Poor Humpty Dumpty
Was Feeling untouchable
Perched so high and mighty
On his wall.
But when he fell
He cracked his shell
And there was just
No fixing him at all.
Gloria felt like Humpty Dumpty.
The only difference between them, in her mind, was that her cracks and breaks were on the inside.
And she had fallen so many times from what she thought was a place of safety, that she fashioned her outer shell to be impenetrable.
Gloria was broken.
She was born into a two-parent middle class family. A pretty child, with coppery hair and steel-grey eyes, she was the youngest of three children by a decade. Gloria’s mother, Annie, believed child bearing to be behind her. So, Gloria was a welcome surprise. She was born into love and light. Everyone, including her 2 older brothers celebrated her, welcoming her into their happy family…the miracle baby…like in a fairy tale.
Or at least that is how it seemed from the outside looking in.
Behind the bright red door of their two story colonial, however, reality was much different than perception.
Annie suffered from back pain as the result of an automobile accident a few years earlier. Relying on opiates for pain relief, she soon found she needed higher and higher doses to get relief. Her doctors declared that her back injury had been corrected and that she should not need such high doses of pain meds. But Annie found ways to get from dealers what the doctors would no longer prescribe.
Maybe it was the pain of her back that led to her addiction. Or maybe it was the fear of her husband. For when his moods became dark, violence followed.
Ben, a high school history teacher, a volunteer fireman and the son of the bank president in their small-town, knew how to keep his family life secret. He knew how to appear perfect when there was rottenness inside. He had learned from his dad.
So Gloria began life in a chaotic, violence-filled suburban home. Her parent’s fights drowned out her own cries for comfort. She had to learn at a very young age that she would be fed, clothed and kept clean. She grew to expect nothing more. She did not trust her parents to come when she needed them. The light in her eyes only came on for Benny, Jr, her eldest brother.
Benny tried, with all of his ten years of life experience, to take care of her and protect her, all the while keeping his own head down.
And life, as it is want to do, chugged along creating patterns and tapestries that shaped the world of the pretty little girl.
When Gloria was 8 years old, her mother, Annie, died of an opiate overdose, leaving Ben with nowhere to focus his occasional dark fury. By then, Benny, 18 and a high school Senior, played Defensive Back for the Varsity football team. Ben knew he was no match physically with his oldest son. But Gary, 16, was slight, like his father and preferred reading to sports. When Ben had his rages, Gary became the target.
Unlike his mother, Gary was not so well-trained in hiding the bruises. And before the year had ended, a teacher reported abuse to the CW system. Gary and Gloria went into foster care. Benny, at 18, stayed in the home. Not because he loved his father, but because, at 18, he was too old to enter the system.
Gloria and Gary were placed in separate foster homes. Unfortunately thair age differences played a factor as teen foster homes are difficult to find. So Gloria went to live with the Sanders.
Gloria felt she had lost it all…
Gloria lost her mother.
Gloria lost her father.
Gloria lost the brother who protected her.
Gloria lost her school friends, because her foster home was located out of county.
But, at least she was safe.
You would think she would show gratitude towards her new foster parents for taking her in and out of such a chaotic home life. Right?
But Gloria did not feel safe.
The foster parents were experienced, kind parents, who lived in a nice home in a safe neighborhood.
Gloria was safe.
But Gloria did not feel safe.
Adults, in her mind, did not take care of you or make you feel safe.
Her response to the losses and to the “unfelt” safety involved several behaviors.
She stole food from the refrigerator, hiding it under her bed (in case they forgot to feed her)
She screamed in her room and threw her toys when she was corrected. (Like her dad)
She would stare silently without talking at the dinner table (like her mom).
In other words, Gloria was crying out in the only way she knew how, unconsciously hoping to push the Sanders away before they pushed her away.
She was determined to harden her shell so that no one could get in. She felt like Humpty Dumpty. But no one was riding in to save her.
Could you keep trying with Gloria? Would you take the time, exert the patience and understanding needed to make a connection with her?
Many people would not. Foster children who come from trauma situations often exhibit multiple moves due to their trauma behavior. And each subsequent move reinforces to them…
You are not good enough
Ssomething is wrong with you
Nobody can really love you
And, after experiencing those thoughts over and over, they believe them to be truth. Their behavior gets worse or they simply shut down. Permanency is delayed, sometimes for years.
For Gloria, blessedly, the Sanders were very experienced and knowledgeable about trauma. They understood that her behaviors were her way of asking for help.
The Sanders worked with her and her treatment team to help her safely process the trauma from her childhood. Her team initially consisted of: the social worker, the trauma therapist, and the foster parents. Her father refused to participate. Recognizing her need for family connections, Benny was also made part of the team.
Gloria stayed with the Sanders for a year, along with Gary, whom the Sanders agreed to take in as well. Her maternal aunt from out of state stepped forward and became a kinship placement for both of the siblings. Benny, then at college, visited with them regularly.
Slowly…Gloria began to feel safe.
Without the kings horses…
Without the king’s men
But with patience, love, and therapy
Gloria was put back together again.