I have the opportunity to work with some pretty strong children who have been challenged with some tough situations early on in their lives. This is a story about a resilient girl who started life a little rough. She found out that I write about families and children on my blog and wanted me to tell her story.
Jada* first came into my office when she was 5 years old. She initially came because she was having difficulty with her feelings related to her relationship with her mother. Over time feelings were processed and she was doing well. She stopped counseling and resumed living a typically “normal” life. Most recently she returned to counseling at a different stage of her life where she again had difficulty with the lack of having a relationship with her mother. With her permission, the story is spoken in her words but paraphrased and written by me.
Jada at age 5
“I should be living with my mommy and my daddy. I don’t want to live with my daddy most of the time and visit with my mommy and sibling on the weekends. I like seeing my mommy and my older sisters but miss them when I have go home. I like being with my daddy and my step mom and have a brother and sister at that house too. I just don’t like that I can’t see everyone all the time. It’s even harder when my mommy does not show up to pick me up for my weekend visits. I can tell that my family is trying to make me feel better by taking me to McDonald’s and for ice-cream when she doesn’t come but why is she not here? I know things were happening when I was seeing her less and less. Overtime, I was going to see Ms. Nikole to help me with my sadness and confusion. I was also starting kindergarten and that was a little scary too. I liked school and daycare and that helped me not think about my mom. Ms. Nikole helped me with my feelings so I can accept my daddy and step mom, sister and brother as my family and not think about my mommy (who I did not see anymore) in a sad way. Overtime, life was okay. I even bumped into Ms. Nikole at IHOP on Mother’s Day, I was shy that day because she was with her family and I was with mine.”
“When I began middle school, I saw life through a different lens. I saw my family as different than other families and realized that I was lucky to have my dad and step mom whom I now call my mom. My dad and mom have provided me with such a great life. I have friends and activities and I am for the most part happy. But recently there are songs I heard that made me think about not having my real mom in my life. It has been 7 years and I have not heard from her. How can she not want to see me, talk to me, be in touch with me? My feelings were so deep that my dad called Ms. Nikole to help me with this. We talked about trying to get in touch with my mom. She helped me realize that if we were able to meet that the visit may not go well because I don’t know why she stopped seeing me and she may not be ready to see me yet. This was difficult because I could not understand why she may not want to see me. My dad and Ms. Nikole talked, and he told her about a letter my mom wrote to court when I was little. She told the court that she did not want to be in my life and wanted my dad to take care of me. My dad, mom (step mom) and Ms. Nikole talked with me about this because I was older now to know the truth, and I cried. It was so hard to hear. In counseling, Ms. Nikole and I worked through accepting that I was not going to have my mom in my life, at least not now. She helped me write a ‘see you later’ letter that was not meant for goodbye or to be given to her, but for me to process that maybe later we will meet. This helped me so much. Now and going forward I need to focus on my life. I continued to journal letters about my feelings and I’m doing so much better now. I don’t think I need counseling right now. I know this may come up again and I can come back if I need to. Nonetheless, I have accepted things and I am moving onward. I am not sure if this can help others, but I wanted Ms. Nikole to tell my story.”
At the age of 5 Jada experienced such a heartbreak. Her father and step mother were supportive and stable in her life that they balanced the instability of her biological mother at that time. This stability helped Jada to be resilient.
People have talked about children being resilient as though they are strong and resilient on their own. Studies show that resilience comes from the individual, family and community environments. With stable housing, schooling, health care, job security, exposure to positive friends, church and strong family members, resilience is built. All these factors help the person persevere through the problematic times. Sometimes it’s just the community that builds up the person, or the family. Jada was fortunate to have a strong sense of self, family and community support through school and church that gave her the strength to overcome.
I feel privileged to have Jada as a client; and she is not the only one. I am fortunate to learn from many of my clients and I use their strength to encourage other clients as well as my friends and family.
*name changed for privacy
Nikole Jiggetts, LCSW