issue no. 10 | Fall 2019
an alumni publication of Lifeline Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Services
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss
Brave Bart: A Story for Traumatized and Grieving Children
by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen
by Caroline Sheppard
by Sue & Chelsea Badeau
Brave Bart is a kitty who had something bad, sad, and scary happen to him. Helping Hannah, a neighborhood cat, helps Bart overcome his fears and become a survivor. Brave Bart normalizes many trauma reactions that children experience.
This book is an adult coloring book for parents or caregivers who are caring for children with trauma. Child welfare and trauma expert Sue Badeau offers tips and strategies along with artwork created by her daughter, artist Chelsea Badeau.
This modern-day fable is in an illustrated children’s book format. Grandy, an older and somewhat wise woman, has just suffered a big loss in her life and she heads to the kitchen to make a special batch of tear soup.
Building Bridges of Hope
LIFELINE BOOKS FOR SALE
Well Known: Adoptive & Foster Family Edition
by Herbie Newell
A Known Project & Lifeline Children’s Services Collaboration
Written by our very own president and executive director, Image Bearers makes the case for shifting from pro-birth to pro-life. lifelinechild.org/imagebearers
A guide for intentional and fun ways to know your loved ones better, it’s full of activities and questions to help you connect. lifelinechild.org/wellknown
A Letter from Herbie PRESIDENT & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
It is such an honor to present your family with the fall edition of Journey magazine. This issue will not only provide updates about Lifeline’s ministry but also will delve into the difficult topic of grief and suffering, in hopes of equipping you to walk through your own grief while helping that of your child. Grief and suffering is particularly relevant to the journey of adoptive families as research reveals that trauma affects brain development as well as socialization for children coming from hard places. Truly, science is just catching up with the Word of God as we learn that trauma in the womb can be just as powerful as trauma outside of the womb. Recently, I felt as though the Lord was leading me to begin our quarterly Rooted in Love Conference for prospective adoptive families with what God’s word says about suffering and hope. The Lord reminds us continually that the call to care for the fatherless, the orphan, and the vulnerable child is a call to suffer. In light of the content of this issue, I thought it would be helpful to share the hope that the Lord gives in the midst of trials and suffering. 1 Peter 4:12-19 says, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner? Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” This passage teaches us how we should approach suffering. First, we see that we aren’t to be shocked that in a fallen world there will be trials and pain; however, Peter takes an unexpected turn and reminds us to have great joy amidst our suffering because we are sharing in the sufferings of Christ as we pursue His purposes. Lastly, we are reminded that during pain, grief, and loss, we are to never stop trusting in God. Fall 2019
Rather, we are to forge ahead in our calling to pursue Christ and to never turn back. This is counter-cultural advice in a world of self-help and independence. The culture tells us to pursue peace at all costs because the pervasive worldview is that you need to be living your best life now not your best life deferred. Instead, we must remember that we aren’t living for this world at all. We are living for the perfect King and His Kingdom. Beloved, don’t be discouraged by your suffering, for there is hope in the midst of trial. Here are 5 truths to remember during suffering: 1. Trials can deepen your walk with the Lord. 2. Suffering produces Christ-likeness in you. 3. As a Christ follower, the favor and Spirit of God rests upon you. 4. Persecution is evidence of God’s almighty grace. 5. Comfort will come through the mighty and strong presence of God your Father. Paul reminds us in Romans 8:35, 37-39 that as the children of God, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our prayer is that you would be encouraged through the difficult as you dive into this issue of Journey. May the words contained in these pages spur on your trust in the Lord and help you find true and abundant joy in Him despite the difficulties that you may encounter. Encourage your children with these truths as well, so that the gospel of Jesus can change them and bring them hope in their grief.
Herbert M. Newell, IV President & Executive Director lifelinechild.org
Journey L I F E L I N E C H I L D R E N â&#x20AC;&#x2122; S S E RV I C E S 100 Missionary Ridge Birmingham, Alabama 35242 Phone: 205.967.0811 Website: lifelinechild.org
E D I TO R I A L MEGAN SIMS Editor
SHANE ETHEREDGE Art Director
JENNY RIDDLE Contributing Editor
MEMORY SMITH Layout & Design
C O N T R I B U TO R S Richard N Vest III, MD, Whitney White, Brianna Thomas, Angela Mains, Lynn Beckett, Neisha Roberts, Jenny Riddle, and Shane Etheredge
W H AT I S J O U R N E Y ? Journey is an alumni publication dedicated to our families who have been through the adoption or foster care process. This is a way to stay in touch with Lifelineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ministry, to celebrate along with other families through milestones and stories, and to encourage your walk with Christ and the well-being of your family in the days ahead!
W H AT WO U L D YO U L I K E TO S E E I N YO U R N E X T I S S U E ? We love hearing from you! Send us what you would love to read about in the next issue of Journey to email@example.com.
M E E T O U R C OV E R FA M I LY Richard and Johanna Vest live in Birmingham, AL. Their four children joined their home both biologically and through adoption from St. Petersburg, Russia and Cap Haitian, Haiti.
