Losing a Child

Today I am going to share something with you I never thought I would have to share or experience. This is one of those things that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. But, this is my current reality and I feel I need to share it with you. As my friend Ed Dobson says, “I have a story, you have a story, we all have a story and the important thing is that we share it.

This past November our family had a great blessing and grew unexpectedly. Not by pregnancy, but through the addition of a new child. We gained legal guardianship of a beautiful little girl named Shay. (You can read about that in more detail by clicking here.) She would raise the count of kids in our family from 4 to 5! It is nothing short of a miracle that God placed her in our home. Not being foster parents, not being related to her, should have been a road block. But, God went before us and smoothed the road to bring her into our home!

The past 7 months with Shay have been a pretty incredible journey. She has adjusted well, and in fact, has truly flourished on so many levels. 

Shay’s past is riddled with tragedy. She has been passed from home to home. She has experienced things no young child should ever experience.  She has been physically, emotionally and sexually abused. Most of her life she was treated as an inconvenience and not a blessing. Allison and I believed with all of our hearts that we could help this beautiful little girl heal and reach her greatest potential.  We believed that our deep love would see her through it all.

I always tell my kids that they are going to grow up and change the world. One of my greatest successes as a parent was getting the report that Shay had told a teacher, “My daddy says I am going to change the world one day!” I want my kids to believe it, and I think Shay has begun to believe it. 

A few months ago Allison and I started seeing the effects of Shay’s past being displayed. Shay was acting out on the abuse that had been done to her. It was a very sad reality for us all. The effects were deep on our family, and directly affected our other children. We began to seek counsel. We talked with friends, family and professionals any time we could. We even started seeing a local family counselor/therapist with Shay. But, it seemed nothing was making a difference. We set boundaries in our home to protect her, our kids and our family. But, in short time even those boundaries were broken. It was beginning to deeply affect us all. Our other kids were paying a high price, and Shay was no doubt hurting. As a result, Allison and I were hurting deeply.

If you have known me for any length of time you know one thing about me…. I love to help people, rescue people and see their lives turn around. I love to be the super hero in life. My good friend Pablo Giacopelli affectionately calls me Captain America. The problem is, my ability and desire to be the hero for Shay wasn’t working out. In fact, I have had to fight a deep sense of failure in her story because I was realizing more every day, that I could not be the real hero in her story.  Honestly, this may be one of my most painful realizations and seasons in life. 

Allison and I began to pray that God would guide us to the right solution. God began to reveal that we needed to help Shay find a home were she would get the therapy, counseling and attention we were unable to give her. She needed a home where the family better understood her struggles and the healing that she needed.  God began to work in a mighty way. 

God led us to a great family, and God led them to us. They know the issues and struggles Shay has faced and faces daily; and are equipped to help her. They have raised their own 7 kids, and are now eager to love more kids. They love Jesus and deeply desire to help see hurting and broken kids find healing. They have been praying for God to bring them a little girl they could love and cherish.

After lots of counsel, lots of prayer and lots of anguish we felt this was the right move for Shay. So, this past week we took the steps necessary to give our custody to this new family. We spent time together with Shay and prepared her. We made sure we did the best we knew how to help her understand this transition. I told Shay that I had always promised to give her everything she needed to become the best and be ready to change the world. I assured her this was one of the biggest ways I could do that for her.

This transition has been painful, emotional and costly for all of us. For Shay I can only imagine the journey she has been on, and my heart breaks. She has been on a journey she did not choose, nor can she control. She has endured much. But as I told her this week…. Shay is a walking miracle because God just keeps making things better for her every day. Within a few days Shay has already found peace and security in her new home. She is doing amazing!

I never thought I would know what it was like to give up a child. All I have been able to think about for the last couple of days is the 2 girls who willingly gave up Kaia and Karis to our family for adoption. I have a sense of what they are feeling. And, to be honest, I wish I didn’t. This is painful. This is awful. This is simply the worst flood of emotions I have ever experienced. In so many ways I feel as though one of my children has died. I have lost a child, and the pain is so hard to explain.

God never promised that our life would be easy, happy or filled with good feelings. In fact, He said in this world we will have trouble! (John 16:33) I know that Allison and I did the right thing by bringing Shay into our family. If not, she would never have found her new family. And, because of that, I know we have done right by letting her go. I have to be reminded of this daily right now. God has called to do things that are not easy, but I know more today than ever…. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. Because, in my own strength, I could have never done this. 

Please be praying for my family. Pray for my wife, my kids and me and we move through this season of grief.