“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
This beatitude is straightforward enough. I can fully identify with what it means to mourn the loss of someone or something in life. The comfort on the consequent of Jesus’s statement is just the right kind of promise for those who have experienced loss. It’s what we want for those who we love who experience loss. Comfort.
But this beatitude has taken on a new meaning for me after our third adoption. We have brought into our family a trio who began their experience with us mourning. Each has expressed it differently. Edric cried hard, then shut down completely into sleep for several days. Paxton didn’t really seem to understand at first, but expressed his mourning at night by resisting sleep and through regular night-terrors. Coppelia refused food, refused to do anything at all in fact except ride on Leslie’s back, and mostly screamed and growled at everyone if she wasn’t riding or sleeping.
The thing that is really hard for me as a parent is that I want to comfort my kids when they’re going through these stages. With Leighton and Caedmon, growing up from birth, Leslie and I were their primary source of comfort. In fact, in order to get them to sleep through the night, I remember we tried to teach them to find comfort in a stuffed animal or in a blanket. Leighton had “Puppy-Dog” and Caedmon had “Lambie.” They still ran to us when they skinned their knees or got scared or hurt in some way, but eventually they couldn’t go to bed without their stuffed animals at their sides.
Edric, Paxton, and Coppélia, on the other hand, already came home with these comforts. For Edric, it was his blankie with a hood in which he could completely wrap himself. Paxton has his “i-bool” which is what he called his blanket in Korea. It’s the size of a twin bed-sheet, but he likes to hold the corner of it close to his face. Coppélia uses a pacifier strapped to her shirt for comfort.
The hard thing about the first few months is that as they go through those difficult mourning periods, they crave those objects for comfort, and there’s very little I can do other than retrieve them at the right time. All my efforts to hold them, rock them, sing to them, whatever, earn me a few good toddler-sized kicks and shoves. I’m just in the way of the comfort-device, or, at best, bringer of the comfort-device.
After they get their blankets and pacifiers, Leslie and I hold them anyway and say comforting things to them, but even Edric had to have a new blanket sewn onto his old one that was falling apart into shambles. He still takes it to bed with him and needs it to go to sleep, and when he gets very upset on a bad day, he will go and find his blanket for comfort.
My point is that, as a parent, when I reflect on Jesus’s beatitude for those who mourn, I hear him talking to me about my children. “Blessed are these who mourn, for I shall comfort them.” In other words, the pressure is off. I’m not a failure just because my children see me as being in the way of the comfort-device, rather than the comforter. Nor do I have to fully comprehend the depth of their loss in order to properly be their parent. I simply can’t, in the end. I can only listen.
Today, I wonder whether Edric has an ‘off-switch’ at all. He’s moving and going all the time. Paxton is sleeping mostly through the night after two months with us (though he still has the occasional night-terror), and Coppélia seems much more happy and content, smiling frequently and eating to her stomach’s content – exactly as any two year old should.
Yet, I also know that they have experienced one of the most difficult losses one can experience at an extremely young age – the loss of a birth-parent. That loss will be with them their entire lives, though it may manifest itself in different ways, for better or worse. I’ll try my best as a parent, but I know I’m going to fail to listen every now and then. I am merely the first-aid to the great wound inside. The real Healer is the one who can provide the kind of comfort they need that will reach into the depth of their souls. The book of Proverbs says that “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Prov. 14:10). In that place, I believe, only God can speak, and his promise, through the beatitude of Jesus, is comfort.