CELEBRATING WITH THE POOR IN SPIRIT
ANNIVERSARIES, GRIEF, & SABOTAGE
MEMORIES & TRAUMA ANNIVERSARIES
FA L L 2 0 1 9
CELEBRATING YOUR CHILDâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S BIRTH COUNTRY & FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS
HELPING OUR DAUGHTER FACE HER GRIEF
Emery Whitt (6 yo) on her first trip to Disney Land with parents Jonathan & Amy.
Cai Teat (2 yo) celebrating her first birthday home with parents Dustin & Lindsey.
Halle Joy Napier (20 months) is walking & running!
Leah DePriest (2 yo) celebrating her birthday with family.
Joshua Norman (2 yo) on his first trip to the beach with his family.
Cooper Johnson & family celebrate 10 years home!
“WE ARE AMAZED AT HOW FAR SHE HAS COME, AND WE JUST WOULDN’T BE US WITHOUT HER IN OUR FAMILY.”
- Laura and Parker DePriest, Memphis, TN
Welcome Home LINK FAMILY India
MANN FAMILY Colombia
ALTMAN FAMILY China
OWENS FAMILY India
ROGERS FAMILY India
MICHELLI FAMILY India
BASHAM FAMILY Hungary -5-
C E L E B R AT I N G
With the Poor in Spirit A Devotional by Jenny Riddle
When discussing this fall edition of Journey, we knew that holidays would be coming soon, but we kept being led to the theme of grief. Discussing grief during the joyous times of the holidays seemed a bit of a downer but also wholly appropriate. Why? Because Christmas exists because brokenness exists. The beauty of celebrating the birth of a King comes from our desperate need for our Father to save us from our brokenness and the fulfillment of His promise to do so. Similarly, there is beauty in adoption and fostering, but both come from a place of loss and grief. The need exists because brokenness exists. Isaiah prophesied clearly of the Messiah’s intent and ability to replace grief with beauty. In 61:1, the Messiah exclaims that He is to bring good news to the poor. Poor does not refer to financial stability. Rather, it denotes those who are broken and in despair, whether because of sin, injustice, or the invading brokenness of the world. One commentary writer describes the poor here as someone who is “so broken by life they have no more heart to try; . . . those who think that their lives hold nothing more than ashes, sackcloth, and the fainting heaviness of despair.“ Some of us may feel the weight of being poor in spirit as we walk with our children through the grief of their lives. As we begin to journey toward holidays and celebrations, we may feel as if we don the clothing of mourners more than the attire of festive party-goers. Although we want the turkey and twinkling lights and gifts to bring a sense of celebration to our children, they may grieve instead. Our hearts and the hearts of our children may feel poor in spirit. Yes, we live in a world disrupted by brokenness, but Isaiah reminds us that in this passage there is One who was sent to bandage broken hearts and to replace mourning with gladness and praise. He was sent to overcome sin, replacing the effects of sin with beauty. The Messiah defeated sin when He gave His life on the cross and was raised to life three days later—He’s already overcome what has broken us. Still, we live in a time when sin is still rampant—a time when we have not yet experienced the final destruction of all sin and its effects. Christ conquered sin, but we deal with the brokenness caused by it every day—a time of already and not yet. However, His victory is our hope—today and in the future. When grief takes us by surprise, when it brings despair in celebration, when it catches us off guard and wounds our hearts, we can have hope that Christ has come to bring beauty from it. In the already, God is working in our lives and that of our children to bring beauty out of the ashes. He is doing the work or repairing, healing, and redeeming loss. We can have hope and peace that He is at work in our lives. Yet, even though God brings much healing in the already, full healing may come in the not yet. But, even in the waiting, there is beauty, for we know that when God has planted His good news in our hearts, He grow us into “oaks of righteousness,” who look forward to the day when broken hearts will no longer exist because He has eternally exchanged His beauty for our mourning. As you read through this edition of Journey, stories of grief may resonate with you because your heart may know well what it means to be poor in spirit. May this issue serve as a reminder that God is making beautiful things from the hard and He will bandage our broken hearts when we run to Him.
T H E W E L L I N I T I AT I V E In John 4, a Samaritan woman left her home and made the short walk to fulfill the need for life-sustaining water. But, on this day, there was something different: a stranger was there, and his name was Jesus. He began talking to her like she mattered. In the conversation that followed, Jesus was able to explain the difference in the physical water she came looking for and the living water he had come to provide. His compassionate interaction met her deepest need, and she ultimately walked away with everything she really needed. But first, she went looking for water. Her need for water brought her to a place where she could encounter the Living Water. Every day, Lifelineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s pregnancy counselors encounter women like this woman at the well: women who have needs. The Well is an initiative by Lifeline Childrenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Services, to meet the physical needs of women in unexpected pregnancies. This fund will allow our pregnancy counselors to help these women cover rent, utilities, medical costs, food, transportation, and many other needs throughout their pregnancy, hospital stay, and after. When we care for and meet their physical needs, abundant opportunities arise for us to share about the One who can meet their ultimate need and take on their sin and shame. Learn more about partnering with The Well initiative by and donating or making a gift bag for a birth mother at lifelinechild.org/thewell.
