We have had a lot of loss lately, and some very important members of our family are no longer with us. We also lost a good friend who worked at our shoppe for the last 2 and a half years, due to sudden death, and then, another important relationship that had been fostered over a period of several years soured.
Each of these events have been very difficult.
First, 3 years ago, Anna's foster father and Mike's brother died of treatment from Leukemia. We watched Anna closely and her responses were survival mode and then delayed reaction after the fact. Meaning that the initial shock brought a little reaction, the funeral and the family meetings afterwards were nervous, and then, there was a delayed reaction to grief at home. It was a couple of months before she really was able to grieve. Up until that point she was hypervigilant and protective of her feelings. She didn't want to talk about it!
Our gramma died a few months later. We had spent some time with her the year before.
Last year Grampa died, due to complications of cancer treatment, and once again, we all lost somebody who was very important in our family. Grampa was a wonderful grampa.
He spent loads of time with the girls and had been in Anna's life since she was 4.
A few months later, Gramma died. It was totally unexpected and again, she was somebody who was very big in our lives.
Anna's reactions to these deaths were much the same. Hypervigilance, protection of her feelings, then letting loose later.
Well, next, our friend, who has been at our home 6 days a week to work with Mike, for the last almost 3 years, died unexpectedly in his home over a weekend. We attended the funeral last week, and I was seeing a pattern emerge. Same reaction.....
And then finally, an older man that we have known for several years, and have been visiting on a regular basis, whom we thought we knew, showed that we didn't know him very well after all. He had been lying to us for years about some very important things and we had to tell our girls the truth. Very sad. :(
We have been trying to live our lives as normal as possible, but truly, it has been so very stressful.
So then, to brighten things up abit, and have some summer fun, we got this boat. Boats were HUGE in Anna's life because her foster family was big on water sports. She went swimming and boating several times a week!
When she first came home, she asked, "When are we going to take the boat out?"
When we told her we didn't have a boat, she looked at us with shock! "WE DON"T HAVE A BOAT???" LOL
No dear, we don't.
Mike has wanted to get a boat going for a long time, as he shares his brother's love for water sports. Well, the right time came and the boat was finally placed in the water over the weekend.
Anna remembered how to knee board after a few tries and seemed to have a good time.
Then, came today.
She woke up out of sorts. Dysregulated. Nothing in particular, I could just tell she wasn't herself. The grand girls are over visiting because they are moving away to Albuquerque on Thursday. More change.....
When we were in the van, she said, "I wish we didn't have a boat. I never want to go on the boat!"
I was shocked! Shouldn't have been, but I was. I said, "Well, I know you like the boat, and we'll have lots of fun on it."
She was silent.
In the afternoon, as the grand girls were putting some things away, there was no room on the closet floor because of some clothing that didn't belong there. I asked Anna, "Why are there clothes on the closet floor?" I already knew why.... just wanted to hear it from her. Her answer: "I can't answer that!"
What do you MEAN you can't answer that?
She repeated "I can't answer that!" But she didn't say it very nicely.
Things were not headed so well, so I took her into my room, and let her know I was not thrilled with her disrespect. She cried, and we eventually layed down on the bed together. I asked her about how she was feeling. It was just too much. She didn't know how she felt. She just knew she was wound up inside and frustrated.
So, we started a conversation about how things effect us. And how, when we hold in our feelings about memories or hurts or fears, they can all come out at the worst of times.
I know the boat brought back MANY, MANY memories of foster care, and she was right back there with the behaviors.
When I brought this up, she just cried.
So, I went out and talked to Mike, and just like we had to work through the Christmas Tree trauma, we will have to work though the boat trauma, re creating memories from THIS BOAT with THIS FAMILY....
I don't know why I never thought about all this stuff coming to a head. I do understand that there has been so much going on, none of us are at our best.
I wasn't as patient as I should have been and had to go and get myself regulated.
All these words are thoughts off the top of my head. So please forgive my ramble.
I was thinking about how 2 of our girls seem to just glide through all their past experiences, making up for lost time with pure joy.... A boat? COOL! Good Food? COOL! Loving Parents? Cool!
But Anna has a different makeup and set of experiences. Trauma seems to harm children in such a variety of ways. It can serve to make them stronger or it can serve to cause them continued distress IF they let it take hold of them. For some, it is a more difficult battle than for others.
The goal is to teach them ways to recognize they are in a negative feedback loop and how to get out of it, through self talk, deep breathing, praying, talking to mom, and many other ways.
We have been successful in learning how to talk yourself out of things, but she still requires me to let her know she needs to. :) She has not yet mastered the understanding of her own feelings to know that she needs to talk herself down. I strongly believe this will come with time. If I think about what I understood at 11, in my own life, which wasn't much at all, I am comforted that she will continue to grow in understanding, security, and inner strength.
When she tells me, "I don't know why I'm upset", I believe her. I don't think she does much of the time.
She didn't connect her thoughts of the past, with how she was feeling right now today.
She didn't know why she said she didn't like the boat, because she does, and she is thankful for it. (when she is regulated)
I have read that many times children from tumultuous backgrounds try to regulate themselves by recreating the tumult and then it is like a brain high, and after they have achieved a certain level, the brain begins to relax and they are regulated again.
It can be a cycle, but one that must be broken!
Over the last 6 years, we have worked on this, and if I look back, a day like today would have been the norm, not the exception. I am happy that MOST days, she stays regulated and happy.
SO when we have a day like today, it just reminds me, I need to be patient and understanding, even when I don't feel like it. And today, I really didn't feel like it. That makes me mad at myself.
I too need to remember to pray.... even throwing up an emergency prayer can make things better.
The Lord always comes through to give wisdom and love when I feel like I'm running on empty.
Lately, with all the loss, I have felt weary and tired and on the verge of tears all the time. Throw in some menopause, and all I can say is, "I'm so thankful for air conditioning!" :)
I don't really know if this post has a point, other than some kids deal with loss so differently. And kids with extreme trauma backgrounds will keep you on your toes and down on your knees, trying to figure them out.
I am so thankful for my husband who is always there being that rock that I need to discuss strategy with. :) What a true blessing he is .
It is also a fine line of understanding and expectation of towing the line with behaviors that are appropriate.
Anna fell asleep on my bed wrapped in a special blanket and holding her stuffed kitty.
When she woke up an hour later, she was calm, and came and sat down by me and said, "Mama, I'm really sorry." I told her, "I'm sorry too, and I forgive you."
We'll talk some more together later, but she is in a much better frame of mind right now, and I think we are all working through our grief in different ways.
And tomorrow, we are going back out on the boat!
“I pray because I can't help myself. I pray because I'm helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time- waking and sleeping. It doesn't change God- it changes me.”
― C. S. Lewis
― C. S. Lewis
I believe in the sun even when it's not shining. I believe in love even when I don't feel it. And I believe in God even when He is silent. (quote found on the wall of a concentration camp)