*For Sue, and all the mamas who have lost a child through failed adoption.
She is a dark-haired little girl with chocolate eyes and a sweet smile.
She is the little girl my friend held in her mind when she thought about what her family would look like, one day. She saw two sandy-haired boys and a little girl with those deep, brown pools of chocolate eyes.
The blond-headed boys came along the natural way, but God never gave her a girl. Time passed the way time does, and the family of four settled into the years. Still, this mama-heart felt that her family was not complete, not yet.
Then God made a way. Out of nowhere, like snow on a sky-blue day, a little girl came into their lives. She had never had a home with a mother and a father. She had never had a place where she was safe and loved, where people hugged instead of hit.
The best part of all was that this little girl already had a place in their lives! They knew her, and she knew them. When she came to their home, it was like the missing piece of the puzzle had been found.
With joyful expectation, we rallied around this family, praying for God to work through the adoption process. It was easy to pray when it seemed so obvious what God was going to do. It was the only thing God could do, because I’d already figured out that it was the very best way He could redeem this situation.
Didn’t it all make sense?
But just yesterday, I opened my computer and saw the message: the adoption failed.
I stared at my screen in disbelief. We all knew something like this could happen, but none of us expected it. We expected God to overcome the obstacles and make the paths straight because that is what God does.
He just didn’t do it this time, at least, not in a way that my eyes can see.
All I could think about was my friend, sitting in her home just a few streets away, grieving the loss of the little girl she had already began to love like a daughter.
I did not know what to say. How do you comfort someone who has lost a child through a failed adoption? No one talks about it like a loss. It’s just an unfortunate set of circumstances that didn’t work out like you’d hoped.
But it is a loss, and it stings like death. A woman like that can’t keep her heart from loving a child that might be hers, even if that child is born through a different body. She can’t help but make a place in her heart, and to grow in love in the waiting the way a woman grows in love for a baby growing in her womb.
The truth of it is, my friend had already started to become that little girl’s mother. That part of the adoption had not failed.
What do you say to a mother like that? What do you say to the woman who has cuddled the child she thinks will be hers, who has begun to dream dreams for that daughter and has spent secret hours shopping for bedroom furniture in white and pink? What do you say to the woman who has prayed for that child and held her breath, hardly daring to breathe in case it does not happen, and who now, in the absence of a child to hold, finds herself grieving alone because the rest of us just don’t get it?
It’s hard to know what to say. “How are you doing?” I blurted out yesterday when I called, even though I knew perfectly well how she was doing and I knew better than to ask something so trite. But we say things just to fill the void because we want to help, and we find that we can’t.
“I’m sorry it didn’t work out.”
“You can always try again.”
“Maybe God is opening your home for another child.”
They hurt, those words, even the parts that are true, even the parts that are spoken out of genuine love and concern, because they don’t recognize that this child had already started to become her child, and this child has been lost.
And there is a mama who is crushed because of it.
I do not know, but I imagine that she tries hard to convince herself that it will be okay, that this little girl will be safe and cared for wherever she goes. But how can she be any more wanted? How can she be any more loved? How can this be God’s best for this child?
The hardest part of grief is always the questions it brings. They are the questions none of us can answer and most of us have trouble asking because they seem so devoid of faith. I think part of faith is trusting that God can love us even when we’re hurting and can’t find the right words, or even when we tell Him we don’t understand His ways.
He already knows it.
It seems silly to try to put a band-aid on the pain with words, whether they’re words to God or words to one another. Sometimes, there is nothing to say.
There is only grieving together.