A N N I V E R SA R I E S, GRI E F, & SA B OTAG E By Richard N. Vest III, MD Sabotage. That’s what we call it in our home. It’s almost predictable! It happens when you’re headed to that great vacation after a few grueling months of work, school, and sports activities. Or a birthday party. Or Christmas Day, with lots of presents. Or any exciting occasion with good things that are out of the ordinary. “Sabotage” most recently happened in our home the day before one of our son’s birthday. We had already had a weekend event of rock climbing at a local gym and Blizzards at Dairy Queen. The next day would be his official birthday, and we had a dinner of pizza, cake and ice cream, and presents planned for him. “R” had been doing really well, and he had a great summer. I had just finished a long and difficult procedure as a cardiologist at the hospital when Johanna called me. “I don’t know what’s going on, but I need you to talk to our son,” she said. I quickly figured out that Johanna had not felt well and laid down on the couch. When R needed help with homework, she asked him to come to her side so she could help him. He refused. This quickly turned into a difficult parent/child confrontation. He refused to obey and quickly became angry. Very angry. Johanna explained, “I can’t figure this out and don’t know what has triggered him. But something is up, and I want to handle this right.” She put him on the phone. His voice was clearly angry through the tears. “Mommy is being Fall 2019
LAZY and WON’T help me!!! She doesn’t LOVE me!!!” I couldn’t reason with him, nor could she. Finally, I had to stop talking and get back to work. Johanna decided to pause this interaction and continue with the afternoon: volleyball practice for our daughter, an activity for the boys, and some errands. Several hours later the three of us sat down and discussed what had happened that afternoon. Our son had cooled off and was ready to talk. He admitted his disobedience and disrespect and asked for forgiveness. Relationship was restored as we hugged and prayed. Johanna and I wrote it off to another example of “sabotage.” Over the years we have noticed that conflict is more prone to develop in our home around special events such as vacations, birthdays, Christmas, or other desirable events. These types of events have also happened around anniversaries such as “gotcha day.” Our kids seem more prone to argue, complain, or disobey, and conflict often develops. This has always been really hard for Johanna and me. We are typically very excited about the event and the anticipated sentimental memories that this event will generate, not to mention the pictures we’ll look back on in years to come! This expectation further makes the conflict hard when it comes. Why does this happen on such occasions? We think it is related to several things, but
“Was it truly sabotage? Or was he crying out to us in his own way that he was hurting?” shame may be a big part of it. Many orphaned children don’t feel deserving. After all, they were abandoned in their pasts. While children may not be able to express this, they may feel worthless and insecure. They may beg for Christmas presents but may not feel worthy of them. If they were abandoned in the past and feel not worthy of birth parents like most kids, then what does that say about them? Adoptive parents can and should assure the child of love and belonging, but these questions may linger in their hearts. In addition, these kids may paradoxically respond to the parents’ love on these occasions. For example, Christmas presents express parental love, but the child may wonder if he or she is truly loved. What if the child doesn’t fit the mold and starts a conflict? It’s almost a dare to parents. “Do you really love me? What if I don’t obey you? Let’s just see . . .” We have learned that expecting insecurity and potential conflict on these occasions is the first step to loving our children. We don’t give our children a license to disobey or start arguments, but understanding their motivations helps us to respond with a spirit of discipleship and growth. I may be tempted to respond in anger to a disrespectful and hurtful comment coming from the back of our SUV on a birthday. My wife will look at me and say, “Sabotage.” I take a deep breath. “Oh . . . yeah. That’s right. Got it.” A calm and structured response helps restore order and give our children security while also helping them accept responsibility when they make poor choices. This is an ongoing process for us! We have responded poorly on many, many past occaFall 2019
sions, but God has used these times to teach us. He continues to give us opportunities to respond correctly! The bigger picture of our son’s bad afternoon came out the following night shortly after his birthday party as I was tucking him into bed. “Daddy, do you think my birth mommy is still alive?” “…uh, I don’t know…” “I don’t think she is. Do you think we could find out if she is?” “Well, that could be really hard…” “I think we could go to my orphanage, get her records, and then find out on the internet.” “Buddy, I would do anything I could to find out more about her…” “Daddy, do you think she left me anything?” I had a lump in my throat and had to swallow. These were questions I had never asked on my birthday, and they were reasonable and natural questions for him to ask! This birthday was bringing a new level of understanding and awareness of his past. He had just had a great birthday with fun experiences and presents that he loved. But his birthday was also a reminder of a hard past that resulted in him not living with his biological parents and joining a family across the ocean from where he was born. Does he love us? Tremendously. Is he secure in his family and home? More than ever before. Yet the pain of his past weighed heavily on his little mind and brought a dark cloud to his birthday celebration that needed to be understood. Was it truly sabotage? Or was he crying out to us in his own way that he was hurting? We are learning the significance of “traumaversary:” a date that brings back or stirs up memories -- conscious or unconscious -- of a past traumatic event. Implicit memories include emotions and sensory experiences based on past events. These memories can be developed early in life, and that can include prenatal and infant times. While these memories cannot be recalled, they can be triggered by a time of the year or by -9-
