Before a storm, there is often this slightly ominous change in the atmosphere. There is a sudden calm, quiet stillness as pressure builds into a storm. You can't see the pressure building as much as you can feel it. This is very much what October feels like for me. Throughout the month there is a slow build, an atmospheric shift within me. November 1st is usually when the storm hits and finally all that building tension is released.
There are a number of factors involved in this phenomenon, I'm certain. The pressure I put on myself to close the month out with something meaningful, moving and poignant as well as exhaustion from a month of spilling my guts and the subsequent vulnerability hangovers... on top of my normal life with five kids and a literal mountain of laundry to do at all times. This year, however, the pressure built earlier in the month than it has before. The storm came fast and furious last week.
There has not been any violence in my home for almost two years. This probably doesn't sound like much of a victory to the typical person, but in the world of Reactive Attachment Disorder and adoption trauma a two year stretch is a massive deal. We went from daily rages, violent outbursts and extremely disturbing behaviors to two years free of violence. Sure there have been close calls and some damage to clothing and property... but no physical harm.
Until last week.
I have been at a pretty low place the past several days. It is discouraging to feel like I am being pummeled by life and grief and once again, by my kid. It reminds me that the grief/trauma recovery process is more cyclical than it is linear. As much as I expect myself to be further along in my process, I always seem to find myself feeling all the same things over and over. As much as I expect my son to be further along in his process, I find him struggling with the same behaviors and feelings over and over again. I don't expect myself to "relapse" back into stages of anger or unforgiveness, but it happens. I don't expect my son to regress back to violence and aggression, but it happens. We cycle back into old patterns and long-held coping strategies of self-protection, shame, control, anger and denial.
I have cycled through these things myself so many times that nothing seems to surprise me anymore. Yet, this past week I found that I was surprised. I was blindsided in fact. Much in the same way that my son regressed back into physical aggression, I found myself back to being a young girl trying to comprehend the gravity of Adam's death. This happened when the Grand Haven Tribune (my old hometown newspaper) published some photos of Adam from his last day on this earth, photos I had never before seen.
First of all, I have to say what an unmatched treasure it is to discover something new. When somebody dies, there is very rarely anything new. Whatever time you had, whatever memories, the jokes, the moments, the photos... whatever you had is all you'll ever have. There is no more. Only rarely, if you're very fortunate, will you discover something new. Someone will share a memory or a story you hadn't heard before. Or someone unearths photos you've never before seen. That is what Matt Deyoung of the Grand Haven Tribune did for my family. And it was truly a gift.
But, even gifts can trigger that old cyclical grief. And that is what happened when I saw these old pictures for the first time. Without warning I had regressed to that eleven year old girl who could not comprehend this loss. There was one picture in particular that wrecked me.
I still don't fully understand it myself, but my response was so peculiar and irrational, as if my brain is trying to solve Adam's death or make sense of something so senseless. I can't explain it but when I saw this picture of Adam sort of coughing in the background, I had a brief unbridled moment of hope. I gasped and thought "Maybe he's just sick!" Seeing Adam doing something so physical and bodily as coughing - for one brief moment - allowed my brain to file Adam's absence as temporary and explainable. Not gone forever, just somewhere else getting better. The foolishness of this lapse is almost embarrassing to me. But there was something about seeing my poor sweet brother - my hero, my buddy - so alive and still present in his physical body that allowed my unguarded mind to dream of a boy who was not gone afterall.
It was only a moment that I regressed to that childlike way of thinking. Like my own son backsliding after two years of progress, it was a fleeting, irrational moment. But there was a world of pain that rushed in after his folly and mine. I simply cannot look at that picture of Adam coughing without being absolutely wrecked.
My son and I are a lot alike. We have both been through hard things, experienced some trauma, learned some unhealthy coping mechanisms. We are both afraid of love, because we are afraid of loss. He has Tom and I - who have adored him since the moment he joined our family and we have met every single need since then. I spend the majority of my time each day chasing him down with that love trying to prove that he can trust me, that I will never leave him. And here I am, with a perfect heavenly Father who chases me down with his perfect love and restorative kindness, proving time and time again that he will provide for my every need and he will never leave me. He asks me to trust him, to love him back, to draw near to him.
And still I pull back. I always pull back.
Like my son, I'd rather maintain some illusion that I am in control. I push back on God's perfect plan just as my son pushes back on my good plan for his life - a life of privileges and responsibility and blessings. Just as my son will push me away, but superficially bond with anyone and everyone he meets... I reject God's perfect and fulfilling love in favor of some cheap, artificial, temporary comfort.
This month has torn my heart wide open for a bunch of different reasons. The unexpected criticisms, the setback in my son's therapeutic process, this moment of irrational hopefulness upon seeing my brother cough... these were all painful moments that contributed to the building pressure before the storm. But as I sit here and contemplate closing out #AdamsActs for the year it occurs to me that maybe it wasn't my traumatized 11-year-old brain that gave me that moment of hope. Perhaps it was that perfect heavenly father of mine, reminding me that Adam isn't gone forever. He IS somewhere else getting better. In fact, he's already better. He's with his father in heaven and is completely and perfectly healed.