By an Adopt4Life Community Parent
It’s amazing to me that trauma is so pervasive in our children’s lives. With a history of foster care placements, my daughter actually has fairly little trauma to contend with, compared to many other children who spend time in the system. Yet, even with a fairly stable early life, my little girl struggles at certain times of the year.
Despite having no “actual memories” of the trauma or difficulty from her past, as the winter turns to spring, when the sun light brightens and strengthens, and the birds begin their song, my daughter’s body and unknown parts of her brain recall the deep losses of her life. My bright 7 year old begins to act as a much younger child, struggling with separations from me (even small ones like being in another room sometimes), clinging and whining, refusing to perform skills that she knows well. She backslides into more primitive brain functions. She becoming less rational, more reactive, argumentative and harder to soothe. As my daughter grows, I have taken the time to reveal these insights to her; to help her discover why her body is out of control and her mood is hard to regulate. I explain the pain that she may have felt and the losses that I know about. I help her navigate the way that her body learned this pain before she had words or memories to record them, but deep inside, somehow her body has made notes.
Some days, I struggle with trying to remain compassionate with the increased demands from my girl during these rough days. It’s hard to have patience when a 7 year old is clinging and fussing over things she normally handles with ease. But then sometimes, I catch a sight or scent that immediately takes me back to my own childhood, to a memory that carries so much weight that I feel the past emotions as though I’m back living in that moment. My own memories give me a tiny glimpse into what might be lurking behind her memories. My brain does not run with the unspoken fear that I will say goodbye to the most important people in my life, but hers is tuned in to that possibility as it has been her reality. In light of that, the clinging and whining find their right place in my understanding as we muddle along into the next season, less fraught with trauma memories.
A couple of books have really helped me recently along this aspect of the journey including, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma” by Bessel van der Kolk and “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity” by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris.