There is a false narrative of love in the world of adoption. If you are on the outside looking in, you may assume that there is a rescuer and a person who needs rescuing. That is simply not the case. The truth is, there are children and adults who will merge lives into a tangled web of success and failure, risk and rejection, and loss and redemption. The messiness of this union ebbs and flows as the years are written with the pen of shared experiences and gained trust and healing. It is messy at times, but the most beautiful of journeys too.
When we came into the world of adoption, we faced each day with certainty that our love would be enough to heal any hurt or struggle that our child had faced. We knew in our hearts that the answer to her pain was our love. We quickly discovered we were wrong. The hard truth is that there is not enough love in the world to heal the pain of someone who has been deeply hurt without the intervention of therapy and oftentimes medication. When you are caught in the storm of connecting with a child who has been hurt or dealt with separation, you will likely need help to know how to connect and parent a child with trauma-induced special needs. So, if you find yourself in this situation, where do you begin? How do you know where to turn? Where do you even start? Rest assured, you are not alone. It is hard to find the lifeline if you are being swept away by the storm.
4 Ways to Reach Out For Help
Looking for a therapist can be a beneficial first step to finding help. A therapist who specializes in adoption, trauma, and attachment has a seemingly endless treasure trove of ways to help you and your child. Finding the right kind of therapy for each person is crucial. I have found that while there may be many therapists in your area, not everyone is the right fit for you or your child. I have found it is important to have a session or two without your child(ren) so you can connect with the therapist and speak freely. A therapist will have resources and connections that can help you understand what is going on in your home, can help evaluate the entire dynamic of your situation, and give you skills to make the changes you will likely need. The right therapist will be able to hold your hand, listen to your heart, and help guide you on the path to healing, connecting, and bonding.
There are a ton of books available on the topic of adoption. You may want to start educating yourself on the topic of adoption as a way to help you narrow down the areas you need to address. This may bring issues to light or help you put words to the difficult situations you live with in your home. When you parent a child who has experienced trauma, you may not be naturally equipped to handle the many facets of parenting a child who has been with you from the start.
3. Mental Health
When you adopt, you may not have a good understanding of your child’s family history. As your child ages, you may have concerns for your child’s mental health. We are walking this road with one of our adopted daughters and, let me tell you, it is the hardest thing we have ever done. There are many ways to find resources to help you seek the help your child needs with his or her mental health.
When you are wandering through the forest of diagnosis, you may become overwhelmed by the entire process. There is a lot of waiting, so be prepared to try something for a while as you often have to wait and see if what you are trying, be it medication or a more holistic approach, is working. You just do not know what will help until you find it. We have found that the world of mental health diagnosis in children is difficult for everyone we talk to. There just isn’t an all-inclusive approach as each child has unique life experiences, family histories, and the way in which they react to a medicine or treatment plan may be unpredictable. Add to that, adoptive parents do not always have a complete family history for their child, and you must resign to the process taking time.
4. Seek Options
Over the past year and a half, it had become increasingly obvious that our daughter needed some serious intervention. We know a lot of foster and adoptive families; however, we didn’t know anyone who was facing what we were facing. I started reaching out to everyone I knew who had ever dealt with similar issues. Eventually, we ended up being connected to our county and were referred to the people who would eventually be able to come help alongside our family. Even though we hit multiple dead ends, we just kept asking for help and left no stone unturned.
Coming to the point of realizing that love was not going to be enough broke my heart. It still does. Knowing that we cannot love her enough to heal her pain, is unbearable at times. The grief and feeling as though you have failed your child can be suffocating. That thinking cycled around my brain night after night. Over the past several months, my therapist has worked with me to change the narrative. I went from believing that I have failed not one child, but all four of our kids, to remembering that I have never stopped fighting for our kids. Not once.
The words that we tell ourselves matter. It is important to capture the thoughts of failure, evaluate them, and rewrite them. You will mess up. You will miss opportunities and forget to make phone calls. You will have days where you spend hours in bed and just cannot function. But you will have days when you make the phone calls and take your tired/weary self to another appointment or meeting. You will show up. Again. And again. And again. Give yourself grace. There is beauty in the messiness. There can be healing too. Love your children and extend appreciation for what you have done. Remember, failure isn’t failure if you get up, dust yourself off, and keep trying. It may be hard, but it is so worthwhile.
Becky Dell is a Staff Storyteller for adoption.com. Now married for over 20 years, her journey to motherhood started with a miscarriage, followed by the birth of her 2 biological sons, and brought to completion with the domestic adoptions of 2 daughters. You used to be able to find Becky baking cookies and playing trains with her two tiny sons, but now, you will find her learning to parent through the rough and rewarding world of adoption, attachment, and trauma. She is a fierce advocate for adoption and processes the many facets of adoption through the written word.