Hope Overcomes Heartbreak
By: Gari Lister
My post last week was scary and sad for some of you, but please do not confuse heartbreak with a lack of hope. I have a huge amount of hope for our kids, and for the progress that we are making in helping them. For every child like my Katya, there are many, many more children who can and who do heal. My youngest, in fact, is a poster child for healing – at 10, she is perhaps a little odd, and she is certainly a little quiet. But she has an amazing sense of humor, she loves to ice skate and take ballet and she can talk my ear off when she wants to – a far cry from the little girl who screamed for hours every night when we brought her home and from the 5 year old who didn’t and wouldn’t talk. Now, yes, we haven’t lived through her teenage years, so perhaps there are crises yet to come.
But Katya’s best friend from Russia, who was 12 when she was adopted, and is now 21, is doing really well. Not perfectly – she carries hurt from her early trauma and makes plenty of mistakes – but she has a life goal and is close to her parents.
Our kids can heal. To me, Katya’s story, and the sad posts from Marc and from Nancy, aren’t reasons to give up – they are reasons to keep fighting. They show how important the Attachment and Trauma Network is, and how very critical we are as parents.
And as parents of kids with serious attachment issues or developmental trauma, we often focus on what is wrong, what society doesn’t understand, and all the support we don’t get. But there is so much wonderful progress that is happening!! When we adopted Katya as an 11 year old in 2002, we read pretty much everything we could find about attachment, but no one told us anything about the impact of trauma. We understood the importance of attaching, and we did lots of things right, but we didn’t appreciate that attachment alone would not address the damage from early trauma. And by the time we learned about many of the tools that helped our youngest daughter, it was too late to force Katya to take part.
So Katya’s story breaks my heart, but it doesn’t break my hope. Why? Because there is nothing more amazing than seeing a child overcome trauma. Every time my youngest laughs – a laugh we waited years for – I realize how special and fabulous my kids are, and how wonderful my life is because of them. And because of that incredible joy, and despite the risk that another one of our children will throw us away, this is how hopeful we are despite the heartbreak: we want to adopt again.