‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Girl Is Sad Tonight

Sad is still a relatively new experience for my girl. Rage? Anger? Outrage? She knows those feelings well, but sadness still confounds her; it is so new.

So Anastasia is sad tonight and I so want to take it from her and banish it from her mind and heart, but I can't. I also know it's a good thing, as painful as it is to see her feel this way. Feeling sad means she is feeling. She is safe enough and stable enough to feel. The walls are down and the defenses cast aside, and she is vulnerable.

Tonight she went to spend time at her friend T's house. T is an older adopted child as well. She has been here three years, and has a wonderful family that adores her. Like Anastasia, she has Reactive Attachment Disorder, but hers manifests in the more disinhibited way. She is charming and sweet and talkative and quick to hug. Anastasia envies her. She loves to spend time with her, but inevitably comes home feeling insecure and jealous. Why, then, do I let her go? Because she needs to learn how to handle and move through these feelings. They genuinely enjoy each other's company and I think it is very good for them to spend time together. Anastasia is learning how to be a friend, she is learning how to share, how to relate to someone in her peer group. She is learning how to be in relationship with someone her age. These are things very difficult for her to learn with other kids her age. They lack the patience and understanding to deal with Anastasia's quirks, fears, insecurities, jealousies,etc. T knows them intimately because she experiences them herself.

Anyway, tonight when I picked her up she said she was very sad. In the car, she cried. She hated herself and her life. She wanted T's life: a two parent family, a brother, a 'real' home (whatever that means), and a house "full of stuff" like T. Mostly, she wants to be "skinny and pretty" like T. I listen and listen. I hold her hand as we drive. At home I listen more and hold her, and I tell her how perfect and beautiful and amazing she is. We discuss ways she can bring some of what she desires into her own life: She loves the 'coziness' of T's house. It is an antique home, with lots of neat furniture and cozy spaces. Our home is more modern in some ways, and I tend to keep it fairly simple because of my ADD. Anastasia wants to " fill it with more stuff to make it cozy." I agree that we can try to do that. We discuss the two-parent family issue and the sibling issue, and she realizes on her own that some of this is just a case of "the grass is always greener." But she still is sad. So we cuddle and I make her a snack and get her nice and cozy in her favorite blanket. I tell her being sad is ok, and -- what's more -- it's normal.

"I just want to rewind my whole life and start over." She explains. I tell her how everyone feels that way from time to time and that this feeling will pass. I remind her of all the things in her life that T does not have. I remind her of all the things that make her special. Inside my head, though, I'm bargaining with God again. Asking Him to please release my daughter from the pain she is feeling. I know it won't work, but it's a habit difficult to break. In the end, I give in to tv watching (her numbing agent) and I wonder how to help her learn to accept sadness when it comes. How do I teach a skill I have not yet mastered myself?


  1. Sadness sucks. There is no way around it. You just have to plow right through it.

    That is wonderful that Anastasia has a friend! It is so hard for kids who have difficulty with attachments to make and keep friends. Tara has two friends that have stuck with her...one has RAD and the other is autistic and nonverbal. I think they balance each other out because her friend with RAD is the opposite kind of RAD (Tara is mostly disinhibited) and her autistic friend is mostly nonverbal (and Tara rarely stops talking LOL). I live in a town of 303 people so I am utterly thankful for these kids and their differences being just what my daughter needs for her differences. Sorry I just hi-jacked your post. Ramble, ramble. That's me :)

  2. Grief stinks! Unfortuntately, there are no shortcuts throug it, either.

    I read my kids what turned out to be the most amazing book for understanding RAD and the healing process. It's a children's book called "The Mountain who Loved a Bird." I'll post more about it on my blog in the next day or two. It's a great book! I highly recommend it!

  3. Anonymous11:25 AM

    That does sound like a good kind of sad, though of course sad for you. I'm so glad Anastasia has a friend like T even if that does leave her longing for things she doesn't have and isn't. I don't know how to teach "being okay with sadness" either, because I too am mucking through it.

    Also, I just want to say how much I value your posts and the honesty and thought and kindness you and others are putting out. I think I'm going to be a better parent because I get so much advice/experience/empathy from reading you and others like you. (Though I feel like I need to put in the little disclaimer you find in books that I hold only myself liable for my own errors!) I love reading about you and your sweet girl.

  4. I think that the great thing is that ALL kids experience this! I always wanted someone else's parents or toys, or house, etc.

    She will work through this because she has a great mom to help her.

  5. "How do I teach a skill I have not yet mastered myself?"

    I've been trying to figure out the very same thing myself.

  6. I'm guilty of the TV numbness act...

    "How do I teach a skill I have not yet mastered myself?" I think that a lot as I try to help Mr work through fear, and I often find myself being driven by the same stuff...so unconscious. But I like how this experience for me brings a lot of the "stuff" inside to the surface so I can re-engineer. It's in incremental process that leads to a richer place, and freedom <3

  7. It has always seemed to me that the adopted children have more of a burden to bear in the "comparison" line.... of course we can all look around and think "Why didn't I find a doctor to marry?" or "I wish I had eleven children and the financial security to homeschool." or whatever. But, I really think it is different in a way. These kids stood side by side with their friends - and saw some of them go to be the children of rich families, with lots of trips, a lovely room to themselves and fine opportunities... Others are still in Russia in the orphanage (which also looks appealing on occasion!) Somehow that moment - when things went one way for one and another way for them... It is a poignant experience.


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