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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Processing Trauma Memories


Last night we went to get our passports, something we have talked about doing for a long time but kept pushing off.

As Dean and I sat side by side filling out paperwork a growing sense of unease filled my gut, my brain refused to cooperate and the tension grew. We were frantically filling out the forms an hour before we had to leave for our appointment, so I blamed my reaction on having to rush about.

When we got to the library and began going over the forms together. I had a flashback of the last time we sat around a table answering questions and signing paperwork. That time we were in an attorney's office signing away our parental rights, something I never dreamed we would do! 

Turns out I wasn't the only one feeling a bit traumatized. Kiana had a rough evening. Over the top giggling can signal dysregulation every bit as much as does meltdowns and raging. She went from giggling hysterically to sobbing hysterically, a sure sign that something was going on.

I finally sat her down and asked her what was wrong. Of course she gave the answer I expected, "Nothing!" I tried rephrasing my question but she wasn't ready to talk. I told her to sit and tap, which gets the two sides of the brain to communicate. My children don't like tapping when something is bugging them because their mode of coping is to bury and stuff their anxiety. They know tapping will get their brain to thinking, something they want to avoid at all costs. Of course Kiana responded to my request to tap with defiance and rage, anything to avoid complying with me.

I left her sit and rage for awhile and when I noticed she was calming down I called her over and said, "Something is bothering you, I have a good idea what it is but I want you to try to figure it out." When helping someone work through a trigger/memory it is best if they can figure out what is behind the emotion because this means they are processing the information. If you just tell them, they don't work through the steps on their own. You may need to coach the person along which is what often happens with our children, but we try to get them to do as much thinking on their own as possible.

She denied that she had any idea what was bothering her, but we have learned to know our children well enough that we usually know when they do not know the answer to a question, when they are being stubborn or when the answer is just to hard to say. Kiana's issue was obviously the latter.

I told her that I think going to sign those papers scared her. I asked why she thinks she felt so scared, and she shrugged her shoulders. "What were you thinking about when you had that scared feeling?" I asked. She mumbled, "My mom." Ahh, so I was was on the right track!

"What did your mom have to do with signing those papers?" I asked. "Maybe you were telling her how I act....." she replied. "Hmmm, and why would that make you afraid?" Her lip was trembling so I waited until she whispered, "You might give me back to her."

I had figured that was her problem all along but I didn't want to give her any idea's, plus as I said before, it is best if the person works through their problems themselves. We went over the how's and why's of adoption again and Kiana burst out, "It is just like buying and selling animals! You buy an animal and then you sell it again, adoption is the same way!"

I left her talk for awhile then said, "Since you are comparing adoption to selling animals, let's think about it. If a cow has a calf and won't let her drink milk, is it better to give the calf to a cow who will take care of her or should the farmer leave the calf die?" She didn't hesitate, "You should give her to a cow who will take care of her!"

"Right, because a little calf will die without milk to drink. How about when the calf is half grown and can take care of herself some of the time. Should the calf go back to her birth mom or stay with the mama who has been taking care of her all along?" Kiana started to say, "She should stay with the mom who is taking care of her," but suddenly realized where the conversation was heading and back pedaled. "She should go to her birth mom!!!" Let me add here that Kiana, like many adopted children, has an attachment with her birth mom and would like to live with her but at the same time fears having to go back. It is a complicated emotion for a child to work through.

"What if the calf's birth mom still has a hard time caring for her?" I asked next. Kiana said quietly, "I guess she should stay with the mom who has been taking good care of her."

I agreed then said, "Did we ever get rid of a child?" Kiana's eye's welled with tears and she nodded, "Braden left." 

"Yes he did," I agreed, "But do you remember why he left?" Kiana said, "Because he had a big hurt in his heart." 

"Who else has a big hurt in their heart?" I asked. "Me," Kiana whispered. "That must be a scary feeling," I acknowledged. "Did you know that when Braden left he didn't even cry? He was so happy to be moving to a new family." 

"He is mean!" Kiana cried. "No Kiana, he was hurting," I  said and went on to explain attachment in as simple words as I could.

"It is really hard for mom to explain, but someday when you are older you will be able to understand," I finished. "For now you have a choice, trust mom when she says that you will never go to a new home, but it was the best thing for Braden; or don't trust mom and let your worry and fear grow bigger."

"I will try to trust you, but it is really hard!" Kiana said. 

We ended our conversation with our usual hugs and she seemed to feel better but I know this will be an ongoing conversation. 

Sometimes I can't help but wonder why must life be so difficult for the children God has entrusted into our care. So often I feel as though I am bumbling along making things worse instead of better, but then I remember that God can take my feeble efforts and bring healing to hurting hearts.

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