Encourage One Another

As many of you know, our son, Peter, is mentally, behaviorally, emotionally and physically challenged. His dangerous and violent behaviors have reached new levels of intensity. To protect both him and his younger siblings, we have been working diligently toward finding a place for him to live outside of our home. A little over two weeks ago, we involved the legal system to (hopefully) accelerate the process of finding an appropriate placement for him and get him the help that our family seeks.

For me, this means that I have joined yet another relatively small peer group. Personally, I know only a few parents who have made this tough decision to place a child out of their home. I do have access online to other adoptive moms of large families who have experienced similar circumstances and offer much-needed support, thankfully.

However, our family would also benefit from additional support. Real-time support. Support from people we actually see on a daily basis. Support from people to whom this idea of placing a child out-of-home is foreign (or even repulsive).

So, this post is about how to support us during this difficult time. If you are interested in learning, please read on! If you are not…I’m not really sure why you’ve read this far.

First, offer SYMPATHY, not judgment. Sympathy is the ability to share another’s emotions, especially pity or compassion. Judgment involves criticism. We are supported by compassion, not criticism. We are supported when a person respects that this decision to make an out-of-home placement has been a long time coming, that we do not take it lightly and that is is a last resort to provide protection for our family.

Second, offer SYMPATHY, not advice. IF a person has parented a mentally ill, mentally retarded child with extremely violent behaviors, we will eagerly listen to that person’s advice. IF a person has not parented a mentally ill, mentally retarded child with extremely violent behaviors (and is not specially trained in working with children who are), that person’s advice is not helpful. We are supported when a person fully, honestly acknowledges that he or she does not know even a tiny, tiny fraction of the reality that has led to our seeking a placement for our son.

It seems to me that it is less difficult for people to accept that Peter’s legs are irreparably “broken” (due to his spina bifida) than it is to accept that his brain is irreparably “broken” (due to a plethora of influences). Other than the strange man at Wal-mart who one day suddenly came up to Peter and, after praying loudly over him near the check-out, declared that Peter would be able to walk, most people accept the fact that Peter will always use a wheelchair to get around. But when it comes to accepting the fact that no miraculous medication, behavior modification (including parenting techniques) or therapy is going to heal his brain, people seem to have a much more difficult time.

Perhaps this difficulty in accepting a “broken” brain stems from fear. It is scary to admit that there are real people out there in our daily world who have brains that are NOT typical and who are very capable of violent, irrational behaviors toward us. Surely, those people can be fixed! Surely there must be something that can be done. Something that hasn’t yet been tried.

This lack of acceptance of a permanently “broken” brain tends to lead to the giving of advice. Have you tried…? What about…? I’m going to be blunt here: it is extremely disrespectful of the lifetime of effort by us and the helping professionals who have been involved with us to presume that some casual or short-term interaction with our son will be more effective than our lifetime of daily, hard work with him. This is NOT supportive.

Believe me. We have tried EVERYTHING. This is not a parenting issue, this is not a “teen” issue, this is not a medication issue…I could go on and on.

Which reminds me. Because Peter has developed an amazing facade for public social interactions, people tend to attribute typical thought processes to him. This is a deception. If a person believes that Peter’s thought processes are typical for any situation, that person is deceived. And if that deceived person begins offering advice based on this deception, we are not supported.

Third, offer SYMPATHY. There is no Hallmark card for the grief that we are experiencing. There is no social convention. We are experiencing the death of the vision for our family. Who ever thinks that their family will be separated in this way? I certainly didn’t fourteen years ago when I held Peter every single day for weeks during his stay in the NICU after his birth. I certainly didn’t when I proudly watched him “walk” across the therapy room as a toddler in his first mobile stander. We are also experiencing the death of hope for healing and wholeness. We are experiencing the death of our vision for peace in our home. The behaviors that our other children have had to witness were beyond the scope of my imagination.

And since SYMPATHY involves the ability to share another’s emotions, especially pity or compassion, we welcome honest questions. When a person honestly acknowledges that he or she lacks knowledge of our situation, he or she is ready to accept accurate information. When we share that information and receive sympathy, not judgment or advice, we are supported. And we greatly appreciate that support.

1 Thessalonians 5:11
Therefore encourage one another and build up one another….

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25 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Amelia said,

    I couldn’t have said it better.

  2. 2

    Kylie said,

    Thank you for sharing this Lisa. We want to know your heart. ❤

  3. 3

    Lynda Grafe said,

    Praying and crying with you and Joey. The two of you were such tremendous supports back in college-I wish we were nearer one another now.
    Even so long ago when we made a difficult choice with one of our children, ya’ll were there, offering compassion. So thank you for that.
    Lynda

  4. 4

    Leah said,

    I am so sorry for everything that you guys are going through Mrs Hadja. It’s been said here at school that a person at his/her strongest when on their knees in prayer. I will be in prayer for you, Peter, and the rest of your dear, dear family. Prayer is far stronger than any “advice” or “sympathy” I could every even dream of giving. I love all of you very much.

