While she was still in Korea, our daughter went to a weekly playgroup with other kids like her, who were in the process of being adopted. When we came to bring her home, the adoption agency that had become part of her regular community gave us a little photo book with a cheerful yellow cover and English words and phrases spread throughout it like, “I love you” and “happy day.” It’s full of pictures of her at playgroup with friends, enjoying Korean snacks and Korean toys. It’s a glimpse of her in her culture of birth before everything changed.
She loves to look at this book. Every so often, she will pull it off of the bookcase on the low shelf spot it keeps and will pore over every page of it on repeat. She is young and cannot fully comprehend or explain the loss she’s experienced, but it’s clear that she still feels it, no matter how happy, brave, and adjusted she’s become since. Early on, I was a little afraid to show her this book and other things that would remind her of life before us. For a few weeks, I put it on a high shelf behind other big books and looked at it when I was alone, thinking about what we would say when she looked through it and wondering what she would remember of it.
Eventually, we put the book out where she could reach it and show interest on her terms. We look at the book and other pictures we have now and speak simply but honestly. We don’t do this perfectly. Sometimes I feel fear sneaking up on me and a strong desire to make sure she is happy and doesn’t have to face anything that reminds her of what she has lost. I have to push back against this. Again and again, we see how imperative it is that we welcome her whole story. A story is incomplete without all the pages. In adoption and beyond, we must learn to welcome our whole stories, or we risk missing out on growing in grace and knowing how deeply we are loved.
When she looks at the book, she says things like, “I want to go there. Can we go Korea?” She then lists each of our names and says she wants us all to be there. She naturally wants to make connections between the two worlds she has known in her short life while knowing that we aren’t going anywhere.
We tell her we want to go back there and yes, that we want to go back there together. Every chance we have, we try, however imperfectly, to tell her that what she grieves is worthy of the grief she feels, whenever and however she feels it.
In western Christian culture, we’ve been conditioned to hide sadness, cover up weakness, and put a strong and cheerful face forward. We hide our grief for fear that others will mistake it for ingratitude. We bury our lament before it’s finished because we’ve been told there’s an open window somewhere that we should be focusing on instead. And yet, when I look at Scripture, I see welcomed space for these things. There are no time limits or cut-off dates placed over them. Jeremiah does this beautifully in Lamentations 3. While the chapter ends with hope, there’s nothing of platitude in his writing. In Lamentations 3:19-24 (MSG), he writes:
I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all — oh, how well I remember —
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.
His sadness is spiritual; he meets with God and affirms the place of his hope in the very depth of it. The most beautiful art and poetry courageously rise from places of ash and loss, brokenness and grief.
I am learning from my daughter. It’s impacting the way my husband and I parent all of our kids and the way we welcome our own stories with wholeness. I watch my daughter’s small hands working together, one holding her playgroup picture book steady while the other turns pages and urges her to remember who she was and who she is. I am learning in fresh ways that grief and joy can co-exist and work together. Like two hands from the same body, they work together to lead us to our one and only hope throughout every page in our story.The most beautiful art and poetry courageously rise from places of ash and loss, brokenness and grief. -@tashajunb: Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Tasha, thank you for these encouraging words. I have always loved the “new every morning” verses in Lamentations and sing that song so often. Somehow I had missed the verses that precede–about not forgetting the trouble, lostness, taste of ashes.
This last year, I lost my little brother. He suffered a hard death, after a hard life . It was doubly heartbreaking , as his wife passed just 7 weeks before him after struggling with cancer for about 5 years. He was her constant caregiver. So they were both gone so suddenly. The grief still comes in waves at times, and it is hard to admit to family and friends, because I think I should be “over it” more than I am after ten months. But the pain of what we walked through with him, the ache of what we will no longer have with him, is never far away. That’s okay. It is a part of our story, and I do not have to apologize for my hearts ache, but just rest in the knowledge and comfort that Father God is here, He knows, He holds me, and one day it will all make sense.
Your story is beautiful and it helped me this morning. Thank you, Sister. Blessings to you and your precious family.
Beth Williams says
Sweet sister so sorry for the losses you endured last year. It is alright to grieve long after the loss is over. Especially unexpected ones. Go ahead & cry when you feel it. Jesus cried over Lazarus. I pray God will comfort & bring peace to your soul. May you feel His loving arms around you give you hugs.
