My mother died ten years ago today. I am surprised at the intensity with which this anniversary has affected me. I am very emotional today. It is different than it was that day ten years ago, but I almost feel more depth of reeling today than I did then. It seems I had such calculated control back then. Today, I'm crying at the slightest remembrance.
I remember specific moments from that weekend. I remember the surreal feeling of driving for two days to get to her hospital bedside. She knew she was sick for a long time, but she didn’t let any of us know. She wanted to “go quickly” for our sake, as she wrote in notes I found months after her death.
I remember singing to her. She was nonverbal by the time I arrived at the hospital. Still, she responded to my singing, even letting me know she wanted me to STOP singing one particular children’s Sunday School song. I couldn’t think of songs to sing. She wanted me to keep singing. So, I started singing songs she sang to me as a child. I guess some of those songs were a little obnoxious.
I also remember the deep, labored breathing and the unbelievable amount of time between those last several breaths. I remember the moment we realized she was gone. I remember little else until the funeral five days later, when someone (I can’t remember who) said, “They’re waiting for you.” It was time to place my rose on her casket at the graveside, and walk away. I remember thinking, “Why do I have to go first?!” I did what was expected of me and walked quickly away. I said, “Dammit.” My mom’s best friend is the only one who came after me. God, it’s so hard, even now.
Today, I grieve for the relationship, and that she’s not here to see her two newest grandchildren, or meet my first daughter-in-law. I grieve that she left us at this time of year, and I pray (every year I pray) and ask God to not allow me to leave my kids around the holidays! I grieve because I live a two days’ drive away from her grave and I cannot place a flower there today. I grieve because I miss her. Terribly.
This loss, though difficult, is part of life. It is hard, but it is expected. It is not unusual for an adult to have to say, “Until we meet again in Heaven,” to their parent. This grief is normal.
My kids, on the other hand, have experienced grief beyond that which any child should. They’ve experienced the grief of losing their biological family. They’ve experienced the grief of leaving their first county and first language. They’ve experienced the loss of all they knew. While it is true that they have gained by being adopted into our family, they have experienced profound loss. As their parents, we need to acknowledge that loss. Additionally, we need to understand our own loss in adoption. We lost the time in our children’s lives before we knew them. We lost some of the dreams we’ve had, even as we’ve embraced new dreams for our children. There is grief and loss in adoption. It is okay to acknowledge this. It is okay to grieve. It is important to help our children process and come through grief.
Anniversaries of our children’s losses may be hard on them, just as today is hard on me. While they may not cognitively remember a date or an event, their sense memory – the part of their brains and their souls that holds their emotions and their spirit, will remember. Sometimes, it can take them and us by surprise, but we don’t need to be surprised when it happens. We can expect it. We should expect it. That way, we can be ready to comfort one another.
Here are some links to learn more about helping your child (and you) deal with grief and loss in adoption:
Please feel free to share your family’s experience with grief and loss in adoption in the comment section of this post.