When faced with adversity, many of us resort to protecting ourselves. It's human instinct - to avoid pain and discomfort. Our brain is wired to send signals to the rest of our body when we experience something unpleasant - it's a signal that tell us to avoid repeating whatever caused the pain - cause and effect.
So, what do we do when the source of pain and discomfort is the trauma and behaviors of our child?
Many of our children live day in and day out with trauma. Even those who have learned coping mechanisms and been able to process in healthy ways can be triggered by certain circumstances.
As a mom who has two children that are still dealing with the effects of trauma they've experienced, I know that living with a child who is living with trauma day in and day out is challenging. But lest we be tempted to embrace a victim mentality, we must remember that the overflow of behaviors that is causing us pain, is coming from a place of deep grief and hurt.
when their pain becomes our pain.
There have been numerous articles recently regarding secondary PTSD and primary PTSD in the families of children from hard places. It is no joke. Secondary PTSD is caused by hearing the trauma caused to a loved one. PTSD is caused by experiencing the trauma yourself. For adoptive families, especially those with children who struggle with attachment and extreme medical/mental/behavioral issues, it is not uncommon to experience trauma through the behaviors and situations occurring in your home.
I am in no way disregarding this very real suffering. I have experienced it, myself, and it was life-altering. But, for the sake of this post, I have to expose a truth that becomes hard to see in the midst of our own pain:
When our child's pain becomes our pain, it doesn't lessen their pain.
In other words, just because an adoptive family is experiencing pain and discomfort as a result of their child's trauma, does not mean that the child's pain is somehow diminished or transferred. They are still in tremendous pain. In a past post, I addressed how hurting people hurt people - and it's true. But the infliction of pain on someone else is a futile attempt to feel better. It's an unsuccessful, self-medicating behavior that causes more damage than healing to the child's heart.
In order for our hearts to remain tender towards our children, we have to refuse to be blinded to their pain by our own. As followers of Jesus, we are encouraged to imitate His behavior towards other. The gospels are clear: time after time Jesus was moved with compassion.
moved with compassion.
Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.
Jesus recognized there was much work to do. He was surrounded by great crowds. But He saw individuals within those crowds - He observed they were harassed and helpless - and then was moved with compassion for them.
On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison. His head was brought in on a platter and given to the girl, who carried it to her mother. John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus.When Jesus heard what had happened, He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick.
It is impossible to know how powerful Jesus' compassion is without the context of knowing that in this passage He purposefully withdrew because He needed to seek the Father after a great loss. His cousin, the prophet who prepared the way for His arrival, His co-minister - had not only died, but had been horrifically murdered. Jesus, while fully God, was also fully man - and the weight of this loss was great. Yet, in the midst of His deep grief - even as He was intentionally seeking the Father - compassion welled in His heart for the people. He allowed their pain to become more important than His own. He was motivated by meeting their needs and prioritizing their pain.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3&4
I am going to be super transparent here: I just found this verse while researching for this post. I've breezed by it before, while reading through the new testament - and I've referenced "the God of all comfort" many times. But I think this is the first time I have read these verses and let it really sink in. Friend, as we are allowing Him to minister comfort to our pain, we are to in turn comfort our children in their pain - even when our natural instinct is to run from further insult and injury. We become motivated by meeting their needs and we prioritize their pain - because that's what He's done, and is still doing, for us.
How do you keep your heart tender, when it's experienced great pain? Can I pray for you regarding this? Do you have tips or a testimony about how allowing compassion to move you has changed the dynamics of your relationship?
If you have enjoyed this post, you may enjoy the others in this series:
If this has been helpful, you may want to check out the other posts from our Reminders for Foster & Adoptive Parents Series:
To the Parents of Kids from Hard Places: You Are Not Alone
To the Parents of Kids with Attachment Issues: It's Not Your Fault
To the Parents of Kids from Trauma: Give Yourself Grace
Here you will find the musings of a homeschooling, work from home, adoptive Momma of 6! Adventures in faith, family, adoption, and training up a tribe of little people to follow hard after Jesus are spilled into these posts --- most often written with a cup of coffee in hand. I hope you'll stick around a while and find something - more likely SOMEONE! - that brings you hope!
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