Monday, 12 December 2011
When your body remembers: Adoption and grief
I’m not sure if it’s the smell in the air, the feeling after the holidays or the letdown of post-Christmas that makes it hit me every January.
But every January, without fail, a weight settles in.
I wrestle with it for days, even a week or two, and then it finally dawns on me: Oh. My dad. He died January 25.
Even when my conscious brain isn’t registering the reason, my body remembers. She remembers and she starts preparing for grief, for shock, for pain. It’s been 13 long years, and it still hasn’t faded. Every January, the familiar, bewildering weight. The depression. The fog.
And when I realize what it is at last, there’s nothing to do but to sit with it. I just have to let myself feel the loss again.
* * *
Three years and three days ago, we brought an African baby home to cold, dry, unfamiliar Minnesota. We brought him from Uganda — land of red dirt and stunning beauty; of honesty and pain and wonder and staggering contrasts. Of warmth and light. The only land he had ever known.
In the jubilant homecoming airport scene, he was scream-laughing and making everyone smile so hard it hurt. His body was electric, shaking, excited, overstimulated, overtired. He was just 9 months old. It was a lot to take in.
Now we are three years later and I swear to you: His body remembers.
These last weeks have been full of heightened anxiety, of acting out, of impulsive action, of tantrums and neediness. There have been many more questions about “my ‘nother mommy” and of Uganda, of his beginnings and identity and story. We’ve looked at pictures of our days together there, of kicking in the bath basin, of walking around the guesthouse grounds, of his auntie. He looks at the pictures and tells me he was sad.
He’s only 3. This is the first year there have been enough words to explore the feelings, I think.
And I want to give it all to him, I want to fix it, I want to reach the hurt places and wrap them in love, love, love.
But I can’t touch all of it, because it doesn’t belong to me. I have to let him sit with it. I have to let him feel the ache of loss. It’s only after he feels it, explores it, gives it a name before we can get back to the ordinary business of gradual redemption.