Nancy, Thank you so much for sharing your heart here with us. I am very sorry for the immense loss you have experienced. I can only imagine how that loss would stay with you and change you forever. I pray that God would provide safe places and people for you to be free to feel, no matter how and when the grief shows up. I am so glad that we’ve connected here today, Nancy. I will say a prayer for you now. Sending a hug.
Debbie Lewis says
There is much to be said about who we are from the trials we go through. Having lost my mother at 22months of age and having a father who was neither Christian nor controlled and abused myself and my brother (who has gone home to be with our mom) I understand grief on a level I could not even comprehend and may never be able to express. I used to say that people that thanked God for their trials were being fake but as life would have it, I am 54 and very grateful for all I have endured. Diagnosed with PTSD in 2012 I have come to the realization that although my childhood was overtaken by BOMBS I have learned through this how I can be of service in God’s kingdom and that is worth it, even if it doesn’t compare to the great sacrifice of my Lord and Savior.
Thank you for sharing a bit of your own story here, Debbie. I am so sorry for the trials and losses you have experienced. Your grateful heart and desire to serve in spite of the darker parts of you story, and perhaps because of God’s incredible redemptive work right in the midst of them is inspiring.
Michele Morin says
OH, you are giving a precious gift to your daughter, both in honoring her earliest days and in acknowledging that there is some pain in this life that we must accept and sit with and offer up to God. Your “two hands from the same body” is a beautiful image of how grief and joy can co-exist in the same heart. I really believe they do help each other as they work together to give us a fuller view of the world.
Blessings to you!
Oh, blessings to you as well, Michele! I really do believe that I am the one that has been given a gift. I learn so much from all of our kids, and I continually see my tendency to fear pain and want to run from it as I parent them…but yes, there is a better way and we all need more of it. Grateful for you.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I know my mother meant well, that when I was sad, she would say, “Don’t think about that (whatever was making me sad), instead think about this (something more happy). I know she meant well and was trying to alleviate my hurt, but sometimes we need to sit with the hurt, the grief, the sorrow, and give it a voice. I know I need to pour it out to God and allow Him to comfort me in it. “I will not leave your comfortless; I will come to you.” (John 14:18). I now tell people that there are no points for stoicism. There is a time for everything, including grieving and Amen to the fact that joy and suffering can coexist together. It doesn’t have to be an either or. You have been handling your daughter’s transition in a remarkable way!!
Bev, I have done the same sort of thing as you mother did, and to be honest, it’s still what I naturally want to go to, in an attempt to relieve my kids from their pain. It can be so scary to watch them hurt. I am slowly learning to do differently and it’s not easy but it’s better, not only for them, but for me. Knowing God as comforter in every sadness is good for our souls, and allowing our kids and friends and those we love to have space to know Him that way is a gift we can all give. Thank you so much for sharing and being here as a faithful encouragement to this whole community.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
I think it’s a natural instinct to want to prevent our children’s hearts from hurting, but the truth is they are going to hurt in this lifetime. I’ve caught myself doing the same thing to my kids and my children (when older) asked, “Can’t you just validate my feelings?” By no means was I a pro, but I did try to validate their feelings first and then speak truth into them if they were having trouble distinguishing it at the moment. Sounds like you are an awesome mom!
What wisdom you have to share, Bev!
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Tasha, Thank you for this encouraging post today. Seeing your words “grief and joy can co-exist”,makes an imprint on my heart. This Tuesday will be 4 years that my mom has been in heaven. It’s still a very tough month for me,as well. We have lost 2 other loved ones, this same month(one just yesterday). The week leading up to my mother’s anniversary,my subconscious mind replays images of my heart wrenching last week with her . I didn’t think joy could be felt in my grief. But when I speak with students about my mother’s story about Hiroshima, is like I’m visiting with her again. My final edits for my book were due a few months after she passed away.Although I was frantic to meet the deadline, it was when I realized that after witnessing and losing so much to the atomic bomb,at the young age of 12, she eventually found joy and beauty again. She had clung to hope and her faith. She showed that strength again in her last weeks. As my RSD progresses, I’m clinging to that same hope and pushing through my pain. Your words remind me of that.The strength and faith you have as a mother to your sweet daughter,remind me of what my mom wanted for me, and later my daughter. Thank you.Wishing you many blessings in this new year ❤
Kathleen, I am so grateful for the glimpses of your story that I’ve now had through comments here and connecting over at IG. I would love to read your book and I can only imagine how impacting your story weaved into your mother’s story must be. I am so sorry for your loss of her, especially as you remember it all this month especially. I am also so very sorry for the other recent losses you’ve experienced and for the ongoing pain of RSD. You are a shining light to many in this community and I am sure, your own physical community in the midst of that pain and I know that while feeling it all fully, you give hope to many. Thank you so much for doing that – it is more powerful than you know!
