Writing from the lens of his experience in this series of posts, Greg Eubanks shares concepts from a trauma-informed model called Trust Based Relational Interventions (TBRI®)an approach he learned from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development. Here's the first post in his TBRI® series. For more posts in this series, visit Greg's blog, "A Million Mistakes."

Focused area of larger picture showing skyline, trees, and mountains

"Grand Canyon"

By Greg Eubanks, Adoptive Parent | WACAP CEO

Would it be ok for me to start in a very dark place? I know that it’s not the best way to grab a reader’s attention, but I did spend quite a few years in a world where all I knew was that my child was hurting. From my perspective, I knew that his hurt was really big, and it sometimes spilled over onto other family members. And, I eventually figured out that I wasn’t helping him. It was horrible. I wonder if someone reading this today feels the same.

In that moment, all I had was one very limited perspective. Have you ever tried to take a photo of a gorgeous vista? It never captures the beauty, because the camera only captures a small piece of the picture. That small piece was all I had of this particular situation during the life of my family, and it was, truly, one of the most awful parts of our story.

It’s about the Long Game.

Here’s the thing, though. That story wasn’t finished. It still isn’t. There is more to come, more to discover.

When I was in it, though, I couldn’t see. I couldn’t even begin to grasp that this wasn’t the end of my kid’s journey. The hurt was just so very big. It was so big, and I felt so very small in the face of it. I wondered how he felt. I wondered how we would make it another day, much less be able to imagine life years down the road.

Are you there? If so, here’s what I want you to know: I’ve been there, too. Many, many other parents have been in this place. They have walked through this valley with their children. You aren’t alone. Your child, your teenager, your kids – they need you. So sit a while, breathe in and out. You are among friends here.

No Answers

When we were in this dark place, we all felt pretty alone. Every one of us: child, parent, sibling. We felt broken. We felt misunderstood. We felt as though we couldn’t talk to anyone about how bad it was. What if they blamed us? What if they confirmed our worst fears? What if they couldn’t see past our grief-stricken frustration to see the love we had for our child that was hidden underneath? What if they turned against our kid? We felt we couldn’t risk it.

We turned to professionals for help, and they all let us down, wanting to know why we were so focused on adoption as the source of his pain. “It’s just a phase,” said one therapist (leading to our immediate departure from his office, forever). Others gave us an unending stream of one diagnosis after another. Those diagnoses led to multiple interventions. None worked.

Imagine, Guess, Empathize

In my family, as we sat with our shame and guilt and fear, we were overcome. Perhaps you are, too. If these are our feelings as parents, can you even begin to imagine the pain felt by our children? Of course you can. Every day, you’re imagining how your child must feel. We must imagine, because so often they don’t even begin to have the words to tell us.

When these waves overtake us, and we sit in the dark pit, what we need is someone who has been there before and who knows the way out. We need support, so here is one perspective. The more I reflect on the experience of our entire family, and I can look back with hindsight on our journey, I find myself landing time and time again on the trauma-informed concepts that have been slowly coming into focus for child-welfare professionals. There is a way out, for your child and for you.

So my plan is to walk through this information in the coming weeks. For now, though, sit with this idea: you are living out a narrative, you and your child. You are likely past the introduction and exposition and now find yourself in the meaty middle, where all the conflict rages.

Hear me, and know this: your story is not complete. There is more to come in the epic novel telling your child’s story. There are no promises on how the ending will play out, but I guarantee it’s going to be a page-turner.

About WACAP CEO Greg Eubanks: Greg joined WACAP as CEO in December 2014. Serving children and families has been the focus and passion of his 20-year career in nonprofit executive leadership and business administration. With an extensive background in international adoption and foster care, Greg is committed to bringing hope to the children living without a family … and helping them home.  

On his personal blog about adoption, fatherhood, and lessons learned, Greg shares about the relationship he and his youngest son have been working to recreate. With his son’s permission, he offers a few thoughts, with hindsight and from a trauma-informed perspective, on how important it is to build connections with our children and to be kind rather than right.

"Grand Canyon" originally posted September 20, 2018. Reprinted with permission.