In June of 2013, my wife and I went from being a couple with no kids to being parents, parents of a beautiful little boy from Thailand. In December of 2015, a little boy from South Korea joined our family. And in 2017, we completed our third international adoption, and a little girl from Thailand joined our family that February.
I share the months in particular because they are important. They bring an echo of trauma.
At the moment of their adoptions, each of our children lost their foster families and their countries. Everything they knew and that was familiar to them was gone in the span of a long flight to America. As toddlers, they could still feel that deeply. What they had to gain – the love of their forever family, new country and everything else – would come later.
Those months were traumatic ones for our children, and those feelings can resurface when the anniversaries roll around. The term I’ve heard used in adoption circles is “traumaversary,” and it came to my mind last week as August approached, and with it the anniversary of the horrific mass shooting at the Cielo Vista Walmart.
Traumaversaries are real. Some years, it’s been one child’s puzzling outbursts and general moodiness that has triggered my memory that that time has rolled around again. Their bodies remember the time even when I don’t.
Each of our children has experienced traumaversaries; some more strongly than others. But as the years have gone by, the echo has grown faint and they have mostly faded.
Simply knowing about traumaversaries – being able to prepare for them and knowing they are temporary – was helpful, and I hope it’s helpful for you as well, whatever the trauma.
I invited Kristi Daugherty to write a guest column for us, which you can find to the left of this one. Unlike me, she is an actual mental health professional as chief executive of Emergence Health Network and has some thoughts on the “gradual and deliberate process” of healing.
You can also learn more about the work of the El Paso United Family Resiliency Center in our cover story by staff writer Sara Sanchez.
Human connection can be a powerful tool for navigating trauma, but the coronavirus pandemic, and the closures and the physical distancing it has precipitated, have forced us farther apart. That presents the community with an additional challenge as it navigates this time.
Thankfully, there are a number of events aimed at pulling the community together. Inside The B Section, on page 11B, is a list of events commemorating the first anniversary of the mass shooting.
The powerful art on the cover of The B Section was created for us by El Paso graphic/sketch artist Michael Nuñez. Last year, he produced a piece that depicted El Paso mascots crying and was one of many El Paso artists who used their creations to help pull the community together and heal.
The new drawing commemorates the tragedy a year later and declares that we are still El Paso Strong!