It Reigns Over Me

"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." – Helen Keller

I dare you. I dare you to see this move and not think once, maybe even twice, about mothers who lose their children to adoption. 

Reign Over Me is a movie starring Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle, two of my favorite actors. The movie had been recommended to me by a friend in Ireland, an adoptee and therapist. I immediately put it on my NetFlix queue and it arrived today.

Sick with a sinus infection, alone for the evening, I thought it would be a perfect way to relax and nurse my aching head.

Silly me.

I knew the plot line. That is, I knew the movie was about grief and dealing with the loss of a loved one. In the movie, Charlie, played by Adam Sandler is suffering from PTSD following the loss of his entire family (wife and three children) during the 911 attacks. Charlie is withdrawn, disassociates, often times violent and always deeply sad.  He has flashbacks and breakdowns and gets lost.

And yeah, I could totally relate.

If you want to know what it feels like, what it really feels like to lose your child to adoption, to see pictures of a child you cannot hold and cannot touch, to wake at night to the sound of a child crying only there is no child to be found, watch this movie.

Pay special attention to Charlie during the court scene. The attorney for the other side flashes pictures of Charlie’s family. One by one. The Wife. The daughter, another daughter. As the scene develops, Charlie breaks down completely. He is groaning, rocking, crying, covering his ears, his eyes, groaning, crying, rocking, groaning, rocking crying. The lawyer drops the last picture right in front of Charlie  sending him into what appears to be a complete psychotic breakdown.

I know that feeling. I know what is like to look at pictures of your child, to see that child on the street, in faces, to hear the child. I know what it is like to retreat to some deep dark place inside yourself and just rock and rock and rock. I know what is like to feel so much pain that you cannot function.  I know what it is like to be perfectly fine one moment and in the next you are not. One silly triggering thought, word, picture, smell can send you spiraling into the abyss.

Watch this movie. Absorb it. I dare you to get into Charlie’s shoes and while you are there, while you are inside, rocking along with him, keep in mind that we do this to mothers and children every day. We force them to live like Charlie and we give them no support and we tell them it is a good thing and they will get over it. And when they don’t, when they don’t get over it, we use their own pain against them. They are told it is their fault, they brought it on themselves, it is their punishment for unprotected sex. Never do we tell them that the adoption system is to blame and that the social workers have it all wrong.

Watch it.

Charlie did not have a choice.  His family was killed due to the 911 terrorists. 

We, you, all of us do have a choice to stop destroying families.

Charlie is a character in a movie. I am real. So is Nic and Claud and Jenna and all the other mamas that came before us and those that will come after us.

Lets not have any more rocking Charlie’s.

Save one mother and child you save generations of that family – past present and future.

11 Thoughts.

  1. I’ve never seen the movie, but I’ve always like Adam & Don too.
    My mom didn’t have and hasn’t had any Charlie moments that she’ll admit to. No regrets. No guilt. She’s nice & comfy in her fog.
    Me? No such luck. I knew, always, that I wasn’t with my family. I knew that it was wrong. I felt it in my bones, and struggled for air daily.

  2. I am going to watch this tonight. DO I need as much kleenex as I think I will?

  3. I rocked like that as I watched it. Sobbing with him and feeling just like that. What he said to the parents rocked me, because it is the way I used to think. Everywhere I looked she is all I saw, at night when I closed my eyes she is all I saw, when I woke up she is all I saw for years. The one line that just really broke my heart. “how can they not see he has a broken heart? He has such a broken heart” and yet you and I, and our sisters are expected to live like that, every single day, we are expected to just move on, told that we will get over it. When in fact our hearts are just so broken. Thank you for pointing out this movie. Can I link to this post in my blog? I want others to see it too, because you darling said it so much better than I ever could have.

  4. Thank you. I had made some connections in my own mind when Josh and I watched it late last month. (Also, btw, two of our favorite actors, too!) But I didn’t say anything out loud to anyone other than Josh because I felt like I was overanalyzing, projecting my own “stuff” on something else… that I was the only one who would see it that way.
    Thank you for that validation. Thank you for reminding me that I am not alone.

  5. @ Liz, if you can’t find it and need a copy, please let me or Suz know and I’ll make you one as I own the movie.

  6. Rich, I am going to take you up on that offer. I have looked but cannot find the movie. I will PM you o. FB.

  7. Watched “Reign Over Me” last night; what a powerful story. Adam Sandler and Don Cheadle are amazing in their roles. (Thank you Rich)

    Now to the comparison to moms like us, Suz. Yes, I have been in that dark place too. It is the place where I wrote this poem.


    I stand on the outskirts of their lives,
    A stranger, voyeur
    I reach out with all of my strength, love, grace,
    And grasp a vapor of life that could’ve been.
    My heart soars with joy then crumbles into one million pieces;

    I want my family, I miss my family; I shout over and over to the deaf ears
    Of choices made long ago, in faith, now revealed as lies and half truths;
    Neither my children nor I are better for the journey.
    Our lives irrevocably, profoundly changed forever;

    I am consumed by the black cloud of grief.
    I only see through a veil of tears,
    A raging river that threatens to drown me in this infinite, crushing sorrow.
    My soul shrieks and twists, throbbing.
    I want my family; you have my life, give me my family;

    The strangers with blank faces weave their selfish, unyielding,
    Tendril of obligation and guilt around my children,
    And pull them down for the last count.
    Their only choice seemingly to breathe the air only they supply
    Or perish in the black hole of their twisted-love withdrawn;

    I fall to my knees, there I remain;

    My husband rocks me with tears of compassion, despair, he is lost;
    I’m here, come back to me, I miss you;

    © Elizabeth L. Porter, June 2007

    Fortunately, I have moved past this painful place, and while I still (and will always) feel the loss of my children, the intensity has diminished significantly. I believe that is because I finally allowed myself to FEEL the pain of the loss completely, and allowed myself to sit with it (the pain of loss) until it passed through me. Now it comes up in remnants and pieces, but it no longer incapacitates me.

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