  5. 5

    JennyD said,

    Awww, Mrs. H.!!! ::hugs:: Wish I could do something to help you guys! Love you all.

  6. 6

    Praying, Lisa. Praying, praying, praying.

  7. 7

    Rachel Fama said,

    My tears, sympathy, and prayers. How I was longing to hear something from you and I’m so thankful for what you have expressed/explained here! Be assured of my love and friendship.

  8. 8

    lexieforbes said,

    Thank you for sharing your deep grief in such a constructive way.

    You are SO right to identify the spirit of fear that causes so many well-meaning Christians to reject the obvious evidence that we live in a broken, fallen world where many things do NOT work out in the way we would like–on THIS side of eternity, at least. We can only cling to the certain hope we ARE offered in God’s word–not that we can avoid or overcome or be unaffected by the real pain of living in a broken world, but that we know that God WILL set everything right when He makes ALL things new.

    Thank you again for posting this insight. I especially thank you for insisting on telling the truth and demanding a response that is consistent with truth. That’s a brave and beautiful thing to do!

  9. 9

    Tracy Popp said,

    I don’t really know what I can say other than your family and Peter are in my prayers. I know that Charmayne and Jordan make sure to visit with and encourage Peter every chance they get. Thankfully, they only see Peter as a perfect gift from God and have not experienced what other issues there must be. May we all continue to love Peter and grieve the situation you are in. If there is anything that we can do besides pray for you, please let me know. I do not say that lightly I mean that with all my heart. Peter is very special to my kids.

    Tracy Popp

  10. 10

    Melinda said,

    Thank you for posting this; it is helpful for me to understand your situation and others dealing with similar difficult situations.

    I’m sad for you all, especially regarding the death of a vision for your family you mentioned–that sounds so hard! We’ll be praying for you all.

  11. 11

    Tessa said,

    Oh I am so sorry for the hell you are going through. Anyone who has dealt with any kind of mental illness knows exactly what you are talking about. I so hope you find peace and healing in the midst of your hurt and sadness. There is a season for everything and sometimes we just have go day by day or even moment by moment. Much love to everyone over there!

  12. 12

    Laura said,

    Praying, praying, praying! And I love you all. ❤

  13. 13

    Valerie said,

    We haven’t met, but I was given your blog by a mutual friend, and just want to say I’m so proud of you for making this REALLY hard decision! Tough love is never easy, and I am a HUGE advocate for raising and loving children with special needs inside the home (it sounds like you are, too!)… That said, there are DEFINITELY circumstances where the loving thing is to get the child help that professionals can offer. I used to work in a home for adults with intellectual and emotional and behavioral disabilities (that were violent and dangerous to themselves and others), and some of the most loving parents I have ever met were those that chose to put their “child” in that facility to get help. This is a HARD decision, and I’m sure it was one that took a lot of prayer and heartache on all parties involved, but rest assured God is GOOD and he is FAITHFUL, and it sounds as though you are truly acting in love and therefore it is good to trust this decision to God, and trust God to take care of your Peter. I will pray for your family and for Peter, that healing will ensue, that beauty will be poured into cracks, and that there will be a peace that surpasses all understanding in the midst of a very difficult decision. Thank you for loving these children so well, and taking them on as your own! Families like yours are inspiring!

  14. 14

    Karen said,

    You and all your family are in my thoughts and prayers. I cannot imagine what it’s like to be facing this kind of decision, but I’m sure you’ve made the right one for both Peter and all the rest of you. I hope that you find a suitable place, and very soon.

    When my mother had to put my grandmother in assisted living, Mom faced similar comments from the unthinking. (That’s not even counting what Grandmother said.) A few people, however, understood that Grandmother wasn’t going to take her medications or follow her diet without constant supervision and she wasn’t going to take orders from either daughter regardless. It was the best decision for everyone, and Grandmother lived seven happy years afterward.

  15. 15

    Laurie LeBar said,

    Ugh! I’m sorry. Been there. Done that. X a few. Hopefully this will help you get him the help he needs and give your entire family some relief. We’ll continue praying!

