited amount of time to help bring them to wholeness, and to embed certain things in them...things that under normal circumstances take an entire childhood to set firmly in place.  But when a child comes to you with half their childhood already gone, this urgency exists that helps motivate you to remain alert and proactive.

Tomorrow dawns a new day, hopefully one without further auto trouble or high fevers as we undertake the remainder of our long drive home.  And for all of the above that I just shared about how hard it can be sometimes, I recognize what a gift it is to have the chance for those moments, hard or otherwise.  Tomorrow in another LaJoy household, the reality will begin to settle in and the real mourning begins as lives move forward without a son and brother.  That too will take years to heal, and will remain forever a pain that can't quite be escaped.

Life is about the pain, life is about being Sponge Mom.  It ain't always pretty, but it is real.


Joyce said...

HI Cindy,
Im not sure if this will help, so you can delete if you think its not helpful. I was thinking today of a little boy who died 3 years ago, a beautiful little boy born in my hospital who i cared for a loved too much. It came on the tail end of 5 months after another darling boy close to be died as well. So even though they were not my children, I grieved them both so strongly.
And today I was thinking of the second boy and how 3 years later gets easier, but also how the journey has changed. Initially it was so consuming and esp his death, but over time you start to focus on the good times we had and the treasure he really was. But I think we needed to grieve first to get to the good times. And I think of Angela, as she is so afraid to even think of her grandmother and so grieve and so then she can hardly think of the good times. (Im not saying dont try to focus on the good times, and I am not saying what you are doing is wrong.) Im just observing that in my case, it appeared that you needed to grieve first and then you could focus on good times. I wonder then, when the time is right, whether she could journal good memories about her grandmother, for herself to do as a healing, but also for herself to have as memories written down, for Olesya as her memories Im guessing are less, but also for you all to share who her Grandma was.

I hope this isnt written in bad timing, but this jsut came to me right now.
Best wishes to you all and hugs as you start this journey, grieving all your losses today and in the near future.

Love Joyce

Anne said...

We also have been to two funerals in less than four months (my grandmother and a very dear friend from our church). This was a first for our kids too. They were not afraid and I was pretty proud of how they handled themselves too. However, I'm not sure if it would have been different if the funeral had been for a very young person as it was for your kids. Other than at my dad's funeral, the hardest ones I have been to have been for young people.

I also completely understand your feelings about trying to cram an entire childhood's worth of wisdom and knowledge into a compressed timeframe - but we do our best. All this on top of working through all the unresolved issues they have from their lives "before".

Peace be with you LaJoys and especially with your husband's family.