As we've been preparing to adopt children from foster care, I have read a lot of books. A lot. I have read all 40+ books that our county library has on the topics of foster care and adoption. I have also read books on adjustment disorders, grief, loss, and other similar topics. I have learned a ton. One of the interesting things I have learned is that the body remembers grief and trauma. Even if you don't have memories of the event, data is stored and your body can remember it. Holidays, seasons, and other seemingly harmless events can be big triggers for kids who have experienced trauma. When I first read this, I didn't really get it. It made sense, but I couldn't connect to it personally. I accepted it because it has proven to be true for thousands and thousands of people, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it. Until last night.
Yesterday was April 19th. As I got into bed last night, a wave of anxiety and physical pain washed over me. I snuggled up to my pillow, fighting back tears. And I couldn't for the life of me figure out why! I had a wonderful day yesterday. I got a lot of work accomplished. I completed another section of the online New Testament Survey course I'm taking. I spent a lovely chunk of time studying my Bible. I also spent time in prayer. I made a yummy lunch for Matt and me. I weeded and fertilized my beautiful garden. I spent quality time with both my kids. I heard rave reviews from Snapper's swim coach about how her breaststroke is coming along. I listened with delight as Pepper read a whole Curious George book by himself! We ate a delicious dinner. I had cuddle time with Matt. I even got to eat Peanut M&M's for dessert. It was a great day, and I had no reason to fall apart in the evening. I fell asleep on a tear-wet pillow, still wondering why.
This morning I couldn't open my eyes. All I wanted to do was stay asleep all day. It reminded me a lot of the years in Little Rock when I dealt with seasonal affective disorder. But I had reasons there! It is warm and bright here, almost always sunny. And then it hit me. In the middle of April nine years ago, we brought in hospice to start caring for my mom in the last days of her battle with ovarian cancer. Mid-April thru mid-May of 2003 were the most horrible weeks of my life. My mom required round-the-clock care as her body deteriorated. My dad, my aunt, and I rotated with the assistance of hospice. There were midnight crises when the phone would ring and I would bolt out of bed, fearing the worst. There were medical crises that left my mom in a great deal of pain, with no immediate solution. Not much in life is more horrible than being helpless to relieve the suffering of one you love deeply. There was also the agony of watching her ability to communicate fade away. She couldn't find words for what she wanted to say. She could hardly hold her baby granddaughter because of the pain in her abdomen and weakness in her hands. I watched my mom age 40 years in a month, and slowly slip away from us. She was 53 years old when she passed away, nine years ago on May 16th.
I know my mom is healthy and perfect now, and loving life with her Savior. I would not wish her back. But I miss her every single day. If only there were a phone to Heaven...
My body remembers mid-April thru mid-May. The waves of emotion, the surges of pain, the flood of unexplained tears, the fluttering feeling of panic in my chest, the desire to stay in bed--stored grief and physical manifestations of emotional trauma. The body remembers.
I get it now.