sensory experiences. “Gotcha day” may be a celebration that a child has joined our family, but it is also a reminder of the grief of the events that led to the adoption. In Romans 12:15 we are encouraged to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” While I may not feel the same emotions that my children feel, I have the opportunity to love them by being present and sympathizing with them in specific parts of their lives. This is easier said than done! Jesus is our ultimate example of this. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He was fully God, but he was also fully human. He felt what we feel in all aspects of our lives because he was human! Isn’t that amazing? The God of the universe knows our smallest and largest joys and struggles, and we can take comfort that he experienced these too. Perhaps this can help me in loving my kids. God has experienced all of my hurts and joys, and he cares. I need to feel the magnitude of this and be reminded of it as I am called to love my children. Rather than “sabotage,” maybe we should call it “opportunity?”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Richard and Johanna Vest live in Birmingham, AL. Their four children joined their home both biologically and through adoption from St.Petersburg, Russia and Cap Haitian, Haiti. Richard is a cardiologist and electrophysiologist at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and Johanna is profession mom/taxi driver. Through uncountable blessings and many ongoing struggles, they are daily learning to trust in God and live in their true identity of being children of God who are adopted and loved. lifelinechild.org
H U N G A RY U P DAT E Over the last year, we have seen the number of children come home almost double. We are continuously praising the Lord for this program, the growth we have seen, and the number of children who have found their forever families! Hungary is the largest adoption program in Eurasia, which consists of eight different countries within Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Jana Lombardo (Eurasia Program Director), Herbie Newell (President & Executive Director), and Josh Caldwell (VP of International Programs) traveled to Hungary this spring, meeting with government officials, social workers, and our head team member, Adam Simon. Adam has been in the adoption world for 10 years! When asked what he enjoys about his job Adam said, “As a Lifeline partner in Hungary, I am delighted to be involved in the adoption process! I’m working with Lifeline specialists on a daily basis, which is extremely important for accurate execution of cases. I am proud to have a chance to help American families. . . . I do my best to accurately and reliably do my job, as do the Lifeline staff.” The time spent with Adam and the officials was fruitful and encouraging as our team shared Lifeline’s heart for vulnerable children around the world. They were also able to emphasize the number of families wanting to pursue a child from the Roma people group, which is a people group that is discriminated against in the Eastern European culture. The Roma people, also known as Gypsies, are made up of people who have traditionally been nomads. They originated out of India, but for the last 1,000 years, they have dispersed throughout Europe. Traditionally, they travelled from place to place for work; however, more recently, they have become sedentary. The terms Gypsy people, Romani people, and Roma people are all interchangeable, although the term Roma people is more globally accepted. Because of the difficulty the Roma people face, the Roma orphan not only faces trauma and separation from their biological families, they also face adversity because of their culture and heritage. The Roma orphan has beautiful olive complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes. At Lifeline, we have seen many Roma orphans come home to their forever families. Our goal is to advocate for the countless other Roma orphans that are still in need. Hungary has a strong in-country team, like Adam, who is experienced with international adoptions and walks with our families through each step of the in-country process. Although the process in Hungary is approximately 45 days, 30 days of this time is spent focusing on family bonding and living in the child’s country of origin. Learning about the child’s home country and culture is an invaluable part of the Hungary process. This unique requirement and experience of the Hungary program is an indescribable time for which families are truly grateful! Fall 2019
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“ ROHAN FAMILY
“ NEWELL FAMILY
“ GODFREY FAMILY
FLOETER FAMILY Fall 2019
H U N G A RY FAMILIES
God completed our family this past spring with the adoption of Jessica and Jazmin. These girls have been a part of our family for the past five years without us even knowing. We are thankful that God prepared each of our hearts to become a family of four long before we knew it. His steadfast love is what gets us through the tough times and the times that shine the most. Most people would think spending six weeks in Hungary would be tough, but this time truly was a bright moment that created memories for our family. Our time in Hungary really solidified our bond and is a treasured time for all of us that we talk about often: playgrounds, shopping, riding the bus, and experiencing a culture that is instilled in the twins’ lives and now our lives. It may seem like a long time or like it is going to be really difficult, but we appreciated the time that we had to get to know each other, learn how to become a family, and experience our children’s culture through their eyes.” - Rohan Family The adoption of our son, Elliot, has truly been a gift to our family. We are so thankful that the Lord has blessed us with a happy and healthy little boy who loves to listen to music, play outside, and snuggle with Mommy and Daddy. He has the most infectious smile and the biggest heart, and we are thankful that he is ours. Adoption has grown our family in more ways than we could have ever imagined. This Thanksgiving, we thank God that He chose adoption for our family and pray that Elliot’s life always points others to His goodness and grace.” - Newell Family When my husband and I first felt the call to adopt, we had no idea that adopting from Hungary was even an option, but we are so thankful that we found Lifeline and the Hungary program. Adopting our sons has been the biggest blessing; now, a few months home, we cannot imagine our lives any other way! Our time spent with our children in their home country is something we will all cherish forever and is one of many things we can thank God for during this process. It has been so special to experience God’s heart for adoption and see Him reveal Himself to us in new ways throughout this process.” - Lewis Family We are so thankful for Lifeline and, in particular, the Hungary team! We were able to go to a foreign country for six weeks and survive with their guidance! We cannot imagine life without our little Marta, and we are praising God for her presence in our life. Thank you so much for walking alongside us in this journey!“ - Godfrey Family We are so thankful that Petra, Robert, and Bence joined our family this year! We are still in awe and thankful for God’s good plan for all of us, even as we struggle through the changes. We are thankful for friends, family, our church, and their school teachers. They selflessly love our kids, ceaselessly pray for us, and support us in learning to be a family of five. Petra is thankful for our home to play in. Robert is thankful for the wildlife to explore. Bence is thankful for the endless summer to surf and skateboard.“ - Floeter Family - 11 -
MEMORIES & TRAUMA ANNIVERSARIES Compiled from Lifeline’s Education Team Children and adults learn through observing others and by interacting with the world around us, and, in turn, creating memories. These memories influence our behavior. As such, memory is a central construct to the development of children.
