Not gonna lie.
Joseph is really struggling. Struggling to grieve. It may sound strange that I want my son to grieve but removing a child from the only home, the only life, the only people he has ever known has got to have its consequences. In a situation like this, it’s preferable and indeed healthy for a child to cry. But our sweet Joseph is keeping it all bottled up. And it’s preventing him from being able to fully trust us and bond to us. Until he feels safe enough to let down his guard around us, to freely express his feelings (whether sad, glad, mad or bad) this bond between him and us will not form. I pray each day that the tears will finally flow…that the grief will finally be expressed.
That he will finally get the good, cleansing cry that he needs.
Where Marianna has no trouble expressing her joy, her sadness, her anger or her delight by crying, grinning, shrieking, arm-flapping, hand-clapping, etc., Joseph has remained fairly non-emotive. He will brighten around the kids but when he is with Mike or I, he is completely labile, stoic, unemotional, unmoving, non-reactive. He does not make eye contact but instead looks away as soon as we try to talk to him, does not even attempt to cry. He just kind of sits there, motionless, just observing, just tolerating us. He will lay his head on our shoulders but I think more out of apathy (and perhaps emotional fatigue) than anything else.
His eyes betray an emptiness that just breaks. the. heart.
I sense that he just wants to return to what he knows as normal: life in the orphanage.
I’ve been waiting for him to cry…to just grieve and get it all out. But it’s like he’s holding it all in…because that’s all he knows. The wall he has built around himself is proving so hard to break through. The older kids can penetrate it but we can’t quite manage to do the same. They can solicit smiles from him but we can’t. He follows them around and will leap into Isaac or Sam’s or even Sarah’s arms whenever given a chance. And praise God for that.
It’s not that he won’t go to us–he does–but not for emotional comfort. It’s suspect that it’s more out of apathy than anything else. He’d certainly rather sit in Mike’s arms (or when Marianna will let me put her down, my arms) than be left on the floor alone. So he’s got that going for him. But he just has a flat affect. A stone face. It’s like he has no energy to fight so he just accepts what’s going on around him without complaint, without a battle. Perhaps he learned early on that his cries were ineffective, so why bother?
I breaks a mother’s heart.
Today, we got both kids down for a nap at the same time. Marianna went down first and when I heard him whimpering (not crying, mind you) from his crib I gladly pulled him close and rocked him and held him against my chest until he too fell asleep. He woke up not long after, whimpering where I had laid him and I rushed to pick him up again. And for the first time I could sense a sob coming on. I kept holding him, looking into his eyes, talking to him and suddenly he just burst into hard, heavy tears. I prayed and cried with him, hoping this was it. But it was short-lived. His eyes drifted away from mine (again) and he just turned his head from me. I offered him a bottle and he drained it but then just gave up again, put his head on my chest so as not to make eye contact…and stayed there motionless until he fell back to sleep.
And that’s where I’m sitting right now…with him on my chest, sleeping, and me stifling my own grief and tears. This is so much harder than I thought it would be. And it’s made that much harder by the fact that Marianna will not let me out of her sight or allow me to hold anyone but her. So it’s taking more energy and effort to mutually work through this.
But I know we’ll get through this. I know we will. I know it will get better when we’re home and not halfway around the world sitting in a hotel, keeping strange hours in a strange land. I know he will learn to trust me. To trust both of us. I know that he’s young enough and resilient enough to get through this and he will likely never remember this time. But that doesn’t make this time of transition any easier.
As beautiful as this experience has been, it’s also been one of the hardest and most emotionally taxing. Definitely new territory for us and a whole new set of challenges.
Pray for him? For us?