Friday, February 10, 2017

Mourning the Unmournable

“The way he treated you, that’s not gratitude.”
“He didn’t deserve your care.”
“Let him be the one to show you he’s truly repentant."
"You don't send kids back, no matter how terrible they are acting."
"If you were a real mother, you'd never have let him go." 

After spending a year as a foster mother to a 15-16 year old boy with a trauma and abuse background, replete with addiction issues and poor coping mechanisms, I had to send him back to his biological mother when I found out he was stealing from me, and after all the lies, manipulation and breaking of trust time and time again, emotionally, I didn’t know how to cope anymore.  

These experiences don't come with manuals... at least not ones that you know about when you just jump in over your head. But everyone, including myself, has an opinion on how things should be, even if the opinions don't line up.  Still, in my heart, he was a son.

What I didn't realize, is that I too had a lot of baggage that I didn’t know I was carrying. The baggage of codependent behavior in myself, of being too needy to be a good Mom at the moment. Fear is never a good guide, and I was drowning in fear - fear of losing him, fear of what would become of him if he made the wrong decision, instead of listening to the still small voice of the Father who loves – but has good boundaries.  The baggage of wondering if I had somehow screwed him up more by my enabling… and then by my abandonment.
The hardest person ever to forgive, I've found, is oneself.

“Of course God used you in his life, you just can’t see it yet. These things take time.”
“You never know how God used you. You showed him love, now you just have to let go and trust.”
... and so on. Well-meaning words of comfort, but it's never seemed that easy to me to let go and trust. Perhaps I'm a horrible Christian too. 

What do you do, when you’ve been a Mom, and all of a sudden, you aren’t anymore? When you realize that you’ll probably never see them fulfill the dreams that they had shared with you? That the house will be empty from now on, and what was can not be again? And in the place of purpose, connection, hope and belonging now, is just loss. Disconnection, guilt, shame, blame, and confusion.

If only I had been more vigilant. If only I had listened to God better. If only I had protected him more, protected him less, scolded him more, scolded him less, and let him face consequences earlier… if only I had been a better Mom, this wouldn’t have happened. 

What do you do when you lose a son… but you feel that the people around you blame him, and wonder why you’re still caring about what happens to the manipulative twit? Or when you feel that people blame you, and wonder why you gave up on a kid that you had called “son” once? Gave up? No, I felt he was forcibly ripped from my hands by God who could not have said much louder, “Let go!”

Then, what do you do when God gives you a gift… and then takes it away? What do you do when you feel that all you ever knew of God’s goodness and faithfulness seems to contradict what He’s asking of you? How do you trust God again when you’re not sure if maybe you’re the next one to be evicted?  And how do you mourn a son who is still alive but not your son anymore?

A friend of mine lost her son at the same time I lost mine, but in a car accident. And I watched with horror, compassion… and might I even admit… a twinge of jealousy, as she processed her loss and grieved publically on facebook. The horror and compassion are understandable – I could empathize with her ravaged grief. But the jealousy? How was I to mourn, and who could I talk to? All my conversations felt like they were about betrayal, failure and… loss? But what loss? The loss of an angry, manipulative, and oh-so-wounded teen? But oh, what loss!

To not hear his voice in the morning coming from downstairs, saying “hello, mamá!” and “good morning, mamá!” And his favorite way to bother me as he was washing (clothes, dishes, etc.) down below… “mamá!... mamá!... mamá!” until I caved and said, “what?”… “nada… jajajaja!” Or, the alternative answer: “I love you! Jajajaja.” To not hear the quiet “good night, mamá” in the evening when the house was dark, and I could barely hear it whispered through the floor.

And the things I learned from him. I learned about God’s amazing sacrificial love for us. When my laptop was run over, falling out of a motocar he was in, and was supposed to be taking care of and he responded with palpable remorse and said "I wish I'd been the one run over," I learned about how God paid what we could never hope to pay for, in order to maintain relationship with us through Christ. When he told me not to thank him for washing the dishes all the time, because it felt like I was trying to pay him with my gratitude for something that a son should do for his Mom, I learned that love is not earned, and we don’t have to bargain for it… and that gratitude should always be sincere, not offered in payment, which is a bit manipulative. The things that God showed him about how God offers us more and more precious treasures as we grow deeper in relationship with Him, but how we often settle for cheap and gaudy on a superficial level. He heard God’s voice, and with what he learned, I learned.

But his past caught up with his present in the form of a girl, seductive and broken, just like he was. From a past of abuse and abandonment, with the same hurts and same struggles… and she started playing with his heart, and he started playing with hers, and they both lost. Even after God warned him time and again to stay away from her. And I’m sure if she could have heard God, He would have been telling her the same thing. And now there’s another baby growing up without a Dad present, far away with his Mom in Lima.

How do you mourn such loss when there doesn’t seem to be any platform for it? To be a Mom, then to not be a Mom… but not through a death, though it felt like a miscarriage. Or an abortion. How do you mourn when there’s such guilt? And blame? And so few that might understand without feeling that you’re minimizing their loss (when their child really has died), or exaggerating your pain (he deserved it, get over it)?

So. I still mourn. And wonder how long it takes to heal, when I have a son/not son out there that I don’t know what to do with in my heart.  How to maintain any connection, from a distance, without setting him up for false expectations? Or how do I let him go, when he was not mine in the first place? And how do I hear God in all this, when all the messages seem conflicting, those from without as well as those from within? 

So. I'll mourn. And continue to mourn until the mourning is done, whether those around me agree with my mourning or not.  And I'll continue to pray for him, undeserving as he might be... for weren't we all once enemies of God, when He loved us enough to lay down His life for us? And I am convinced that even with his anger, rebellion, fear, shame, self-loathing and poor choices... that God still loves this stinker, and still has plans for his good, if only he will trust Him once more.

“A voice is heard in Ramah,
lamentation and bitter weeping.
Rachel is weeping for her children;
she refuses to be comforted for her children,
because they are no more.”
Jeremiah 31:15 

And please, Lord, verses 16-17 too.