IMPORTANCE OF IMPLICIT AND EXPLICIT MEMORIES Long-term memory is composed of two distinct systems—implicit and explicit memory. Explicit memory can be broken down into episodic and semantic memory. These memories are factual events or episodes that are organized by time and are context dependent. Explicit memories are more difficult to recall because they take more brain processing to retrieve. Implicit memory is composed of procedural and emotional recollections. These memories are acquired through repetition, practice, and are composed of automatic behaviors that are so deeply embedded that we are no longer aware of them, e.g. driving, riding a bike, or typing on a keyboard. Highly emotional memories such as traumatic situations are encoded as implicit memories and are associated with the sensations felt during the event. The trauma memory, Fall 2019
therefore, retains its powerful emotional impact and ability to make a child feel as though he or she were vividly reliving the past.
IMPLICIT TRAUMA MEMORIES Traumatic experiences or unprocessed memories can perpetuate negative beliefs, behaviors, and emotions. These experiences include the death of someone close, a natural disaster, sexual assault, abandonment, neglect, or abuse. These memories stick with us as well as the feelings and physical sensations felt during the traumatic event. When current situations echo traumatic memories, those negative thoughts and feelings become triggered. Sometimes the annual anniversary of trauma or a major life event, such as leaving the orphanage and joining a foster or adoptive family can evoke these feelings as well. A child may feel sad, angry, anxious, irritable, or - 12 -
may have trouble sleeping. Use what you know about your child’s history to recognize these reactions. It’s important to recognize these changes and keep these dates in mind in order to appropriately prepare for and respond to your child’s reactions.
RESPONDING TO TRAUMA MEMORIES Although it is difficult to verbalize trauma memories, this is what may need to be achieved in order to restore an appropriate balance between implicit and explicit memory processes and to reduce negative symptoms associated with the memory. Discussing traumatic memories and working through them help to reduce their persistent and intrusive nature. Helping your child verbalize his or her feelings can ease anxieties about certain memories. It can be tricky to do this in a manner that doesn’t make your child become closed off. lifelinechild.org
Children are more likely to open up when they are working with their hands because the two halves of the brain are working cohesively as a team instead of as separate entities. When the two sides work together, logical and emotional thinking is merged, allowing your child to better articulate thoughts and emotions. Playing with building blocks, drawing a picture, and storytelling are all methods to help them integrate the two halves of their mind and express their thoughts more clearly. The following additional interventions will offer support, comfort, and reassurance of safety to a child struggling with a traumatic memory or anniversary:
Finding the right words during stressful times is difficult. Sometimes, the right words are no words at all. Listen to your child’s thoughts and feelings to get a better understanding of the situation. If your child chooses not to talk, respect the silence and offer support when appropriate. Assure children that they are free to express their emotions with you anytime.
Exoneration of Guilt
Help your child realize that he or she is not to blame for the circumstances that led to his or her adoption. Explain that his or her birth parents’ circumstances made them incapable of parenting at that time. By breaking the link between guilt and adoption, you will give your child a positive self-identity.
Make an effort to uphold routines, support hobbies, and encourage social interaction. This intentional activity helps your child realize that life goes on despite negativity and will keep his or her mind off of the negativity.
Validation and Reassurance
Reinforce trust and safety in the relationship between you and your child. Physical contact and comforting words will help make your child feel more secure. Help normalize any emotions your child is experiencing.
Preserve Positive Memories
Help your child remember and create more joyful memories. Look at family photos, take a fun trip, or just spend time together. Ask if your child wants to commemorate the anniversary of the event in a positive manner to promote healing.
Limit Media Exposure
The media can display negative things that may upset or trigger traumatic memories in your child. Seeing these things may prolong his or her feelings about an event.
the source of any problems and can help to alleviate symptoms. Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SELF-CARE As a parent, you carry a huge load of responsibilities every day, and it’s easy to feel burned out from such a demanding schedule. Even among the chaos of life, try to set aside time each day to do something that you enjoy that brings you peace. Looking after your own well-being makes you more patient, energizes you, and improves your relationships with your family. Your child can pick up on uncertainties and anxiety in your voice, appearance, or behavior. When you exhibit control over your actions and emotions, your child will recognize this and is likely to replicate it. Be a good example of proper self-care; maintain your hygiene, eat regularly, carry yourself with confidence, and stay calm.
CONCLUSION Memory is more complex than just remembering. Trauma can affect children’s behavior in ways that may be confusing or distressing. Memories have an influence on how your child grows, but they do not have to define your child. When you recognize that your child may be agitated by unpleasant memories, maintain a calm demeanor and surround your child with love and safety. With understanding, care, patience, and treatment when necessary, all family members can heal and thrive after traumatic memories surface.
