"A child born to another woman calls me mum. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me." ~ J. Landers. As Mothers' day fast approaches in Australia, we wanted to introduce you to some beautiful women, without whom, our work at Beyond the Orphanage, would be impossible. Our...Read now
Continuous therapy from childhood trauma is vital for each and every child we welcome into the Beyond the Orphanage programs. We are lucky to have Dr Bobbie to provide this therapy and push the go button on a training program to upskill and equip our on-the-ground staff. Her story below will take you on an emotional journey, and will bring a deeper understanding of the children of BTO.
We gathered up in a circle, dimly lit on a super chilly morning. We lit lamps in small gold bowls. I shared with them that on the day they were born, life was happy to greet them. I shared that they were each special—each a bowl of light—that shined so bright with their spirit. I asked them to remember what they knew about their birth and about their first family. Tears flowed as they drew pictures of mothers, they rarely referenced or never knew. Their small voices shook as they shared their memories, or imagined memories, of being born into a world that wanted them.
Then staring at their bowls, we added rocks, symbolizing those painful memories, that seemed to weigh down their soul and dim their once shining light. They drew accidents and disease that took their parents’ lives. They drew separation. They drew being taken or forced into labor…at an age most of us were learning our alphabet. They drew feeling sad and alone. And, yes, they drew the earthquake. As if life hadn’t been hard enough already, the very foundation of the earth shook killing thousands of people, forcing them to evacuate and find new shelter.
These kids are survivors. In every amazing, deep meaning of the world. They survived love. To love a birth parent and lose them can kill the soul of a surviving child. But these kids have survived. As one child told me years ago, “Once you lose your first parents, you’re never the same.” Each child, face lit by their small golden bowl, seemed changed by being given permission to remember their first parents. It’s the open secret they all share, yet hide it in their hearts because it hurts, because they are thankful for their current caregivers or because they don’t want to betray the gratitude of those who care for them now.
Grief for a surviving child is omnipresent and hidden at the same time. The kids stepped into their memories of beauty and love, remembering brief precious time with a birth parent, no matter how poor, no matter how adverse the situation was, they tend to remember a strong love before tragedy takes over their memories.
Feeling is hard. Most of us spend immense energy to avoid feeling in our toughest memories. Mental health research on this subject is profound. When we can experience our emotions and label it, our brains switch from a traumatic response to a reflective response, then allowing us to make sense of our experience and choose safe, wise paths. When we can add narrative history to our painful memories, our brains can story it and place in long-term memory instead of having it play on an endless neurological loop of nightmares and flashbacks. It’s illuminating, like the flame dancing in a butter lamp, light reveals the truth of a situation. In almost all cultures light is a symbol of comfort and hope.
Light is also a warm gathering place, like a campfire on a cold night. With this awareness, we gathered and witnessed each other around light and fire. There is a miraculous transformation that occurs when a human can see and be seen authentically, deeply with love by another. This gives a safe womb for growth. These kids, with the deep support their caregivers (that is made possible from sponsors around the world), have the special space they need to learn, grow and thrive through the challenges they have known.
To learn more about Sano Paila, and the work BTO does there, click here.