When kids come to The Children’s Home it is because they were taken out of their own home…for one reason or another. They have loss and deep sadness. And they usually embody fear. These kids have so much to mourn, yet I often see them mourning nothing. They are numbed to the losses in their life rather than awakened to them. There is no wailing or ashes or sackcloth. There is no joy in the morning. They don’t feel blessed. They feel displaced. And angry.
I hear their stories, I read their case files, and my heart shatters into thousands of crystal shards. With each and every kid. With each and every story. With every callused heart and angry voice, and with each story of sinking loss. They seem to come into our home in a state past mourning. Their losses and sadnesses run so deep, so wide, that they run out of room to run. And so it all just stops flowing. The sadness stops. The loss dissipates. And anger replaces every other emotion that once breathed life.
I am not mom. My home is not their home. They are sure to remind me of this often.
But it feels like my responsibility to mourn for them as they do not mourn for themselves.
When I ask them about home, I get one of two replies, the first being, “I don’t have a home.” (Spoken with a scoff and a tone of sarcasm that gets the point across.) The second is, “At home, I blah blah blah blah…” (cue an endless story spoken with pride). The second group of responses belongs most often to the kids who have no home to go back to, the kids who cling to a fairy tale of nonexistent characters in a land far, far away. And I mourn for them, because they won’t let me mourn with them.
Recently we talked of the holidays, and in the course of conversation I asked the kids what traditions were celebrated in their homes. One dejected boy just said, “I don’t have traditions. Every home I am in, we celebrate different traditions. So, whatever your traditions are, I guess those are mine.”
Oh, my heart mourned. I tried to cheer him up by encouraging him to share with us things that he loved and wanted to do…but I think by this point, he was lost. Lost in his sadness, and perhaps, somewhere deep inside of himself, mourning the loss of not having something as common and foundational as holiday traditions.
When I read about the funeral of Lazarus, and how Mary and Martha were accompanied by HIRED MOURNERS, I just can’t help but think that we have it all wrong. As a culture, we don’t really mourn very well. We are quick to pick up the pieces, quick to build walls, and are very slow to show any real amount of empathy. The kids who come to us have experienced enough loss to have earned themselves a lifetime of professional hired mourners, mourners who will follow them around. They deserve all the empathy that this world has to offer, and then some. But usually, the cards they are dealt read something like: “Buck it up solider, the world doesn’t revolve around you.”
During my college years, my good friends gently let me know that empathy was a very weak trait in my life. I have spent the past few years really trying to work on this. Trying to not be the person who fixes puzzles, but the person who can look at the work of a puzzle destroyed, and, well, just look at it. A person who can say something like, “Wow, that looks like a really hard and stressful puzzle. I am sorry that you were given this puzzle.” Sometimes people don’t want help putting the puzzle back together.
Sometimes, they just need someone to sit next to them and mourn the missing pieces.
The kids come into our home broken, and they usually leave in a similar state. These kids with ghosts of sadness and loss, ghosts that follow like a shadow, reminding of the past. And I know that the only way for them to truly mourn, to truly rid themselves of the ghosts and to find the missing puzzle pieces, is to fall into the arms of a gentle Savior who wants to bless them and bring them joy.
But I don’t know how to help them see this Man who really can wipe away tears.
About The Author
Heather Anne is Harmony’s only sister and an awesome aunt. She cares deeply about justice and seeks to live her life in a way that spreads the freedom of Christ. Heather and her husband Austin are houseparents for youth who have experienced abuse. She loves people, brunch and camping. 🙂
This post is part of Survivor Songs, a 31-Day series. A full list of posts is found here.