Know When to Seek Treatment
Know that it is not your job to single handedly eliminate your child’s pain. The healing process takes time and no one has to do it alone. Treatment can help to identify Fall 2019
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CELEBRATING YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH COUNTRY AT CHRISTMAS As the holidays begin to draw near, opportunities will come to help families celebrate a child’s birth country in special ways. Acknowledging a child’s birth country can create moments of safety to discuss feelings of being adopted, their birth families, and of grief they may experience by not living in their country of origin anymore. Also, these opportunities can help develop a sense of pride in his or her birth country. When families speak positively about a child’s birth country, the child sees respect for where he or she was born. Engaging positively in this way affirms your child and his or her history. • Display artwork or a nativity set from your child’s country in your home. • Learn seasonal phrases like “Merry Christmas” or a traditional song from your child’s birth country as a family. • Pray for the country and the people in it! • Find books that explain cultural traditions from around the world. • Let your child hang an ornament from or representing their birth country on your Christmas tree. • Try to incorporate a holiday tradition and/or prepare a holiday meal or side dish during holiday celebrations. Research or ask local expatriates from your child’s country about holiday traditions and meals. • Befriend adults and families from your child’s birth country and invite them over to teach your family how to cook a traditional holiday meal. • If your child’s birth country doesn’t celebrate Christmas, consider incorporating one of their other traditions, customs, festivals, or foods into your own celebrations. For example, playing traditional music while baking cookies or eating a meal may help to celebrate your child’s birth country in this way. Be creative and be willing to think outside of the box. New traditions or foods may seem different at first, but remember that different isn’t wrong. Your new traditions may be some of your family’s most favorite in years to come.
HONORING YOUR CHILD’S BIRTH FAMILY AT CHRISTMAS Many opportunities will also arise during the holidays for children to think about their birth families. Recognizing that your child may be considering their birth families and possibly grieving that loss will help you to connect with your child and walk with them through their grief. It can also encourage your child in furthering open communication throughout the coming years, as you speak positively and honestly about the people who will always be a part of who your child is.
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On a practical level, there are limitations when honoring a child’s birth family, the largest of which may be that these individuals are unknown or in a far-away country. The desires of the birth family and the desires of the child may also limit what interactions are possible. In foster care, approval from child protective services or approval from case workers involved may be necessary. Many of the suggestions given here are dependent on such factors.
If You Do Not Have Contact with T hem
• Speak with honesty (in age appropriate ways) with your child about his or her birth family, acknowledging their existence and their role in your child’s history. • Talk about your child’s birth family when opportunities arise. Show your child that you are a safe place to ask questions and discuss feelings, even if those emotions are grief-laden. • Hang an ornament on your tree in their honor. • Encourage your child to write a story or poem or draw a picture in their honor. Your child can display this as part of his or her own Christmas decorations in the family room or in his or her own room. • Allow your child to write them a Christmas card (to keep, pack away, or dispose of later). • Pray with your child about his or her birth family. Each day or week during Advent, pray something specific for the birth family.
If You Do Have Contact with T hem
In addition to the suggestions above, having contact with a birth family can open avenues for more personal interaction. Use the following options as a starting place for honoring birth family members that you are able to contact: • Send a Christmas card to them. • Help your child make a gift, draw a picture, or bake homemade items to send to them. • Send Christmas flowers, a card, a photo album, a framed picture of your child, a gift, etc. via mail or case worker. • Arrange a time to meet with them: meet for lunch, invite them to church with you, meet at a park, and perhaps prepare a “visit box” of special things the birth family and child can do together (color a picture, work a puzzle, make a craft, play a game, etc). Remember that birth families of children who have been adopted or who are in foster care continue to play a significant role in children’s lives, regardless of how many years, days, or moments they spent with their child once he or she was born. Be sensitive to your child’s needs and desires as you let him or her speak into how to honor his or her birth family.
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Helping Our Daughter
FACE HER GRIEF
The following article was written by the mother and daughter who are the subject of this article. They worked together to present this content in a way that would be helpful for adoptive parents. Their heart is to educate and encourage families with honest, real-life, practical examples. In an effort to be honest but still maintain privacy and respect, we are honoring their request to remain anonymous.
THE BUILDUP After 6 1/2 years of marriage and unexplored infertility, my husband and I welcomed our first “forever daughter” into our home. She was not unlike other kids her age who had suffered the effects of bouncing around in the foster care system and early childhood neglect. Underweight, underdeveloped and misunderstood, she transitioned into our home kicking and screaming—literally. Now to say this transition was easy (as a woman dealing with my own insecurities from infertility and my still very real dreams of having a child to call my own) would be a BIG FAT LIE. Forget trauma-informed behaviors and all the book knowledge drilled into my head; this was harder than anything I had been prepared for, and quite frankly, there was considerable shame compounding my feelings because I wanted to love this child and run at the same time. The truth that I held in secret (well, just between the Lord and me), was that I didn’t instinctively attach to our daughter. And, this unexpected twister that kept sucking up our joy and tossing us around had a name: it was grief. I have often said that our daughter’s grief and mine collided (imagine Hercules versus Zeus.) I could see that she was hurting—there was no way to deny that. She cried and clung A LOT and vacillated between laughter, anger, and control. She wasn’t able to make friends easily or adapt well to social settings, but I thought that the old “bloom where you’re planted” adage would eventually set in, and whatever the source of her grief, would fade in time. Dealing with her hurt (in a way that was necessary for her healing) was too hard while nursing my own disappointments and a sense of miserable failure. It was easier to just not talk about it. Fall 2019
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Before we knew it, our preschooler had become a“normal” high school student—an experience that would surely aid in her social and emotional development. Only, our kiddo, who had been able to mask her own internal struggles, which stemmed from a sense of rejection by her birth family and an “I don’t fit anywhere” feeling, decided now was the time to let the cat out of the bag. The first time I was contacted by the school counselor came as a shock to me. Our precious daughter, who had been instilled with truth from God’s word for years, was acting out in ways that shook me to the core. WHY??? Why in the world would she even think about doing the things she was doing? When confronted by her dad and me, the inevitable answer was “I don’t know why . . .” And, so we called in the cavalry. We went to see a professional counselor, who handed me several articles on children who had been adopted and then met with our daughter privately. That counselor had no idea who she was up against. Our daughter had mastered the art of stonewalling. I’ve learned that when grief is left unattended it is easier to protect it than to open the door.
