25 Jun 2012
Losing it – Shamira’s Bravery
Shamira, arrived at the baby house withdrawn, and distrustful. Just two years old, she had already learned to protect her little-girl heart from the sting of rejection. She was brittle-haired and balding, with dry, cracked skin pulled taught over an angular frame. No-one had ever told her she was pretty. She knew in her mind she wasn’t a lovely child. Her family had left her with strangers at an impoverished orphanage, further up the mountain road. The staff there didn’t even consider her worth feeding every time there was food. That was how Shamira saw it. It wasn’t true but she believed the lie.
Five days after arriving at God’s Littlest Angels, were she and 22 other children had been transferred by concerned Social workers, she was finally receiving some of the things she needed and deserved. She was sleeping in a new bed, on crisp white sheets. Her caregivers smiled at her often, held her and fed her until her stomach was full. Her ear infection was healing. There were toys and visitors. On that fifth day, a bowl of food, that she sad she didn’t want was taken away. Somewhere deep inside, Shamira believed she was going to lose everything. She began screaming and kicking, clawing and biting.
It was an ugly display, but we were seeing the fury of a toddler whose cries hadn’t been heeded for a long time and I wanted her to know that we cared about her hurts and that we loved her. She was in such a state, though, that she couldn’t remember why she was upset and she wouldn’t allow anyone to comfort her. You won’t do this to me, traitor! You won’t taunt me with good things and take them away! Let me go!
Shamira needed to be held. She needed to let a grown up help her through this, but any attempts to re-assure her only increased the volume and intensity of the screaming and fighting. I lay her on her stomach, sat at the head of her cot, and told her it was OK to cry and to be angry. Shamira quickly settled. After a few minutes, she pushed up on her arms and looked up at me with a tear-stained face.
yes, she nodded
‘But you cried hard.’ Shamira was utterly exhausted and slightly sheepish, but she wasn’t going to be scolded this time,
‘Your throat must be sore. I bet you are thirsty.’
‘You want a drink of water?’
That was not Shamira’s first meltdown, but it was the most intense, because now she lets grown-ups hold her when she is angry. We are allowed to soothe her. Shamira is beginning to do something else, she wasn’t prepared to to when she first arrived. She is accepting affection, and smiling shyly every time Chantal, her key nanny tells her she is a little doll. Who, me? she seems to ask. That takes courage. I think the many people instinctively respond to hurt the way Shamira did – we shut down, we get defensive. Yet Jesus said on the mount, ‘he who seeks to save his life will lose it.’ I wonder if one implication of what he was saying was that, sometimes, our response to our trauma is more damaging than what was done to us in the first place.
Now, Shamira’s bravery has opened a door to healing. She is delighted to be told that she is a doll. She always wanted someone to tell her that. She always needed to know someone thought she was pretty, and for someone to be enthralled by her.
Posted by Susan Westwood at 12:35