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Thank you so very much for your kind,and encouraging words. <3
Kathleen Burkinshaw says
Tasha,Thank you for this encouraging post today. Seeing your words “grief and joy can co-exist”,makes an imprint on my heart. This Tuesday will be 4 years that my mom has been in heaven. It’s still a very tough month for me. We have lost 2 other loved ones, this same month(one just yesterday). The week leading up to my mother’s anniversary,my subconscious mind replays images of my heart wrenching last week with her . I didn’t think joy could be felt in my grief. But being able to discuss my mother’s story about Hiroshima and her life afterwards, is like I’m visiting with her again. As fate would have it, my final edits for my book were due a few months after she passed away. Even though I was frantic to meet my deadline,it was actually a blessing. I realized that after witnessing and losing so much to the atomic bomb,at the young age of 12, she eventually found joy and beauty again- literally from the ashes.She had clung to hope and her faith. She showed that strength again in her last weeks. As my RSD progresses, I’m clinging to that hope and strength to push through my pain. Your words remind me of that.The strength and faith you have as a mother to your sweet daughter,remind me of what my mom wanted for me, and later my daughter. Wishing you many blessings in 2019 ❤
Shannon Randall says
Thank you. I needed to read that this morning. The past two years have been very difficult. No longer can I pop out of bed, run down the stairs, or drive to the store. I get around, but slowly and deliberately. 7 botched hip surgeries and I can’t bend over without pain, or play with my children on the floor. I am grateful I can walk at all, but this was not my plan. Perhaps I need to grieve this loss. I usually just toss off people’s inquiries about my mobility. Things are NOT ok or fine or improving. There is no hope lurking around the corner. If I acknowledge this, maybe I can come to terms with what I can realistically participate in my life.
Shannon, I am so glad you are here, and I am also so very sorry for the physical pain you are experiencing right now. It sounds very intense and all-encompassing. I will pray for safe places and people to share your pain with, and for the courage to speak openly and honestly about where you are at and what your needs are. Thank you for sharing openly and honestly here. I am hoping for hope to surprise you, even in the midst of your pain.
Thank you so much, Rebecca!
Beth Williams says
This world says “get over it”. “Be strong, don’t cry, don’t show your vulnerability.” Christians are good at that. Which is sad in a way. They aren’t allowing others to share in their grief. Galatians 6:2 states “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” We were made for community. To help each other & be there when sadness & sorrow come. Emily P. Freeman in her book “Grace for the Good Girl” talks about taking off the masks of perfection we wear. I wish more Christians would do just that. When talking with others I want honest answers. When I ask how you are doing I want truth & honesty. Life down here isn’t easy & we will all face trials. Let others encourage you in your sorrows & grief. There is good & bad to just about everything. Thank you for showing your daughter that grief & joy can coexist.
I love what you’ve shared here, Beth. I agree. Let’s keep taking those masks off so others know they can remove theirs too. I am glad you are here!
Jessica C says
Hello there Ms. Tasha,
This was such a beautiful post. It resonated with me greatly as I am adopted from Korea but do not have any personal photo albums to document my time there. Your daughter is very blessed to have you and your family in her life.
Jessica, Thank you so much. I know the few we have mean so much to our daughter even at her young age. I am so sorry you don’t have photos and I am sorry for the losses you have experienced and the ways I am sure they’ve stayed with you over time. I wish I could sit with you and hear your story. Our family is incredibly blessed to have our littlest. We are, without a doubt, the lucky ones, and I am learning so much from her.
