July 26th, 2007
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painYesterday my mom hopped a flight back to Colorado a few hours before Beth and I flew to Tampa for the North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) conference. Mom and I had been together for over a week. All in all we did OK with that much togetherness.

She listened more attentively and was less surprised about the prospect of us adding another child than I thought she would be. She says nothing surprises her any more. Touché!

Mom ended up being witness to one of Beth’s roughly tri-annual meltdowns that occurred a few days ago. Of course, the folks working on the basement were witness to it, too … I know my mom thinks Beth’s emotional purging was 99% related to the prospect of adding another less-than-healthy kid to the family. But the reality is, Beth has these “episodes”—because they really aren’t meltdowns—just because of “regular” life stressors and as a result of her past losses, grief and trauma … independent of what is happening in the here and now. If thoughts of adding a child contributed to this episode, it was but a small contribution.


When we had our foreign exchange student from China last year, she hadn’t been with us for more than a few days when we had one of these “scenes.” It pretty much blew her away. By the time she left 9 months later, she had seen one or two more and understood them to some extent.

They consist of Beth just becoming more and more irritable and grumpy, until I suggest we head to “the chair”. Often she thinks her problem is some real or perceived slight that occurred at school or elsewhere that she tentatively identifies as the source of her angst. Soon it becomes apparent that what she is grieving or processing has little or nothing to do with something that happened recently, and she once again goes to that dark place of loss and pain and grief. It is unbelievably sad to hear her primal wails, but I can do nothing to take away her pain. What I can do is wade through it with her, and tell her how brave she is to face it, and hold her and cry with her. And that is what I do. We always both end up in tears. My mom was floored … she kept wanting me to deal with the laundry she started and I kept ignoring her! Some things are just more important! But my mom had no idea what was really happening. Often when Beth and I head to the chair I have no idea we are in for a marathon session, but it just goes that way.

Afterwards Beth is so much lighter and happier, and she moves on with life. It is because she is so willing to face this pain that she is so healthy overall. We talked the other day about how some people mask their pain with anger, and others shut down all feeling to avoid the pain … but then avoid life in general, because how can you live without feeling? My mom couldn’t help but notice what a great mood Beth was in the rest of the day … and we did get the laundry done!

Seven core issues in adoption

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2 Responses to “Purging the pain”

  1. Justmemom says:

    “independent of what is happening in the here and now. If thoughts of adding a child contributed to this episode, it was but a small contribution.”

    So how does she do that? If I recall correctly, at the same time your Chinese exchange student arrived, Amy had just left home under unhappy circumstances. A huge impact in my mind especially for someone dealing with their own issues of abandonment and trust. But if that didn’t impact her episode then and the thought of a new child doesn’t impact her now, how does she do that? How did you get her to a place where it doesn’t?

    I ask because I’m struggling now with my daughter’s behaviors and my son is heavily impacted. I don’t know how to get him to a place where it doesn’t impact him and all he needs to worry about are the normal day-to-day stressors.

  2. Kathleenb says:

    Nancy, when you get a chance – check out these guys and/or interview them, and blog it for us. ;-)



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