Prayers for my reactive attachment disorder children

I face this story every day, every moment of every day:

Once upon a time there were two teens. They both came from stories of neglect and abuse. Someone had hurt them by not giving them safety. Others by transgressing the most basic law of love–don’t hurt a child.

They hooked up. Had kids. Wandered into ways to dull the pain and longing in their hearts.

The children were so young but they still remember hunger, watching their parents leave them locked alone with a single cupcake to share among them all.

Longing. We all long for something–love, truth, justice. But what if that longing is never heard? A child cries but no one holds him? A little girl lives with a gnawing ache for food.

What happens when the search for love and safety comes up empty before they are one or two or three?

I watch her face in each picture. She never smiles. I want to say to her mother–pick her up, snuggle with her, talk baby talk to her and feed her. That is why you get wic, so she can be full.

Break the cycle, girl, for God’s sake, break the cycle.

What is it like to be raised by wolves?

Better than this. Wolves are social animals, willing to hunt for their young.

I search for answers, but there are few that satisfy. I cringe at memory–my own exasperation, impatience, and exhaustion. So many things I would do better.

I say that ruefully knowing that the maxim I had at 27 was true and mattered–regardless of the raggedy look of things. You must hold on. They need years of you just being there.

I am here. I won’t ever leave you.

He asks if we can meet. I say yes, but only me. The others are not ready.

Ready is a placeholder for heartbroken. Reactive attachment disorder can seep into the lives of everything it meets. It takes no prisoners.

I pray. I pray all the time. I pray they do not hurt or kill or disfigure. I pray for safety. I cast about for anyone or anything I could enlist to save them…from themselves. The longing for mother’s love turns to drugs, alcohol and reckless touch. Wires in a machine all shorted or circuited wrong.

Nothing will work but love, and by love I mean compassion. And by compassion I mean Jesus. I do the only thing that makes sense when the disease at the heart of your child is terminal–I cling to the feet of God and say, Save these babies, resurrecting God.

Explaining Evil?

He picks up a Shutterfly book his father made several years ago…our family before the flood.

There are pictures of flowers taped over my adopted son’s face. One of his victims has placed them over his face because her grief is still deep, and the righteous anger with it.

To her younger brother this is a strange thing. Who is this teenage boy? Why is his face covered?

I explain it to him. I explain the story using the simplest words I can find–the words of a fairy tale, a bedtime story. Only no one wants to tell the story of why the little girl has covered her “brother” in flowers any more than we want to face the hurt that happens when someone you trust and love betrays you and all you hold dear.

Hold dear…
Hm, little girl in the picture, I will always hold you, dear.

It is my job, like breathing.


There is a point in the cycle of loss when people come up for air. The tragedy at the heart of the universe is still there but there is the small hope that words may matter, when so much has been lost.

I tell one child to look up reactive attachment disorder and describe to the other the symptoms of borderline personality disorder.

I am leery of words. How do you describe the damage to a baby or a child of rootlessness and hunger and a world of cold loneliness punctuated by chaos and violence?

I hate what he did to the point of wishing with all my heart that I could unspool his childhood to the day he was born and undo the damage, hold and feed the wee baby to prevent the hours and days and years of pain he will inflict on others.

He has inflicted on us.

Only God can breathe life into the dead.