adoption, family

Down the Rabbit Hole: In Search of My Emotions

My grief has taken some strange twists and turns this past week. I feel like Alice chasing the white rabbit down a winding and elusive hole. It feels like I am falling and I have no idea where I will land.

My father’s death has brought up some strange reactions in me.  We weren’t exactly estranged. Our relationship was more like a distant veneer than the messy truth of human connections. When I remember simpler times from my childhood, I miss him. Many times, though, I forget about his death. It simply becomes lost in all the minutiae of the day. I’ll be fixing lunches, brushing my daughter’s hair, or matching socks from the laundry when I suddenly remember. Who forgets a parent’s death in a week? What kind of a person does this make me?

Other times I am bombarded with confusing and seemingly unrelated feelings. At my son’s football practice last night I got caught up watching the older team of kids. Adolescent boys (and one girl) grumbled and groaned and generally proclaimed their angst to their coach. They were made to run extra laps because of their argumentative nature. Two of them commiserated together in a sweaty huddle after the practice. As I watched these teenagers doing what teens do best, I felt an almost palpable kick to the stomach.

In that moment my longing for my teenage boys sucked the breath right out of my lungs. I missed them with a startling ferocity that unnerved me. All of the sudden I was reminded of washing sweaty practice clothes for Marcus. I could almost hear Sean whining and complaining about wanting chinese food for dinner. I was thinking of my foster sons. The foster sons I had hoped to adopt. One of the boys on the field started teasing his mother with that cracking adolescent voice so common for boys in the throes of puberty. That sound can be like nails on a chalkboard. It’s awful. And I missed it so badly!

With utter astonishment I realized that I had begun to cry behind my oversized sunglasses. I was staring at this mother-son interaction and crying for the boys I had lost. What was wrong with me? They moved out a year ago. They were long gone. It’s a loss I thought I had come to terms with months ago.

And the loss of my father? It is somehow eclipsed by this improbable longing for boys that gleefully tortured me and trampled my heart. Boys who itched to shed the uncomfortable skin of “family,” and try things on their own. Boys I thought I’d long since let go of.

Where is my traditional grief? Where are the tears for the parent I’ve lost? I’ve shed some, of course. But shouldn’t there be more? Where are the feelings I just cannot access? Am I so cold-hearted that they don’t exist? Are my emotions so confused that I am grieving the wrong person? Are my true feelings so far down the rabbit hole that they are lost in Wonderland?


**Names have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.


7 thoughts on “Down the Rabbit Hole: In Search of My Emotions

  1. deansandrazmm says:

    “Trauma grief” eclipses all other grief simply because it is so incredibly complex. Hugs as you grieve the loss of your dad and your sons. That is a lot of grief so give yourself lots of grace


  2. Hello my friend
    You have a huge heart to bring children into you house for love and security while the system works it out. I would imagine you grieve for every child that moves on, you are there mother and they are your child. Grieving takes however long it takes. The emotions you expressed are out of love not from a negative place. Relationships with parents can get tricky. Being that you weren’t extremely close to him I don’t understand why you’re kicking yourself for going a week without thinking of him. Maybe you haven’t grieved him completely or your heart is open to providing a secure home and a warm bed to sleep in to children in need. I certainly would not think you’re a bad person. Emotionally drained possibly.
    Take it easy on yourself.


  3. Oh boy, does this post resonate with me. I know exactly what you mean when you wonder how you could forget something so life altering. The last two weeks of mom’s life were round the clock submersion in hospital & hospice schedules, then a week or so of funeral plans, then a whirlwind day of viewing, funeral, lunch, and time at my dad’s. In the weeks that followed I had moments exactly like these — times when it genuinely seemed like I’d forgotten altogether, and I wondered what this meant about me, too.

    Be gentle with yourself. You’re not cold-hearted. Your mind and heart are trying to process one of the most profound life changes we go through, and it will happen in its own time. Try not to think in “shoulds” but rather “This must be the lesson I need today.” I’ll be thinking of you!


  4. Pingback: The Finish Line | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

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