adoption, Attachment Disorders

Too Young to Die

“I don’t want to die yet. I mean, I’m too young to be dead. There is still a lot of stuff I want to do.”

This is Carl’s pragmatic view on why he doesn’t want Mary coming home for visits. Why he doesn’t want to see her. He is “not ready to be dead yet.” Currently Mary is at a therapeutic program for a few months. It’s a short term program and we are working towards home visits. The longer she stays away from home, they say, the harder it will be for her to transition back.  There is a danger she will become “institutionalized.”

So here we sit, at dinner to celebrate our adoption anniversary. I’m sipping a glass of sparkling moscato. Luke is holding my hand discretely under the table. If the kids see they will surely tell us to “keep it PG!” Catlyn and Seth are tucking into their creamy alfredo pastas. We are all in a happy bubble of contentment. Except…except….Mary isn’t here. I can’t decide how I feel about it.

We visited Mary earlier in the day. She was wearing her adoption T-shirt, but hadn’t realized it was Adoption Anniversary day. She was in a good mood, hugging us and snuggling into my hair. Mary had just gotten glasses. She picked the brown ones so they would look like mine. A part of me is melting over this. 

 In all the years we had her, she never would complete a vision test. Doctor’s appointments tend to leave Mary shut-down, mute and staring at the floor. By the time the vision test came she would be entirely unresponsive, not even attempting to stand on the marked line. Don’t even get me started on the scoliosis test.

But when the nurse from the institution took her? She was fine. Mary said she “felt safe,” and that she “had been telling us” she needed glasses all along. Color me confused. It seems that her trauma is always triggered by, well, us. Being in a family, with a mom is hard. Being in an institution with strangers? That’s easy.

Her clinician says they have seen a lot of the drastic mood swings. They notice when Mary’s speech is so pressured that her words blend together and they don’t know what she is saying. She’s had to be restrained once so far, for attacking staff members who tried to break up a fight she was having with another girl. There is no way I could restrain her like that at home. I have a (possibly permanent) spinal injury, and my husband is going back to work full time. We can’t afford for him to just work the odd shift now and again. He can’t stay home all the time anymore in order to protect us from Mary’s violent rages.

What on earth will we do? After the murder planning, Carl is traumatized. So am I. Things are just starting to settle nicely. We are sleeping without the deadbolts locked on the doors. We haven’t had to secure the locks on the kitchen cabinet where the cutlery and glassware is. Things are quiet. Things are safe. I can allow myself to exhale.

But there is another side to this. The side where I see one of Mary’s little stuffed owls lying on the floor. I am gut-wrenchingly sick with missing her and simultaneously glad she isn’t here. I, like Carl, feel that I am too young to die. There is so much left to do.


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


15 thoughts on “Too Young to Die

  1. C says:

    I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. I’m not trying to be cold I am not a parent and I don’t know how everything I went through affected my parents. I won’t pretend to know, but I get a sense about somethings from what you write. There seems to be a ton of ambivalence, while that is uncomfortable it shows that you still want to fight. Always be proud of that. I don’t know when society got to the point where parents fighting for their children and families became almost rare, but that’s where we are, so yes being proud is ok. I am sorry you are all going through this. I can’t imagine how it feels knowing that you are the trigger or that Mary is doing things so easily for the staff at the RTC. I would say try not to take too personally because if I had to guess Mary see them disposable but they are safe because their sole job is to keep her safe. (could be wrong) I hope they are doing more that observing her mood fluctuations. Do they have her mood charting? I hope that she able to reintegrate into home life very soon.


    • Hi C! Your opinion is always appreciated. I think you’re right. She does see the staff as disposable. I am conflicted. They don’t do mood charting (why not?!) but they have been “noticing” drastic mood fluctuations etc. she has started on new medication so we hope it helps. It’s just a difficult time. I’m trying very hard to be honest about it. I hate being her trigger. I wish my love could heal everything but it doesn’t.


      • C says:

        I can understand being honest about a less that perfect situation. It is difficult yet liberating. I feel like it takes the power away for me anyway. Mood charting is a great tool for the doctor and great skill for her to learn. There are some really great ones on google images. Just search kids mood chart. There are a lot of variations so you should be able to find one to fit any kid.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you. I agree about mood charting. Now if I could convince the staff. I think they feel like they don’t have enough mental health workers to help her with it. Sigh.


  2. Pingback: Home Visit! | Herding Chickens and Other Adventures in Foster and Adoptive Care

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