Tuesday, 16 August 2016

When Normal Feels Broken - the long process of grief

We are nearly two months removed from the phone call we received indicating the end of our adoption process of Hamdali and Masad. During that time, we have experienced a rollercoaster of emotion. The grieving process requires time, and it often involves intense and sudden vacillation of sentiments. We are grateful for God’s peace in the process. Yet, a void remains. Becky summed it up this week as we were talking about the start of school and everything carrying on as usual. Right now, “normal” feels broken. Our "normal" is good and beautiful, but right now it feels broken.

The Gift of Community: For the last 30 years, we have attended a Christian Family Camp called Northern Pines. This year, we thought we might miss because we would be in Ethiopia finalizing the adoption, or perhaps back at home in the “cocooning” stage with our boys. However, in spite of the ache within our souls, we were so grateful for the gift of community in the midst of grief. I cannot count how many people approached us and let us know they cared for us and felt our loss. They did not try to offer advice or make it all better. They simply offered a hug, encouragement, and their prayers. We have experienced that same feeling from other friends and family, but camp happened to be an intense time with many friends – many whom we only see once a year – who offered the great gift of community – life together (to borrow from Bonhoeffer) during our time of lament.

Revisiting the Questions: As the school year begins, we have realized that we are re-engaging a new group of people who have waited, hoped, and rejoiced with us in anticipation of the adoption. Many of them had not yet heard that the adoption had fallen through. At the back-to-school picnic, we experienced many who asked if the boys had arrived or would be coming to school this year. Each time someone asks with great anticipation, “Are the boys home yet?”, we realize they had not yet heard our sad news.

In all honesty, I am grateful that so many ask. I am sad that our story does not have a happy ending right now. But this is the process of grief. We don’t have answers to the questions we ask. We still don’t understand why this has happened. This too, is part of the journey.

Two common questions have emerged, and we will attempt to answer them here:

What will happen to the boys? Can we keep in contact with them?  As we shared previously, the government required all the children from the orphanage to be returned to their families or villages in June. We do know that Hamdali and Masad’s birth mother came to meet them. Beyond that, we don’t know what has happened to them. Through two different sources, we attempted to see if we, or other organizations, could offer support to their family. In both cases, we were informed that the local government has made it clear that no one is to ask questions, seek contact, or try to interfere with the birth families, on threat of arrest. Sadly, in the near term, we cannot find out more. We will keep hoping and listening. We have met some missionaries working in the area, so, hopefully, we will know if the situation changes.

What will you do next? This question is largely related to what we will do next in the adoption process. Will we start over? Will we change countries? Will we stop all together? For now, we have reinstated our application and place on “the list” for adopting from Ethiopia. We have invested the last four years in connecting our heart and our family to the country. We do not feel called to change. However, we also know that adoptions from Ethiopia are becoming even more difficult. Only a couple of states in the country now allow them. The current political unrest is not helping the situation either. But, for now, we are back on the list, waiting and praying.

Prayers:  As a family, we continue to pray regularly for Hamdali and Masad. Their situation is not good. Unless circumstances change dramatically, their mother will continue to struggle to provide for them and help from other family members or the community did not emerge in the past (which is why they were at the orphanage). We pray that, somehow, their needs will be not only be met, but that they will thrive in life. We pray that, somehow, their mother will have the resources to care for them in ways she could not do previously. We pray for each of the other 27 children we met at the children’s home in Assosa. So many stories, so many smiling faces, so many needs.

If you are a praying person, please join us in those prayers. Pray for us as well, as we continue the slow journey of grieving a loss in our family. We had such a different idea of what this fall would look like. Those dreams will not become realities (at least not with Hamdali and Masad). What is normal does indeed feel broken. Yet, we are grateful for God’s peace as we continue this path. Pray too for what comes next.

Thank you for your fellowship in the journey.

Therefore, let those who until now have had the privilege of living a Christian life together with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of their hearts. Let them thank God on their knees and realize: it is grace, nothing but grace, that we are still permitted to live community” – Dietrich Bohnhoeffer, Life Together

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