‘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

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day and Other Triggers

Sasha, Nastia's birthfather

This has been a week of triggers for Nastia - the end of school, Father's Day, news about her birthmother, and a few other big ticket items. Of course, when you parent a child of trauma, you get to be the recipient of much long-buried rage and anger. I can't say I've enjoyed her company much lately, but I am certainly doing my best to support her with love through what I know is a very difficult time for her.

Friday was meltdown day, with her in a pool of tears over a school project. 8:30am found us still on the floor of my downstairs office - her in the fetal position and hysterically crying, me trying to coax her out of her armor. If I didn't get her to school for her 9am final, she would get a zero. Boy, did I pray. I somehow got her there just in time, though she cried all the way to the door, and then I went in to talk to the school psychologist about what was going on. She wasn't there. Was I able to hold it together? No. I ended up in a pool of tears myself right there in the guidance office of the high school.

Saturday we got unexpected news about her birthmother. We've heard nothing about her for years now, so it was a very big shock. I can't share the news, and it wasn't upsetting news per se, but just the fact that we got an email about her from Nastia's remaining family in Siberia ripped a big whole in my daughter's heart. She was not ready to deal with this during such an already difficult time.

Then...Father's Day. For any of us with non-living fathers, this day is, at best, uncomfortable. Add to that the conflicting feelings of a teenager who never knew her father (and still can't decide if she wants to love him or hate him) and you get a very 'unsteady' and unwelcome holiday. We talked - alot - about both our fathers. We visited my Dad's grave and talked aloud to him in the shade of his beautiful gravestone. We took a long walk in the woods. We talked about what our fathers might say to us if they were here with us on this day. We sat in silence for awhile on the grass in the cemetery, and stared up at the green canopy overhead. We discussed death and heaven and loss everything in between. It was a pretty somber weekend.

Today Nastia wanted alot of alone time. I let her. Usually it's not healthy for her to isolate in her room, but today it was fairly obvious that she was processing alot and needed it. At about 3pm, after she had two hours of quiet, I coaxed her into walking the dogs with me by reminding her of the bread we had to feed the turtles and ducks. We headed to the pond in the woods and fed the biggest snapping turtles you have ever seen. And then we went to the other side and fed a family of ducks -- a mom and six ducklings. They were the cutest little things! We walked home at a leisurely pace with Henry and Matilda, fed everyone, and got to work on some final homework things she had left for her last day of school, tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also the seventh anniversary of my own father's death. He died just a few weeks after I brought Nastia home. He never got to meet her, though he called me about a dozen times a day to ask about her, in the days leading up to his death. He was so excited to have a grandchild - his first one. He called me incessantly to ask what she was doing, what new discoveries she was making, what was she eating, what new words had she learned. He revelled in each new discovery. 'Write it all down!' he'd admonish me at the end of every phone call. 'You don't want to forget any of this stuff!'

It doesn't hurt so much anymore - the anniversary of his death. The first few years felt like a flesh wound was ripped open every June 19th. Now it's just a day with a little pensive quality to it. Not too sad, but not a day to forget either.

Nastia and I are both on a healing journey and I see it getting easier with every passing year. Sometimes, like this past week, we hit setbacks. But for the most part, we are moving forward with every day, shaking off the dust of past hurts and traumas, and leaning into an ever-brightening future. I wish the same for you all.


  1. So sorry you had such a difficult week. :(
    Hope things get better and better! And I hope Nastia gets a good grade! :)

  2. Thinking of you both. Handsome men, your father and Nastia's. Hope things get better soon. Still hoping (daily) there will be happy news about "D".

  3. Thank God for you. You understand what is going on. I hate to think how some parents would react.

  4. Anonymous11:11 PM

    I lost my dad on 6/25/2005. Can't believe it's been 7 years. I understand your pain.

  5. Lorrene has a good point. I'm sure teachers who threaten students with failing and so forth, have never stopped to consider what might be going on in so many homes....

    Your dad looks like the dearest man. And Nastia's dad is handsome!

    We definitely downplay these things; as a friend put it, we don't celebrate the "man-made" holidays.

  6. Agree with Lorrene. Thank you for updating us, Keri.

  7. Sheila7:11 AM

    Hmmm, tough times! But as already mentioned here, I think Nastia is very blessed to have a Mom who understands what she is going through and can help her through it! And, I love the photo of you and your Dad! He just has the look of a wonderful person about him, and his reaction to your bringing Nastia home affirmed that. He obviously had a great impact on your life, and your legacy honors him. And, last of all, hooray for you for getting Nastia to school on time to take that all -important test! Your desperate prayers were answered!

  8. Anonymous2:22 PM

    Did you notice that your fathers have the same eyes! It's as if they are blood relations! 'Hope things are going better.
    MariaG (Canada)


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