I was awoken at 2:38 in the morning, my sweet 7 year old girl tapped my shoulder and whispered, “mom,” as I rolled over trying to wake myself up enough to see what was happening, I heard her precious silent voice continue, “sometimes I feel like I don’t belong in this family because I’m adopted.” Wowser, that was a tough one to wake up to. It was also one that I knew ‘full-awakeness’ was now required. I pulled her in bed between my husband and me and we cuddled and talked for awhile. My sweet girl, expressing her heart felt reality, but also expressing that she didn’t know why she felt the way she did. We hugged, loved and talked. I told her how sorry I was that she felt the way she did and expressed my love to her. She responded to me more than once, “I know you love me, I know dad loves me, I just don’t know why I feel this way.”
Fast forward five days, another situation of deep grief releasing itself. This time in the form of disrespectful eye rolling. This night she was completely okay with showing me that she was angry, she didn’t care what the consequence may be and she would boldly show her anger. I heard from her room loudly this time, “I don’t belong in this family!” It hits like a punch in the gut. My fear kicks in, my sadness and my feelings of helplessness. How do you convince a child that she belongs in your family? The reality is, I don’t think you can “convince” they just have to find a way to believe it. I knew what I could do was sit by her bed and wait. She was willing to talk (scream actually) at me and through loud tears this time she said again, “I don’t feel like I belong in this family because I am adopted.” She continued to say, “I hate hearing people talk about their families and I don’t feel like I belong in mine.” The grief, deep, deep grief of losing her birth family. She told me that she wished she didn’t have different skin than the rest of us and it is so hard to be adopted.
Every person in our family belongs in our family, God designed for each to be in the place they are and arrive in the manner that they did, but how do you convince someone of that? I shared with her that she absolutely belongs and that what I think she is actually going through is deep sadness about not having her birth family. I said a couple of times that sadness is different than not belonging. She absolutely belongs, but what she is actually feeling is sadness and grief. She finally got out of her bed, came to me and held on to me in my lap and we cried. In this moment, through these tears, she revealed to me that last fall at the beginning of the school year they made a family tree where they included family members and pets. She shared that it was really hard for her because it made her think about what her family tree would look like if she was still with her birth family. It makes me so sad when I am faced with the reality that she has grief she is dealing with when we don’t even know it. I mean, I guess I do recognize times when I know she is struggling but to know the details of what has impacted her current grief, we often aren’t privy to that ahead of time.
We were able to talk about sadness, grief and what it means to experience a loss. I shared a major loss from my life related to my parents and also one that I know her dad has experienced related to his mom. An attempt to connect, to help her know that we understand grief and sadness related to loss and that we always want her to be able to express that loss. With each example and sharing how I know she needs to express her sadness, she held me tighter and told me she loved me. She then finally told me, “I am feeling better now and I think I can go to bed.” Another moment on this journey of adoptive parenting where I have no idea if I am doing it right. No idea if she will accept that she does belong and no idea how she will continue to work through her grief. I am incredibly grateful for her willingness to talk to me. I am so thankful for a girl who expresses loudly what she is feeling even though hearing her hurt is so incredibly heart breaking. Being a transracially adopted child she has a constant reminder, not only when she looks at her family, but also when we are out in the community. My hope that night was that she was able to, even for just a moment, replace her label of “adopted” with a label of “belongs.”
Lord please help us on this journey. Please give each adoptive family the tools needed to respond to the things their kiddos are going through. Help us to embrace our children’s grief and loss and give us the words to say to our kids. Please heal these deep loss wounds, help these precious children receive healing in this grief. Thank you Lord for giving us a place to belong and help each of our children to know that not only do they belong in our families, but that they also belong in Your family!