Let’s see if I can get this going again. After my sister’s funeral, my daughter seemed to take a nose dive. She says it started when she finished sixth grade but really, I didn’t think the transition to 7th grade was going too terribly bad until my sister died. I really feel compelled to write about it. I apologize in advance if it seems too long. To give some back story, I have been sort of on the outside of my family especially my brother whom is 4 years older than I and my sister who died, because of my transformation in Christ. Once I was born again, neither one of my siblings could believe that I truly was a completely different person than the sister they had grown up with. (It’s been 12 years) My sister however had received Christ and was coming along in her acceptance of the new me. My sister and I were very very very close and just a year apart in age. We were more like twins, often at odds, but clung to each other for refuge all of our lives. Anyhow, once my husband and I were drowning in our adoption journey trying to navigate how to raise an emotionally disturbed child, my siblings were very judgmental and talked terribly about me and the things that were happening in our home. They were convinced that it was entirely my fault that we were having all of these troubles, not my husband’s whom they adore, but solely they felt; that it was me. This is important because many of us have struggled with our friends and family and their lack of understanding. And while I will be the first to admit I have made 1000’s of mistakes, I know that what is happening is not because of me.
So, we had planned a viewing the eve of the funeral itself, my husband brought my daughter at the last possible moment, I arrived early to set up and get my sister ready to receive mourners. I could see my daughter as she was walking in, I could tell that she was very excited. Yes excited, the kind of excitement you get when you are going to a birthday party. This was confirmation that my concerns were valid, as I had anticipated this prior to the event. She has actually attended 5 funerals in the time she has been with us, this was her 6th. She was at a level 10 on the nervous or anxiety scale. I knew that what was happening inside her was so overwhelming she was not going to be able to make good choices. Now, what that might look like for her would be: she would talk fast and nonstop to strangers she did not know, she would pretend to be 40 instead of 12, she would run instead of walk, she would laugh uncontrollably when she shouldn’t, she would not wait her turn, she would take charge and boss people around, she would be extremely rude and defiant toward me, she would put herself in danger with strangers, she would lie and tell people that we are abusing her. All of those behaviors were possible and most could happen in a 10 min period of time…lol…But, what is more important to know is that if she is acting out in these ways it’s because she does not feel safe. She is insecure but mostly terrified. She does not know how to behave and she is not capable of regulating her emotions and controlling her actions. Because of all of these things I asked my friend to sit with her in one spot the entire evening, (21/2 hours) a friend I can trust who knows where she is emotionally. My daughter didn’t like this, we discussed that she didn’t, but she also recognized that she would be observing others and what appropriate behavior would be at a funeral, this would be like training for her, she was going to be learning and practicing. She of coarse was still not happy, but throwing a fit in this public setting would prove to be too embarrassing for her. So she sat.
When most of the people had said their goodbyes, I asked her if she would like to see my sister, “YES!” she exclaimed with entirely too much excitement…like she would be seeing a bride, not her dead aunt. When we were walking to the location, I noticed, she had to consciously correct her pace, as she was trying to run but stopped herself as well as she kept adjusting the expression on her face, she wanted to smile because she was happy but knew she shouldn’t feel happy and should look sad..When we entered the room, instantaneously she began to wail, yes ‘wail’. It was unbelievable, I was completely stunned at her reaction and she had not even approached the casket yet…I have never heard her ‘wail’ this dramatically not in 3 three years. I almost laughed but thought better of it. Once she was seeing my sister another mourner pulled my attention away…when I looked back my daughter was in a full embrace with a girl whom I know to be about 15 years old. My daughter has never met her. She was sobbing in the girl’s arms. The girl said to me ‘she was just sooo upset I felt like she needed me to hold her’. “Really?” It was bazaaro land at it’s finest. What the young girl could not see that I clearly could, was that my daughter was snuggled into her arms sobbing, with a huge smile on her face. I later learned that this 15 year old girl gave my 12yo daughter her phone number…”she said to call her, because she knows how I feel and she can help me” WOW! Really? Ha ha…She knows how you feel? She knows that you don’t really feel sad that your aunt died, you understand that everyone else is sad but you just don’t feel sad? She knows that? Of course I didn’t say anything like that, but, again it just confirms that people do not understand the level of performance nor the lack of appropriate emotion our children are experiencing. Later when I did talk to her about her behavior..”why all the tears for someone you don’t feel sad about?” “Because, I just thought that everyone else was acting all sad and crying so much that that is how I should be acting too” Of course that’s what she thought. That makes perfect sense. She has no remorse for the loss of my sister. None. And she shouldn’t in my opinion. She barely knew her and had no relationship with her she definitely didn’t know her well enough to be ‘wailing’ at her funeral. And that is completely okay. The pretend emotional performance…not so much.
The next day at the funeral, I brought her to the front row and sat her down asking her to save our seats for us. Then after we mingled waiting for everyone to get there my husband and I retrieved her from the front row and brought her into the room where we had the family prayer. Immediately following the service we had a luncheon served. I made my way through the crowd with my daughter in hand and brought to the luncheon and sat her down and asked her to save the table for us. We then visited with our friends and relatives and welcomed them to the eating area…we sat with her and ate..we then asked her to sit patiently and wait while we thanked everyone for coming…we invited her to have one of each desserts while she waited..there were three. Some of her cousins came and visited with her but mostly she sat alone. The entire time in the luncheon was about 1hour. During which time I observed my niece’s future stepmother visiting with her. Afterward she said to me “your daughter is so beautiful, so smart and so very ‘Charming’ “ . It’s almost funny, except it isn’t. After asking my daughter about it she confesses “I wanted to keep her there as long as possible because I thought if I did then L (my niece) might come and sit with me” I know it all sounds so innocent. Except it isn’t..it’s calculated, it’s what they do, they use their charm to get whomever, to do whatever, they want so they can get what they want out of them.
All this to lead to my brother and my sister’s ex-husband to come to the conclusion that I am abusing my daughter and how I treated her at the funeral was horrific. They thought she was being punished for doing something wrong…when they asked my mother she confirmed that was the case. Except, it wasn’t. She absolutely had done nothing wrong and had not earned a consequence of any kind. Instead our intention was to help her regulate her emotions, to calm her anxiety, to give her the opportunity to practice being at the funeral, without having to perform or be involved. She has never been in this type of setting without me by her side, without me being able to help her stay at a level 5 instead of a level 10. They absolutely have no clue about how she is feeling and what she is experiencing and what she feels she must do in order to ‘be normal, be accepted or be liked’. At this level she would be willing to do ANYTHING for any of those desires to become true..and she would have been working overtime to make sure she received attention because that would definitely mean she was normal, accepted and liked.
After the funeral in the weeks following my daughter was out of control. Her behaviors included having an attitude of entitlement, stealing money as well as random ‘stuff’, sneaking out in the night and walking 3 miles to a local convenience store and home again, being snotty, not doing anything that was asked of her, in the way she was asked to do it. No schoolwork…tantruming, destroying my property and hers, and cutting (long story there). When the sudden out of control behaviors seemed to be progressing and more and more aggressive, we discussed in therapy what was happening. Her response… “I know that my mom is suffering, I can tell because she is sad and I have heard her crying, and I see it as a chance to get her, I want to make her suffer more, so I am doing everything I can to make her pay” the therapist: “what do you need to make your mom pay for?” “For making my life miserable, I am making hers miserable, then everyone will be on my side no one will ever believe anything she says”.
Sadly she has made me miserable and she has made getting up in the morning very very hard for me. Lucky for me I can disguise it as grief, and pretend I don't even know that she is purposely trying to destroy me. :o)