The challenges of trauma

Kids who have experienced trauma can express their deeply buried pain in a variety of ways. Self-soothing when they are young. Self-harming when they get older. 

My daughter used to gently pat her forehead to the pillow. In her sleep. Or in a semi-asleep state. Or when she couldn’t fall asleep. Or when she was cold or she needed to go the the bathroom. We asked for help. We were advised to co-sleep. We did that for a while. Indeed the warmth of our bed, our company, even if she woke up and started to pound her head into the pillow we gently stroked her head and she cuddled closer to us and fell right back asleep. For a while she stopped. Stress would cause her to revert to this old habit. We took her pillow away for a while and then, with her scoliosis, we had to take the pillow away for good. It was a very sad battle to fight. She cried hot tears for her pillow. 

We talked about how her habit might be perceived by other kids especially as she took naps at kindergarten. She said she doesn’t do it there. So she has some self control. 

In kindergarten, during the first English class she started picking her upper lip. Once I had to go get her from kindergarten mid morning, because the lip bleeding wouldn’t stop. She would pick her lip bloody all the time. Even if the lip was perfectly smooth, and not dry, she would pick it, and the the whole healing process was an ordeal because it would scab and she would pick the scab. That went on for 3 years on and off. 

Last year she started picking the skin off of her fingertips. Layers of skin. From the thumbs or from the index fingers. Luckily she heals fast. We would put cream on. We would talk about it. We would sooth and heal. We would change tactics and scold her when she kept doing it.

As she picks the scab off of her legs, every scrape or scratch acquired on her bike or scooter, from climbing trees, from mosquito bites … she is always bloody somewhere on her body. That means the bed sheets are also bloody. Little dots from one end to the other. And her blanket. And her wall. I am becoming hardened in my heart on this matter. I see the blood on the wall and I leave it there. Last month she finger painted a heart with blood. Little dotted fingerprints painting. It was on the wall for a few days when conrad saw it. He got mad. I told him I’m beyond getting mad. I am numb at this issue. I have tried everything. I washed the wall with her. I took away privileges. I cried by myself. I cried with her. I pleaded. I explained how insanitary the open sounds are. Late at night, conrad had Jackie wash the wall gently, with the soft part of the sponge. Some areas are turning yellow on the white wall, from taking the first layers of paint off. She washed the wall herself for 20 long minutes. That was a while ago. Maybe a month. She hasn’t painted the wall since then. Though blood has been on the sheets from her leg scabs. I am not holding my breath. I am glad she didn’t do it again …yet. To protect my heart from disappointment, I don’t think this is the last of the wall painting with blood. But I’m glad this consequence finally clicked. 

This year we talked about hurts. She has hurts. She needs to air them out. I listen to her with openness, and she talks. Some memories are not complete, but they are real, valid and in the context I know about her early childhood, everything connects. 

I am considering therapy. But good child therapists in romania are rare if at all. 

My heart aches for her. And some might be tempted to think “why do you bother so much with so much drama that you didn’t cause?” 

I love these kids. They are my kids. Yes, my life would be slightly easier if I didn’t have to deal with their hurts, or doctor appointments, but what would their lives be if they didn’t have me? For me it’s a small price to pay for a huge return and blessing for them. 

We are surround by a lot of pain, a lot of hurt. And at some point we may be the ones in need of help. Just like a strong marriage is not made up of two strong people, but of two broken people who take turns being strong for each other… so is the family life. 

I give them to God. Every day. And it helps me to let them go and not get crushed by the weight of their pain. God is the healer. I am only a tool, a temporary shield, a soothing layer of love and faith. I am a daughter to God as well. So we all rest in Him. 

I share this in hopes that it may encourage a mother of a child who has suffered some trauma, and on top of carrying the burden of this pain, she carries also shame. Shame of other people’s judgement. Shame of rejection. I dread the litany of suggestions and advice I might get from random people, before they take a necessary step of empathy. A step that usually quiets or reduces drastically the amount of words they would be tempted to share, because they themselves are uncomfortable. Shame grows like fungus in the jar of silence and secrecy. We need to deal with it in order to help our kids air out their own jar. Their trauma is not your fault. But most importantly, their trauma is not their fault. And it is our job, responsibility and privilege to love them through this pain. If not us, then who?