Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trauma is a Tricky Thing...

“After all, when a stone is dropped into a pond, the water continues quivering even after the stone has sunk to the bottom.” ― Arthur Golden, Memoirs of a Geisha 

Charlotte had a counseling appointment scheduled this past Friday.  I called and asked if I could bring Caroline instead.  She hadn't been in a month, because she was doing so well, but she had really started acting out and I knew she needed to talk to Dr. Cynthia. 

When we got there I explained all of the changes that have occurred over the past 3 weeks in our family and how I really think this has affected Caroline.  From what I had observed I could only conclude that she was feeling left out, like she wasn't the "star" of the show anymore, and she was withdrawing.  Caroline has always had an affinity for playing the victim card.  It just came naturally to her after all she's been through in her young  life.  So she went back for an hour to talk.

When they came out the Dr. says "It has nothing to do with her new sister."  "Then what is going on with her?" I asked, surprised.  "It's about Brutus."

Let's rewind about 6 months for those of you who did not have the opportunity to meet our special Brutus and do not know the tragedy of how he left us.  Brutus was a kitten that was discovered with his litter in our church dumpster one Sunday morning after church.  The pastor had just done a message about James 1:27 (Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.) and making room for one more.  Although we already had 3 feline friends in our home, Mike, the rational one, said "let's take him home." 

He was only 3 weeks old and not old enough to be away from his mother, so we bottle fed him for a couple of weeks.  He spent most of his days those first few weeks living in a pack and play in my bedroom.  The twins, who had only been with us less than a year, adored this cat.  They helped take care of him and it was very therapeutic for teaching them empathy.  Brutus was a very special cat.  He let the girls do whatever they wanted with him.  He truly thought he was a human infant.  At that time I was doing in home daycare so Brutus would sleep in the bouncy seat or the swing, and hop up in the high chair for snack time.  He would let the girls push him around in their little shopping cart or the baby doll stroller.

He also loved going outside.  I have always had only indoor cats, but this cat would literally BOLT out the door whenever someone even opened it a crack.  For months we would all chase him, catch him and bring him inside.  Eventually though we realized that he would always come back and paw at the door when he wanted in.  So we let him have his outdoor adventures.

One day this past summer Brutus went out for his daily playtime.  We were all outside playing, I picked him up, snuggled him a little and let him back down to play.  He would follow the kids around outside and play with them.  We were out in the front yard when I heard Caroline scream a scream I had never heard before, and to this day it is burned into my memory.  He ran out into the street and was hit by a car, right in front of Caroline.  If that hadn't been bad enough, she went into the street...picked up his body...and carried up to the house screaming.  He was gone.  She had his blood all over her.  I took him from her and set him down in the grass.  I got her inside, washed her up and the three of us sat on the laundry room floor for an hour and cried.  I held them and just kept saying how sorry I was that this had happened to them.  I had lost my fair share of pets over my lifetime, but NEVER like this.

This cat was Caroline's best friend.  She was traumatized.  When we went to see her counselor she said that it was not developmentally appropriate for her to be able to go and pick him up like that.  Most adults (including myself) couldn't even have done that.  She said that just shows how much trauma she has already experienced in her little life.

I kept asking myself, why would God have this happen?  Why her? What were we to learn from this? Hadn't she been through enough?  From talking with both of the twins about their experiences in Ethiopia, it was apparent that she bore the brunt of the abuse in the orphanage, so why traumatize her all over again? To make it 10 times worse, she was convinced that his death was her fault, and I understood as I was feeling the same way.  Why didn't I put him inside when I was holding him?  It broke my heart.

Then someone from church pointed out to me that now she can experience trauma in a manner that is safe and healthy.  She can experience being surrounded by loving and supportive people who will help her heal from this.  This time she can learn how to cope.  So, we coped, as best we knew how.

She was a wreck for a couple of months.  We went to counseling, had visits from therapy dogs and adjusted her meds, all seemed to help.  We hadn't had any issues until...we got out the Christmas decorations.  There was Brutus' stocking.  That old wound broke wide open.  Being an internalizer I had no idea how much it was affecting her and how much she was still beating herself up over it.

I now realized that just because I have healed from the loss of Brutus, she had not.  We will need to keep revisiting this issue over and over again.  I won't always be able to predict what's going to trigger this trauma.  We have had a couple of nights since then where I have just held her as she sobs about her kitty.  We pray, hard.  I ask that God wrap His arms around this child and let her feel His peace.  I ask Him to help her trust His plans for her, especially when they don't make sense.  I ask Him to give Mike and me the patience and compassion to get her through this.

I have been fortunate enough in my privileged life not to have experienced anything even remotely like what this little child has been through already at the age of 7.  I have learned so much about trauma.  It's a tricky thing.  I don't know what will trigger it or when. I don't know if her heart will ever fully heal from these wounds.  All I know is that she hurts and there's not a whole lot I can do about it except love her and hope that's enough.


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