The author Edith Schaeffer once described the family unit as a hanging mobile, with each part carefully balancing the others to make it stable. If even the smallest part of the mobile is removed or changed, the whole entity is affected.
I have always loved this analogy, but I’m not sure it goes quite far enough. Imagine for a moment a mobile, each part of which is a mobile itself. This is closer to what I think an image for a family is like. We each have so many different parts to our lives that our own selves are a sort of mobile, then, when added to a larger family, it becomes infinitely more complex. If a small part of one person is out of balance, it not only affects that individual, but the broader family as well. If this is even remotely accurate, then it is easy to see why changing the mobile by adding or subtracting can cause significant upheaval before stability and calm is regained.
Currently, my own personal and broader family mobiles are spinning as if they were in a hurricane. You see, my father died last week and just seven days later I find myself sitting in China at the beginning of an adoption trip to bring home two new daughters. Trust me when I say that this is not how I imagined things working out.
My grief is still very fresh and a bit raw. I find myself flooded by memories that I haven’t thought of in years. My mind is in a fog (which made it extremely challenging to try to pack for this trip), and I have often found myself just sitting and staring and not really thinking about anything for long periods at a time. I feel like bursting into tears regularly, and often do. I have no emotional margin, and things which would not usually be a problem seem overwhelmingly difficult. It is pretty normal grieving.
And there is a small part of me that is thankful for it. Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather not be living through this and have my dad at home waiting for news about our trip, but it does give me a fresh empathy for exactly what my new daughters will also be living through. Just as I will never see my dad again this side of Heaven, they will have many people, important people to them, whom they will never see again in this life.
One daughter has lived her entire 8 years in the same place. Another daughter has had multiple losses already and will be saying good-bye to dearly loved foster parents. We kid ourselves if say that the pain of losing these relationships is not important. If anything, these losses are even more painful because our new daughters are losing their worlds at the same time. And just as we know that our own losses, especially close, personal ones, take time—sometimes a long time—to heal, we must give our children the same space to grieve their own missing pieces of their lives.
I can say that with our previous three adoption, I could recognize and acknowledge the idea of the pain and loss my children would experience. However, if I am truthful, my own excitement made it hard to give this loss the importance it should have. This time, even though I am very excited to have these two girls join our family and become my daughters, it is the grief—my grief, their grief—that is in forefront of my mind. We may all do a bit of crying together over the next days, and weeks, and months.
So here we are in Shanghai, China, waiting to begin the next adventure of our lives. We will be adding two children to our already crazily swinging mobile and I am excited and scared and overwhelmed and, well, sad that my dad won’t get to see the next chapter.