So, how can you come to grips with the reality of your ideals being so different from the reality you face every day.

The day has finally arrived. You welcome a child into your home and look forward to the day you stand before a judge to make the union official. 

You stand at their bedroom door and lovingly watch them sleep on the new bedding that you washed and carefully dressed the bed with. You smile in awe of the child you have been entrusted to love.

While you waited for this child, you imagined your days. You got swept up in thoughts of your relationship. You imagined baking cookies, playing games, and making memories. You fell in love with the ideals of how your family would grow and change for the better because you added another child: a beautiful blend of biological and heart-born.

Six months into this journey, you lie awake at night. Something seems off. You have been in weekly therapy sessions with your child and followed the advice and instruction given. You find yourself at a loss more than feeling driven or inspired. 

You sit straight out of deep sleep. You try not to make a sound as you creep down the hallway avoiding all of the squeaky floorboards. You find yourself peering into the bedroom of the child you have been learning and loving for the last year. You realize that the door was left ajar and stop in your tracks. You realize the door alarm must have caused you to wake up in the first place. 

You flip on the light and take a deep breath when you realize the bed with the year-worn comforter is tossed on the floor and the bed is empty. You creep downstairs and scan the darkness for any sign of movement. You hear the sound of rapid breathing and turn on the light and find your child scrunched down in a tiny ball trying to conceal the half-gallon of ice cream melting onto the white carpet. Drop after drop you watch in slow motion as the ice cream puddles and your heart sinks at the crying child on the floor. You bend down and she melts into your embrace.

Night after night, you are awakened to the sound of the bedroom door alarm. It has been months of nighttime scavenging at this point. You are able to track your child’s movements through the frames on your phone that are being filled by images streamed through an app that is fed by cameras that now hide in corners of every room. Safety is your priority, knowing where they are provides that. Most of the time. You take a deep breath, get out of bed, tired and weary. 

You don’t worry about avoiding creaky floorboards. You flip on the light of the bedroom that should be a nest for a child who just can’t sleep. You peak into the room and tears fill your eyes as you see a new hole in the wall. A hole is picked into the drywall by hands that can’t stop chipping away paint. You look at the empty bed and the sharpied dresser that you painted in readiness to welcome this child. You head downstairs, you find your child. You both return to bed. You lay your head on your pillow, look at the clock, and tears fall hot down your cheeks. 

It has been 2 years since that first night. You walk past the bathroom mirror and notice more grey hair is framing your face. As your eyes scan down, more weight has settled around your midsection. You look up and stare into your eyes. You find your mind wandering to scary places. You look closer, trying to find glimpses of who you used to be. You feel lost. You scoop up the empty laundry basket and stop in the kids’ bedrooms to fill the basket. You stop in the bedroom that holds so many emotions. 

You slouch down onto the bed and hold the pillow that you bought to give a child who needed a safe place to lay her head. The tears start to flow. You gather yourself and get back to the work of gathering scattered dirty clothes in need of washing. You start to leave and bend down to pick up a pillowcase. As you pick it up, things begin to fall free from the case. You find various items, none of which belong to the child who has collected them. You are overwhelmed by the new battle that has surfaced. Another day. Another fight. 

You turn the calendar and are struck that it has been 5 years since that first night of pure optimistic love. You are shocked by the weight of all of the feelings you experience at once. You reflect on the past, but the wall created by the present blocks all of your feelings. You are numb. You feel stuck. Anxiety has taken over every part of your mind, body, and soul. You are left white-knuckling your way through the day. Every day. You no longer desire to do anything. You have no energy. You just exist. Your kids are all struggling too. All of them. You freeze. You breathe. You walk through the day like a robot longing for the moment your head will finally hit the pillow, bracing yourself for the unknown of the night. This is not the reality you anticipated.

If this sounds familiar, please know you are not alone. Let me repeat that, you are not alone. This is the reality of so many of us, who have welcomed a child with trauma into our homes. The love and optimism have proved to fall far short in healing and helping the child. 

For our family, things went from bad to worse and we have had to take major steps to find healing and help for one of our kids. It has been such a dark and difficult road. There have been so many times, over the years, that people have offered to help or asked to step in and help. I haven’t been able to accept much of that help because the effects of trauma are so complex. Oftentimes, help from others hurts and makes new wounds. It is complex. So, how can you come to grips with the reality of your ideals being so different from the reality you face every day.

1. Breathe

Take time to breathe. I know this sounds simple, but it must be an intentional process. There are many apps available to help with mindful practices. You may discover that spending 10 minutes working through a mindfulness/breathing exercise can reset your mind and ground you.

2. Go to Therapy

Talking to a therapist can help you unwrap the trauma that you have acquired since adopting. When you are living with a person who has experienced trauma, it is not uncommon for you to be traumatized. To seek help, you must be open to the idea that you need support. It takes a lot of work, but it can be so freeing.

3. Give Yourself Permission to Rest

Rest is crucial for a healthy body and mind. You are likely busy serving and meeting the needs of those in your family. It may take practice, but if you try to carve out time for yourself to sit and rest you will find it is time well spent. 

4. Grieve

Give yourself space to acknowledge the loss of what you had imagined. Taking the time to process how hard this life is can be meaningful and allow you some healing. Whether you like to journal or chat with a friend, find a way to explore your grief. 

These ideas are just the start, just something to get you thinking. There will come a time, if you haven’t experienced it already, when you just cannot keep living in such a state of stress. You are doing hard work. You are showing up for your child, every day. The is the reality. Acknowledging that your life is not the life you imagined and that the hard times never cease, gives freedom to explore the hurt. Healing is possible, but often comes with work. You are not alone. You are worth the time it takes to start taking steps toward healing. Working on your pain will help you in more ways than you could ever imagine. It is worth the risk.