Lauren Griesmeyer says
Tasha, I wish you the very best with your daughter! You are so wise to embrace the pain and sadness as well as the joy! We are needing both to make our story complete! God is always faithful to meet us in our pain too! As well as feel our joy! It makes us whole to embrace both aspects! God Bless you and your family……I enjoyed reading your post! love in Christ, Lauren
Thank you, Lauren! I am learning and I am so grateful that God is willing to teach us in love like He does! Thank you for being here.
Thank-you for sharing your heartwarming story. You are a blessing in your daughter’s life. While it might be sad for her in one way, you have gifted her with the love, and joy of a second chance. Which reminds me of when my daughter was young, the sadness, and heartache when she was in the hospital close to death, and how I lifted it to God, all the while clinging to Hope. Then joy that followed after she received the gift of a second chance. That was a time I will not forget, that touched me beyond words……..
Love, Hope, and blessings to you all,
Thanks, Penny. We are for sure the blessed ones because of the gift of our daughter. Her story is changing us in good ways and we feel like we’ve been given a new set of eyes to see the world through!
Thank you for sharing the story of your daughter – what good news I’m sure that was and still is.
Diane Thiel says
This s is beautiful. Thank you your daughter family and God for your story. Thank you for reminding me that through It all God is gracious. Blessings to you all
Thank you so much, Diane!
Patricia Raybon says
What a brave and beautiful story. Thanks so much, dear Tasha, for giving your daughter such a powerful gift — permission to hold onto her original story as she writes the pages of her future life. What courageous and loving parenting. Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring! Warmest thanks, Patricia
Oh, thank you Patricia. I am still learning how to do this well, but grateful to be learning.
Thank you Tasha for sharing yours and your daughter’s story. I too an am adoptive mom of my beautiful now 15 year old daughter from China. Reading your post reminds me of how important it is to cherish and celebrate each and every part of your daughter’s yesterday and today. I get caught up in the day to day of parenting 2 teen girls but your post brought it home for me today – thanks and God Bless you and your family
Margarita, I get caught up in the day-to-day right now, so I understand! But I am grateful for the reminders I receive as well. How wonderful to have 2 beautiful daughters. Thank you so much for your words, here and letting me know how it impacted you. Glad to be in this journey together.
Nancy Ruegg says
Indeed, our one and only Hope CAN intertwine joy with grief in incredible ways. Thank you for this reminder through the poignant story of your adopted daughter. Praying God’s blessings over you and your precious family! How He must smile to see your passion for bringing your daughter to wholeness, as she learns to embrace her Korean background and American home.
Very true Tasha… We are so fearful of negative thoughts, things, memories that we feel will set us back, pushing this aside and hoping to fill it up with good thoughts. While this is good at times, we need to allow our heart to heal and see how far we had come. Struggles are there to help us to become a better version of ourself. The need to see the changes it is making in our heart. Let’s remember to look for hope in everything even in the things we rather not dwell on. Hope is the very thing that will get us through deep water. Thank you Tasha for sharing this..
Rachel Kang says
Yes and amen to all of this. Lamentations 3 saved my life…and still spurs me on to find Jesus in the collision of hope and hurting pain. I love your writing and the fact that your sweet girl is from Korea. My husband is Korean, son half-Korean, and I am every thing but Korean. So thank you for representing her, and Korea, and art, and pain, and Jesus—and how he is in the midst of ALL of it.
Love every word here <33
Rachel, I am glad we’ve connected and I love how you said that Lamentations 3 “has spurred you on to find Jesus in the collision of hope and hurting pain.” Amen, sister. I think your family is just beautiful and I have enjoyed your writing as well. Also, I am half Korean like your son. 🙂
Becky Keife says
“We hide our grief for fear that others will mistake it for ingratitude.” Yes, this resonates with me. Thank you for not only creating space for all the pages in your daughter’s story but inviting us into the freedom and wholeness of doing the same. I think this ushers in a time of communion with Jesus we cannot experience through only the happy, easy pages. I’m grateful for you. xx
Becky, I am glad that line resonated with you. Thanks for letting me know. Grateful for you as well.
Marinalva Sickler says
So pretty, Tasha. Thank you