During this time of healing, the Lord, in His faithfulness, revealed some practical and helpful steps for our family: 1. Our daughter needed a mentor. In this season of intercession, I counted five different people who suggested to me (and often unsolicited) that our kiddo needed someone other than me to talk to. This wasn’t an easy step for me to take since I didn’t relish the idea of our rebellious teen airing all of our dirty laundry to an outsider. But something that is repeated that many times probably shouldn’t be ignored. This next thing is important: I have learned that you don’t necessarily have to take all of the steps at one time, if you will just take the next step. And so, I asked the Lord “Who?” The “who” turned out to be a former church member that had been corresponding with our daughter through cards for years. She had gained her trust through this simple act of friendship. When I finally mustered up the courage to ask if she would mentor her, she quickly agreed. Neither she nor I knew what this arrangement would look like, but that didn’t really matter. I simply asked if she would reach out to our daughter routinely and take her out for some face-to-face time. And, she did. 2. Our daughter needed our family to communicate openly. It was the crises we faced together that forced me to accept the reality of the communication (or lack thereof) within our own family. If I was going to ask my daughter to confide her deepest secrets in a mentor, I had to be willing to accept what she had to say, too. On a very practical note, this meant putting aside sensitivity and my hot temper and really listening. I realized that all of our “stuffing” was not doing anyone any good. Pulling the curtain back—layer by layer—was HARD, but worth it. Do not imagine for a moment that I have perfected this. Good listening does not come naturally, but supernaturally. I desperately need the Holy Spirit to temper me, to hold my tongue, and to prevent me from saying regrettable things; when I am willing for Him to do this work in me, trust builds between my daughter and me. We talk about EVERYTHING now. And, as long as everyone is respectful, nothing is off limits. Yep, that includes birth family, friendships, sex (and every other difficult topic that comes to mind). 3. Our daughter needed information about her story. From what I understand, this struggle is common for a lot of parents through adoption. We, as parents, know there are too many hard parts to our children’s stories to even wrap our adult minds around. So, how in the world can a child possibly process the enormity of the situation that led to his/her placement into another family?
HIS INTERCESSION When it became evident that no coaxing on our part or a professional’s was going to get our daughter to explain what was going on, I returned to a familiar place—on my knees. I was faced with the familiar and painful reality that I did not have the power to control what was happening. I needed God’s grace and strength in my weakness. “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26) The cry of my heart became “Pray for me, Lord. Pray for me. I don’t know what to pray. I ask that you take this difficulty and redeem it. Use it for your glory. Change me.” Over the months that followed, there were bitter tears, raised voices, pleading and pounding of fists at all that was happening inside our home and out. A battle had ensued. There was no doubt that a very real enemy was vying for our daughter. He knew as well as I that her story of redemption would hold a lot of power if unveiled. And so we put on our spiritual armor and fought (understand that part of this fighting included combating patterns of denial, pride, and fear.) But Jesus be praised for tearing the veil! Something truly profound happens as we are ushered into the presence of the Father through prayer. His power and peace are felt there, despite our shortcomings. And when we seek Him with all of our hearts, He will answer. Fall 2019
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This dilemma led to our silence, which translated in the following way to our daughter: If she really was “wonderfully and fearfully made” (as taught to her from God’s word at an early age and repeated countless times), why were her dad and I keeping parts of her story under lock and key? The truthful but complicated answer is FEAR. We feared she would rebel more. I feared she would reject us as her family and, more specifically, me as her mother. We feared too much information would hurt her. Inadvertently, our attempts to protect her and our family fixed a question mark above her head and left her wondering silently, “What is so shameful (about me) that they need to conceal my story?” But in God’s grace, after more than two years of intentionally working on the communication in our home, a very telling conversation took place between us and brought amazing freedom to our daughter and me. In a moment of real courage and vulnerability on her part, she admitted that, years earlier, she had been sneaking online at school and searching for her birth mother. Horrified by this revelation, I asked her with great indignation “Why?” This time the dam broke and there was no “I don’t know why” in response. Hallelujah! Instead, the tears flowed freely down her cheeks as she confessed through desperate words, “I need to know why [my birth mother] didn’t want me!” There it was. The elephant in the middle of the room that I had danced around for years. There was absolutely no way to ignore the grief this time. Grateful and surprised by her transparency, I went to my husband and asked, “What do we do?” And, his response, “We tell her.” 4. Our daughter needed a way to use her God-given talents and abilities to serve others who were experiencing difficulties. This was one of the most surprising and delightful parts of her healing. Years before, our family had been involved with a local equestrian ministry for children with special needs—many of them whose lives had been touched by foster care and adoption. Thinking this would be a good fit for our daughter, who absolutely adored horses and had been enamored with them since a very young age, we enrolled her in a course there that teaches nurture through care for the horses. Well, out of the blue, I received an email from this same ministry asking if our daughter would like to serve as a summer intern there now that she met the age requirement. Without having to think long or hard on it, I approached her with this opportunity, and she agreed to apply. Through this internship, God began changing her heart. Our daughter, so chock-full of God-given compassion, immediately connected with the kids she was serving and with their struggles. It truly was like watching the veil being lifted as she realized that God really had designed her with talents and abilities that are useful to others who hurt! The truth that she was fearfully and wonderfully creFall 2019
ated started makings its way from her head to her heart. God is the “lifter of [our] heads” (Psalm 3:3), and sometimes He allows opportunities to serve to take our gaze off of ourselves and put it onto others. For our daughter, serving others during a time of difficulty created real perspective and allowed her to help instead of hurt.
