Adoption is caring.
Adoption is giving.
Adoption is hope.
Adoption is redemption.
Adoption is a blessing.
Adoption is LOVE.
But adoption is also heartache, heartbreak and loss.
It is all of those things, and if we don’t acknowledge that truth then we are doing a disservice to those who are embarking on (or are already traveling) the adoption path.
Adoption is emotionally messy. Choosing to open your heart and home to a child that has come into your life through loss and tragedy creates a muddy mix of emotions on all ends. With each placement I am better understanding this reality and have adjusted my expectations accordingly.
When Tyler came into our home as a hurting 6-year-old boy, I am ashamed to admit that I really didn’t get it. I viewed what we were offering him to be a loving gift that he should be grateful and excited about. I wanted his emotions to mirror mine. I was feeling excited, blessed, and full of love for my new son but didn’t recognize that his emotions were more complicated.
The reality is…
As much as media wraps the experience in the tagline of: “Adoption is LOVE,”
(Which it is!)
It should equally be acknowledged: “Adoption is Loss.”
If a child comes to you through adoption, whether due to being removed from an abusive home or placed as an infant by a loving birth mother who is sacrificing all for the sake of the child she loves, loss is involved. There needs to be an understanding that while adoption is a beautiful blessing, it is not all joy and gratitude and celebration. There is also a lot of sadness, confusion, fear, anger, and grief connected with this journey.
The past five years have taught me a lot and I feel better equipped to sensitively and kindly navigate this road with Brandon than I was able to with Tyler. God is working on all of us and opening our eyes to the bigger picture and the deeper reality.
Two weeks ago we made a trip down to Washington County so that Brandon could have a visit with his adoptive father (whom he calls “Pap.”) His adoptive Dad is under the care of hospice due to terminal cancer. It is because of a series of heartbreaking losses in Brandon’s life that we find him living in our home. The visit was a good one. It was good for Brandon to see that we would continue to facilitate visits with his Pap and make visits a priority while we still can, but also good for his pap to see Brandon thriving.. giving him a sense of peace about the situation.
When it was time to leave and we were walking out to the car Brandon asked if he could go say “hello” to his dog.
Tied up in the backyard was a beagle that was bouncing with excitement at the sight of his boy. Brandon asked if I would go back with him because he wanted me to meet his dog.
The next 30 minutes were spent sitting in the grass as the pup bounced between us. With that wiggling mass of pure love in his arms, Brandon’s soul opened and the words began to pour out. Sitting beneath the shade of the tree he started talking; sharing memories of all that had happened in that place. Memories of his dog, of afternoons spent in the woods. He shared memories of learning to cook at his adoptive mom’s side and the struggle of watching her health diminish,
And the crushing loss he felt when she died.
It was as though his reinforced, emotional dam broke loose and the thoughts and feelings of the last few years poured out of him. There in the backyard of his home he purged a lifetime of tears and broken dreams and I sat and listened. It was cathartic and I could see the physical affect that emotional purging had on him.
I held him as he cried.
His overgrown, man-body shook with the tears of a toddler…those tears that wrack the body and wash the soul.
I held him tight until he released his grip, indicating he no longer needed hugged. As he stepped away he turned to say good-bye to a furry friend who has been a loving companion through some of the darkest life experiences a person can endure.
I suggested we take a picture of him with his dog so that we could print it and frame it for his room.
He eagerly agreed and the pup thought it was a good idea too!
We left the home of his Pap with the last of his meager worldly possessions packed in a black garbage bag. We will be returning for additional visits, making sure he has as many visits with his Pap as we can before Brandon experiences another horrible loss.
But despite the fact we will return for visits, there was a sad finality in the way he looked over his shoulder as we left, at the place he has called home for the last few years.
Adoption is about hope, care, redemption and love…
but it is also about loss.
We must never forget that.