My mom has multiple sclerosis and limited mobility. She knows there is a lot she can’t do, so she actively focuses on the things she can, one of which is counseling and mentoring people.
From women in crisis, girls rescued from sex slavery, teens at the local boys and girls club, to a mid-aged mentally handicap woman. Her example is humbling to me, but also helpful as she paints a positive picture of what my emotionally disabled daughter’s future could be like with support.
It’s not the first time someone close to me has asked me about plans for Faith’s future: my father in law, my husband, the special education teacher. Thinking about Faith unable to be independent as an adult feels horrible to me. I’ve always pushed it away and hoped for the best. The pain is still evident though, as even now I can’t hold back tears.
Will she be able to work for income, or will she be let go because of her inability to perceive social cues and carry out basic tasks without being overwhelmed? Will she live with us forever or at least live nearby where we can check in with her often?
Will she always need me to manage her medical care and one day will her kidney’s fail? Will she ever marry, and if she finds someone who is different like her, will they be too much for each other? What if she stops taking her medication and who will care for her when we’re gone?
I usually shove these thoughts aside with the idea that of course she will be fine and turn out totally normal. This half-truth isn’t particularly helpful, and in all likelihood, since she’s needed a full spectrum of support to function up until now, that probably won’t change in the future. Of course, there is always room for God to work miracles, but these fears are something I need to work out without expecting God to supernaturally remove all challenges from her future.
It’s sobering to know that because our foster and adopted children have experienced more hardship, trauma, family history of mental illness, and substance exposure in their lives, the likelihood of them struggling as adults goes up. This is a major fear for many adoptive parents. Our indirect knowledge of our children’s birth parents, or direct knowledge in the wonderful circumstances of open adoption, can sometimes feed into these fears.
Adoption always begins with loss, and it’s easy to fear that loss and brokenness will follow them for the rest of their lives. When we listen to adult adoptees, and even when I listen to my own daughter’s voices, I come to face with the truth that many adopted children will continue to feel that loss in one way or another, for the rest of their lives.
Loss is part of their stories, and no matter how desperately we want to love it away, we don’t have the power to rewrite the past. The pain of accepting the broken parts of our kids, is part of accepting the whole of who they are.
I would give everything I had if I could heal my daughter’s wounds, but instead Jesus is asking me to walk with them in their brokenness. Isn’t that the same as what he does for us?
As I continue to struggle with my own fears and acceptance, let’s do an exercise together that will take our worst fears, and have a good look at them. Sometimes you just have to go there. It takes the fear and resistance out of your life and makes space for healing to happen.
Give yourself focused time to complete this, and as you work through each step of facing your worst fear, keep Jesus’s promises for you and your children in mind:
“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sward? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angles nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39
Take some time to answer the following question on a piece of paper.
The worst thing I can imagine feeling is:
Describe the emotion and why it’s the worst:
What could cause an emotion like this?
How would you react if you felt this way?
What is the most terrible thing that could happen from feeling this way?
Fear can distort our sense of reality. I used to worry all the time about Faith’s health and her dying. Having witnessed so much medical trauma, I got in the habit of worrying about every symptom and googling it.
On three separate occasions I called an ambulance for her and it turned out to be gas pains, a leg cramp, and crying so hard she temporarily stopped breathing. Of course, lacking emotional regulation, she could be hard to read. But each time the worry for her consumed me and I imagined her dying in my mind.
I felt like we were in a perpetual state of going from one crisis to another and started to wonder if we were those “crisis people.” You know the ones who thrive on drama and look for it at every corner? I started to think that could be us and we were attracting it into our lives by always looking for it.
Worry is borrowing trouble that isn’t even ours to experience. An amazing thing happened when I started to look for it less, we started experiencing it a whole lot less. I hope you found that by facing the thing you were most afraid of, even though you know it would hurt, you now understand you would be okay.
Bringing our hidden fears out of darkness, and exposing them to light, allows God’s truth to penetrate our hearts and rest in his goodness to us.
Facing my worsts fears for Faith, her lack of independence as an adult, has helped me start to reframe it and learn from other adoptive parents, instead of dread and shove it away. Because I’m working through my fear over her future, when she still struggles with basic self care tasks, I don’t get triggered by it and fear the worst in that moment.
When I’m not living in fear of the future, it helps me live with more empathy in the moment, and show up as the parent I want to be. You can learn more tools for overcoming fear, failures, and toxic thinking as foster or adoptive parent in my book, Faith Forward Adoption, which is available on Amazon.