Today is the fourth anniversary of my mom's transition from this life to eternal life.
That is hard to fathom.
On one hand, it feels like yesterday.
On the other hand, it seems like an eternity ago.
Throughout my life, I have lost many things.
I have also lost other people. Acquaintances. Friends. Children of friends. Relatives. This was not my first experience with death. I attended funerals. I cried for those other people and their families. I was sad. Down. Blue. Grieving. Or so I thought. I guess in my own limited capacity, I was indeed grieving.
When my mom died it was an experience (pain) like no other. Now that I am on this Adoption Adventure and learning more about "attachment" I look back on that time, and can really see exactly what "attachment" is. The only problem is that you can't really see "attachment." It's not something you can hold in your hand and measure. The pain and grief that I experienced when my mom died was different than those earlier losses.
And that, my friends, is evidence of "attachment." As complicated as my relationship with my mother was at times, there is absolutely no question that we shared "attachment."
As I watch my friends and relatives and their children interact, I do see glimpses of "attachment." I see the infants cry when their mom puts them down or leaves the room. I see the preschoolers come running to their moms when they fall down or when the other kids aren't being nice and their feelings are hurt. I see kids whisper to their mom because they are too shy to talk in front of me or the group of adults that is gathered around someones kitchen island. I even see "attachment" in the way a big (teenage) brother looks out for one of his younger siblings.
It seems to me that "attachment" is something that is learned. Over time. Parents who give birth to their kids and/or adopt them as an infant have a leg up on fostering "attachment" over those of us adopting older children. This is part a function of time, and part a function of infancy. A new born baby requires a lot of time and attention. And a newborn baby is so small, so precious, so cute, that we (adults) feel warm and fuzzy toward that baby, automatically (in most instances).
If baby cries and a parent meets the need-comforts the child, the child feels warm and fuzzy and "attachment" is created. And then reinforced over and over by the positive interactions and care giving of the parent to the child. This happens millions of times during infancy, and the child learns to trust that his/her needs will be met. As opposed to the child living in a neglectful or abusive situation, on the streets, or in an orphanage setting. In those situations, often, the child cries/has a need and there is not an adult available to meet the need. Or worse, the expressed need is met by abuse or harm. So the child learns that he/she must meet their own needs, and eventually shuts down the feeling of need, because it is just too painful to express a need and have it go unmet. This is a useful survival skill, but it will be a problem in future relationships. It will be a block to true intimacy and connection.
Now for those of us adopting older children, the good news is that this "attachment" can be learned (in my opinion). You can meet the needs of your older adopted child by treating them as you would an infant.
For a season.
Responding to their needs. Promptly.
Figuring out what their different cries mean.
Paying attention to them.
Being fully present with them.
Trying to figure out what their (mis)behavior is telling you.
Spending time with them.
Helping them build a vocabulary to ask for what they need.
Remember, that even though your child is older, chronologically, they are in a different place (younger) developmentally. Even that child that acts more mature and all grown up. Perhaps, especially that child.
So, when my older kids come home, and you see me "babying" them, don't judge. When we request some time alone, just our immediate family and the new arrivals, don't be upset.
Just know that I am trying to teach them that I am the one they can come to when they need something. Know that I am trying to help them unlearn some stuff they've learned along the way and re-learn what it means to be a child, to be loved, nurtured and taken care of and kept safe.
Eventually, they will get it. At least that is my prayer. Once they "attach" to me, they will be able to "attach" to others and to God. After all, that is the "attachment" that matters most. If they can't do it with me, their mama, how on earth can we expect them to develop healthy relationships with other people and a healthy spiritual condition? That is my job, to point them toward their heavenly Father-who is the only one who can meet all our needs. If I can do that, I have done my job.
I "get" what attachment is now, because I have experienced the loss of it. Or more accurately, the loss of someone to whom I was very attached. It's one of those concepts that you have to experience to "get." And, I have survived the loss. Learned a lot. Grown closer to God, mostly out of necessity. I had no choice but to crawl up into my "Papa's" lap and be comforted. And comforted I was. Amazingly. Indescribably. Beyond words. And my "attachment" to God has grown because I was Held (Natalie Grant song) There's the blessing in disguise-the silver lining in the cloud.
I started to "feel like my self again" around the 3 year mark of my mother's death. The pain stopped being so sharp and, well, painful that I thought I would die. Literally, there were days (months and years, actually) that I thought the pain would kill me.
Like my heart would explode.
It became less and less-and one day it was like a veil was lifted-the fog cleared a little and I felt....different. Not like "my old self" as that person is gone, different, changed now. But I felt different.....I don't really know how else to describe it. Peaceful? Accepting? Accepted? Comforted? Confident that I am loved?
Now, at the four year mark, the acute, sharp physical pain is gone. And in it's place is more of a dull ache. I just plain miss her. I wish she was here to share all this Adoption Adventure stuff with. And to share what God's been doing in my life. Oh, do I wish she were here and oh, do I miss her. But that is selfish. She's hanging out with God and is HEALED. And "at least a thousand times, I've rejoiced for" her (from the song Homesick by Mercy Me). But I no longer feel like I am going to die. And I have a deeper appreciation of the concept of "attachment" and my "attachment" to God has grown. So, that's progress.
May is a bittersweet month for me. The entire month is an up and down roller coaster of emotion. There's lots of highs and lows. Happy and sad things to celebrate/remember during this month. Add to that the things (milestones) going on with our Adoption Adventure (read about Steeve here and Jean Baptiste here)
I have learned to just "go with the flow" most of the time, and not fight it. Fighting it is my natural inclination. I practice a lot of radical acceptance "it is how it is" sort of stuff. I talk to God a lot. When I am able to listen, I receive even more comfort and "peace in the midst of chaos" as the (Sanctus Real) song goes. And my "attachment" to God is strengthened.
God wants YOU to know that He's not mad at you. He wants YOU back. He's waiting with open arms for you to crawl up in His lap and receive comfort and love. No matter where YOU've been or what YOU've done or gone through, God IS NOT MAD AT YOU. And He wants you back. Take it from me. I've experienced it. It's true.
In memory of my mom, this week has 2 featured links up in the side bar-on the left side of the screen. One will take you to the Hospice of Northwest Ohio's page "Myths about Hospice" Go there and learn something. Share it with a friend or family member. Those Hospice folks were a God-send-a true blessing. I wish we had involved them sooner.
The other is a how to guide to breast self exam. Click on the pic that says "feel your boobies" to go to the guide, then do it. Share it with a friend.