  16. 16

    Lauren Burke said,

    Thank you so much for explaining this.
    Sometimes it seems like the most crushing blows are from the Christians who are closest to us, and the ones from whom we would expect the most compassion. I don’t have the faintest idea what it’s like to love and try to take care of a child like Peter, but through years of my own illness, I’ve been able to see how impatient Christians can be when confronted with the trials of others. We all tend to want to fix things quickly and cleanly. But sometimes that’s not God’s plan. I’ve been the subject of bizarre impromptu prayers that supposedly cast out demons and illness. I’ve been told I don’t have enough faith in God to accept healing. One man yelled in my face that illness “IS NOT JESUS’ PLAN FOR YOUR LIFE!”
    Trials in your life are obviously incredibly difficult for you, but I think they make others nervous, too. It shakes up people to consider that God might take one of His children through something so tough. But I want to really encourage you to cling to God for strength and faith. You don’t know exactly how your actions and responses now might later have an incredible impact on your children, friends and others who are watching.
    I am so thankful for the book of Job. We see a godly man who faces unbelievable hardships. Then his friends come by and try to give him quick fixes. But the overall picture is the sovereignty of and goodness of God. And THAT is the thing that makes it worth going through trials. It’s my dearest prayer for you that you’ll all be able to look back and be thankful for this trial and the provision of God. You’re all in my prayers, Hajda family.

  17. 17

    Lisa, I had no idea. I see him in school and he is so quiet. I am so sorry for what you are going through. I pray that God will find the perfect family for Peter and that if it be His will, He will miraculously heal Peter.

    I will be praying for you and your family during this difficult time.

  18. 18

    teethdr said,

    Lisa, your family is in our prayers. May He watch over you and give you the strength that you need.

  19. 19

    Renee Fink said,

    Your family is in my prayers. You and Joey have always been so encouraging to us and it is so difficult to read about your struggles. I will offer you only my prayers knowing that the God of the universe sees all and in His gracious love carries us through difficult times. We also offer our encouragement to you knowing that your love for Peter has not gone unnoticed by either Peter or God. “Whatever you do unto the least of these…” I am absolutely certain that the 14 years of love that Peter has experienced being part of the wonderful Hjada family have influenced him in positive ways. You have no way of knowing how those long nights holding him, crying and praying over him and agonizing over this decision have impacted him for all eternity. Hold on to each other during these difficult times.

  20. 20

    My dearest friend,
    My heart breaks with your heart as you release the vision you have held to so tenaciously throughout these struggles for years and years. I wish I could be there to provide physical support — to bring a hot meal or provide a shoulder to cry on.
    Remember, I am just a phone call away if you need to “vent.” Our entire family loves your entire family.
    ~Kathleen

  21. 21

    MaryBeth Burns said,

    Praying for you and your family–for wisdom, guidance, support and peace. I have not “walked in your moccasins” but from your words, I know you are really struggling and seeking to do the Lord’s will in this very difficult situation. May his Mercy surround you!
    Love and prayers,
    MaryBeth & family

  22. 22

    amanda said,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. It’s hard to know how to support someone when you haven’t experienced the thing yourself – and I so appreciate you sharing your deeply personal feelings in such a candid way. Loves!

  23. 23

    Suzie said,

    Lisa,

    Although you posted this some time ago I have just now had the opportunity to read it. You have no idea how much respect I have for you and Joey. You are two of the most special I know and your children are so blessed by your love.

  24. 24

    Elaine said,

    Hi, Lisa !! I’m Levi’s Aunt, Elaine. I have heard a little about you and your darling family through Clara, Levi, and FB etc. My daughter Lauren told me about your Etsy shop today, and found a picture of your whole family on a blog too, that I haven’t found yet… Reading about your Peter, has reminded me of some of my disappointments in life, and how hard it has been to accept a child’s trials. I too have had times when unthinking folks have just let “whatever” come out of their mouths. And, I have done it to others… Makes me remember to try to zip it, when in doubt… I think a lot of people just want to help. but they can come off so rude! Thanks for these reminders, to keep from doing this to other! The tongue is so hard to tame!! Your blog has been an encouragement to me today, and I am praying for Clara’s family now in my quiet time with Our Lord. Thankyou so much, and may the peace of our Lord surround you as you go through this difficult time!!

  25. 25

    Shirrel Schramm said,

    I also saw your blog through a mutual friend. I am so sorry! We too have adopted and our children who were 3 and 5 at the time did not come to us perfect either. But, who really does come perfect and under perfect circumstances? (Granted some are more manageable than others) My heart is grieving for your loss of peace in your home. We just have learning issues and that in itself is enough to cause a huge disturbance in the force. So, I can’t imagine. You did the best – you offered love. You are a good parent and God is pleased. You were given Peter because God knew you would make the best decisions for him. I pray that as this season of grief and mourning passes, you will see peace return to your home and see Peter getting peace as he gets the care he needs.


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