Managing Trauma and Triggers


All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma. – Kazuo Ishiguro


Nic asks some great questions in her recent post. Go read it in its entirety first if you wish.  I have linked to it by excerpting the questions below.

Good stuff. Excellent questions.  I have no answers. Not really. 

Do you?

Here is the question (linked to her full post)

“How do others of you do this? How do you maintain contact with your children–either in open adoptions or in reunions–and handle the upswell of emotion or the retraumatization that brings–without scarring your other children?”

Her post is timely for me as it is something I have been thinking alot about.  Recently, my fiance asked me, in a rather benign way, how I do this. How do I manage this reunion stuff? He meant it in more of a “holy crap how do you function with that much pain and sadness kind of way.”  Truthfully, I don’t know. I just do.

Where Nic’s post really got me in the gut is her reference to other children.

My children are scarred by the loss of their sister. They were scarred before they were even born to me for I was scarred. The mother I might have been to them was drastically changed when I surrendered their sister to a baby broker. I had no idea of that at the time, of course, but it is fact.

My children are scarred in at least two ways. First, they have a damaged, less than there, slightly distracted, nearly always sad mother as their mother. Maybe they realize it. Maybe they don’t. They have never known anything but the mother I am. Up until the time I told them about their sister, their life just kinda was.  I later scarred them with the truth of their sister and found myself at a complete loss how to explain to them all the details of the situation due to the fact that her side, her voice, her own explanation was missing. I was only guessing. I was avoiding. I have no idea why their sister doesnt want to know them. I cannot speak for her and so I dont. They arent old enough to understand primal wound, or adoptee pyschology or why someones God might tell a mother to abandon her baby to strangers. They dont get it. All they get at their maturity level is they have a sister and they cannot know her and she doesn’t want to know them. So, I shrug my shoulders, ramble something benign (“we cannot know”) and I leave them hanging.

And is that wise? Do I help them or hurt them further in my decision to stay silent and not represent her interests?  Early on I talked of her openly, regularly. I have since stopped. It seems, to me, to pour salt into wounds. Where I stand on the soapbox of honesty, they stand below me in utter confusion.

Should I have shielded my sons from this pain? Should I have kept it all to myself?

They lost me and her. Who helps them? Who thought of them in 1986 when the caseworker carried their sister off into the arms of strangers? Who told me to think about my future relationships and my children?

No one.

As for handling my triggers (also referenced in Nicoles post), my way of handling them is to hide them. I do the best I can to hold it all in. My eyes hurt from holding back tears, my throat constricts from lumps too large to swallow. I will retreat to a quiet place and cry for hours. I will rock. I will sleep too much. I will suffer insomnia. I will do whatever I have to to shield my sons from further damage. I pretend I am okay.

As for maintaining contact? I still contact my daughter but she does not respond. I do not tell my sons (any more) I am in contact with her. Gone are the days when I said I heard from your sister, or when I showed them pictures or I encouraged them drawing pictures for her. I.just.shut.down. I shut down for me and for them. It is out of our control.

This is done for my benefit and for theirs. Given the state of our reunion, I don’t know what else to do. I don’t want to set false hope. I don’t want to misrepresent. All I can do is swing back and forth between the branches of my broken family tree and tend to one child on the left, another on the right and third somewhere out…there.

What more could I do?

5 Thoughts.

  1. I often have wonder many of the same thoughts when I was forced to place my daughter. However, with that said we have an open adoption. However, since she has become a teen these last few years the door has closed in my face. So I cannot say that Open Adoption works, because at least for me, when she was little it worked, but than it became hard, got easy again, and hard again. It is full of emotions, mix that with marrage and my new children and is full of pain and hurt. Hurt for not keeping her, pain for trying to explain to everyone why she is not with us. More pain for how she has pushed us away again. At this point I woulnd’t wish adoption on anyone. It is a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone…but also for the children! Great post!

  2. Rebecca, I’ve commented to Suz on several occasions that of the many things I love about her some of the traits that are most endearing are her openness, honesty and logical mindset on things, makes for a great partner/relationship, : )

  3. As an adoptee I have those same questions… it kills me to watch my children hurting in the same way… not understanding why their grandparents don’t want to meet them… why after I’ve met my nsister, she won’t tell her children they have cousins… cousins the same age. And although it hurts me to the core that my nparents have refused contact, it hurts even more as a mom to watch it hurting your children. Adoption… the gift that keeps on giving.

  4. I wish I had something to offer, but I simply don’t. This post is so incredibly touching, and shows better than just about anything I read what an untenable position adoption places first parents in, which then ripples out to everyone else in their lives.

    It’s just all so damn hard.

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