FREEDOM IN GRIEF And so here we are, three years later, expectant that God will continue His healing work in all of our hearts. There really is no formula for healing, only truth and grace from the Father, who actually does have unfathomable understanding (Isaiah 40:28). My hope for your family, if you are walking through grief (or maybe your child’s difficult behaviors are rooted in grief), is that you will experience the freedom found in confronting this hard, but God-given, emotion in a way that promotes healing in your home. If you are facing grief as a parent, you are not alone. Many moms and dads through adoption hide their struggles because of feelings of embarrassment or shame. But your heart is important to the Lord, too. Never forget that He, too, feels grief and pain and desires for us to draw near to Him in our brokenness (“The Lord is near to the broken hearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18.) Read the full text of this article at lifelinechild.org/helping-our-daughter-face-her-grief.
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G UAT E M A L A H I G H L I G H T (un)adoptedÂŽ partner, Village of Hope (VOH) in Guatemala, serves teen moms and orphans that are HIV positive. Located in San Lucas, VOH is a family-style care home that loves and cares for between 30 and 50 children at any given time. (un)adopted comes alongside VOH with Caregiver Education training: encouraging and equipping the staff and caregivers at the home to be the best they can be in their work and ministry. Please pray for the work being done at VOH and for the staff members who tirelessly serve the least of these in Guatemala. There are two opportunities to serve with (un)adopted in Guatemala in 2020. See dates below!
LIBERIA HIGHLIGHT (un)adoptedÂŽ partner, REAP (Restoration of Educational Advancement Programs) in Liberia, was started to impact vulnerable youth in the war-torn African country. REAP hosts several life skills camps throughout the year to teach orphaned and vulnerable youth tangible job skills like woodworking, cooking, brick making or sewing. (un)adopted is privileged to come alongside REAP at these camps through advocacy and encouragement. (un)adopted has the opportunity to take Caregiver Education to Liberia for the first time in November 2019! Please pray for this training and those that attend this month. Would you like to serve with (un)adopted in Liberia in 2020? Find information below!
UPCOMING TRIPS LOCATION
TRIP DATES IN 2020
September 2 to November 22, 2019
January 1 to February 1, 2020
June 28-July 3
February 28 to April 28, 2020
May 1 to July 1, 2020
September 23 to October 3
May 15 to July 15, 2020
July 1 to September 1, 2020
Additional trip locations and dates will be added, so check the website for more opportunities. Visit www.lifelinechild.org/trips for more information and to register.
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For more info on upcoming webinars and events, go to lifelinechild.org/events/2020-01
S H A R E TH E STORY
C EU : HO LIST IC HO LIDAY
A R C S TOR IE S
INFO MEET ING: BEY O ND O RP HAN SU NDAY
Hattiesburg, MS Tuesday November 12, 2019
November 14 12:00 to 1:00 PM
Birmingham, AL Friday January 31, 2020
International Adoption, Kentucky November 18 6:00 to 8:00 PM
G O L F TOUR N AME N T Birmingham, AL Monday May 18, 2020
W EBINA R: SC FOST ER C ARE O RIENTAT IO N
W E B IN AR : R OAD MAP TO IN TE R N ATION AL AD OPTION
December 3 12:00 to 1:00 PM
November 21 12:00 to 1:00 PM 6:00 to 7:00 PM
YEAR END INITIATIVE
As a ministry, Lifeline aims to walk hand-in-hand with the families we serve. Our ability to impact communities is in large part due to the generous support of partners through their time, network, and resources. Initiatives such as the Hope Adoption Fund, which provides financial assistance to families adopting internationally, and The Well, a fund directed at meeting the physical and spiritual needs of women in crisis pregnancies, are just a couple of ways we aim to holistically provide care and share the hope of the gospel to the vulnerable. Please consider participating in Lifelineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Fundraising Campaign, Change One Life, through a tax deductible gift before December 31st. To find out how your gift can make a difference go to www.lifelinechild.org/changeonelife.
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