Imagine a breaking news story. A whole family is lost in a house fire. Parents, grandparents, five children...all is lost, all loved ones, all possessions, all that was once called home for a little boy...the only survivor. Five years old and alone in this world. If you have a five year old that you love in your life, take a look at them. See the innocence, the way they see the world, their wonder and imagination alive and well within them, the complete dependence on the loved ones in their life. And if you can, allow yourself to imagine all of that gone..in one simple moment. A moment that would change everything.
My precious son Jordan was just that boy. No, he was not in a fire. His family was not killed. But, at five years old, he lost them all. On the day that his birth mom walked along side of him for the last time..on the day that she brought him to a foster home and promised him he could play at a house with a trampoline. He knew in his heart that this was not just a visit. He knew something was wrong and he hid. But, she assured him, that it was just a visit..and so he ran out of the car and straight to the trampoline as his birth mom spoke with the woman inside. And then she left...
This new home did have a trampoline and other children to play with. But, this was not his home and the rules had all changed. As soon as his mother left, the woman yelled at him for not asking to play on the trampoline. He didn't know the rules...he was so alone, so terrified.
But, that was his new home for a year or so. He started to learn the new rules. He stumbled often though...he had learned how to survive in his birth home and he did not let his guard down easily. He did not grieve...he stuffed all of his loss and fear deep inside.
And then we came along. Excited to add a new little boy to our family, we celebrated the day he came...his gotcha day. We went out out for pizza and watched with delight at he seemed to get along with all the other kids. As he walked down the stairs into the house that day, he asked Mark, "How long are you going to be my Dad for?" Permanency had no meaning to him. Not much had meaning anymore. But, he put on a smile. And when he wasn't smiling, he was raging. He tried to stop the grieving in his mind, but his body was not so willing to cooperate with his efforts.
And so, it is 9 years later and the loss is flooding back to him. It grieves me to admit that at some point, I forgot. I forgot how wounded and alone this little boy has felt over the years. I forgot that he lost everything...and I have expected him to function as if he hadn't. We had many therapists in the past, but he was not ready to face the pain...he could not admit any element of weakness and to him, grieving and sadness were weakness. Weakness, to him, meant death. And he was not going to die...his survival instincts had been honed all the years he fended for himself.
And so, yesterday, as we were leaving for Church, He started raging. I asked that he come to Church with us. He refused. I demanded that he come with us. He raged. We gave him all kinds of options...going to the Service or to Sunday School. I asked him to chose the restaurant we would eat at afterwards. It was a battle we were not going to win..he brain was not in a flexible mood at the point. I have chosen to see him through his pain and not see his reactions as personal attacks, and so, this time, I was able to remain focused and calm. He continued to escalate and tried to break the windows in our sun room. I had told him that I would have to take his ipad away for the day....that would be his consequence. He could come with or he would lose his ipad for the day. That was his choice.
And as we left to go, and he was screaming that he was going to take everything of mine. He was screaming that hated us and hated everything he could think of. I reminded him that I loved him and that he could not take away anything of value to me. I reminded him that everything I hold dear, lies with in me. I told him I loved him and that we wanted him to be with us. I prayed as I continued to share with him that it is okay to be angry, to be mad, but he had to figure out a way to express those feelings respectfully.
He climbed in our net swing and started spinning. I held his head and caressed his beautiful, big bunch of hair. And we talked about loss. I talked about loss. But, this time, he listened. I could feel his heart racing. I cried with him as I spoke of the pain he has been through. I told him that I understand that he does not know why he feels such anger and rage at times, but that it is okay..and it wasn't his fault. I told him that we would love him through this. That we would love him no matter what... I reminded him that with God by his side, he would never ever been alone. I told him that we would be there as he worked through his loss and grief.
He was no longer fighting me. He was listening...he was grieving...he was attaching...he was healing.
I took away his something he valued. Why is that so hard for me to see that that simple consequence triggered the loss and betrayal he has felt deep within his heart? But I am choosing to see differently these days...I am choosing to get down to his eye level and imagine life from that view. He did not know why his reaction was so exagerrated. He did not want to say the things that he was saying. He was in a dark, scared place of survival.
The day was filled with highs and lows. Isn't that what grief looks like? On our way to Church, he called me. He said that he was going to do the dishes and then read his Bible. He said he was calling to tell me that he wanted to help us get in the house from the bus after Church and that he would be watching for us to come home. Humbling. Humbling to watch my precious Son, who we have struggled with for so long, humbling to watch the shell start cracking and the light of His Savior penetrate his soul deeply. He is an amazing survivor. He is resilient and he is ready to start letting go of the tight grip he has held onto his own life. He is ready to begin turning his trust over to his parents and ultimately to His Savior.