Q & A with Kristen Richburg author of Disrupting Grace
Q & A with Kristen Richburg author of
A Story of Relinquishment and Healing
Q. How was your marriage impacted by parenting an unattached child?
A. I believe the reason why our marriage survived through the years of
having Emma was due to the fact that my husband at the time and I were
united in understanding Emma’s issues, and we were on the same page
regarding our efforts. Unfortunately, in many cases, because children with
Reactive Attachment Disorder are so good at triangulation (pitting one parent
against the other, in a lot cases, using the father to hurt the mother),
marriages can be extremely vulnerable if both parents do not intentionally
make the effort to be “single-minded” about the realities of children with RAD.
While my husband did not see and experience a lot of Emma’s behaviors
directly, he was believing of my experience and supportive of my efforts.
I do believe the stress took its toll though on our marriage. There was an
elevated level of exhaustion and stress present at all times. Because so much
of our focus was directed toward helping Emma, we neglected to give attention
to some of the relational needs we had. My then-husband and I value being
parents. Having so much focus on the kids worked for a period of time for us.
When the focus of that significantly diminished and much of that stress was
gone, the light shone on the marriage highlighting the fact that aside from our
roles as parents, he and I value different things. Relinquishment of Emma
happened over two years ago, and I am sorry to say that my husband during
that time has since left our family. I do not believe that having Emma
contributed to the loss of my marriage, but rather perhaps prolonged an
otherwise inevitable end.
Q. What advice would you give to couples considering adoption?
A. There are many resources available to help prepare you for considering
adoption, or to educate yourself on the adoption process – what to expect,
questions to consider, possible challenges. I’d recommend attending an
informational meeting at your local adoption agency. A good agency will have a
number of resources to refer you to. A book I would also recommend is The
Whole Life Adoption Book, by Jayne E. Schooler. In her book, Jayne covers a
wide range of issues relating to adopting a child beginning with questions to
consider before you adopt and tips to help you succeed as an adoptive parent.
Also, take some time to connect up with other families who have adopted
children. These people are living, present examples of what an adoption can
look like, and each adoption story is unique.
Q. What words do you have for parents who are living in similar
A. You are not alone. Parenting a child with special needs or severe issues
of any kind can feel lonely and isolating. Do your best to stay connected with
your outside world and by all means seek support. If you haven’t already, find
someone who can be an advocate for your child, and for your needs as well.
Find a therapist, mentor, pastor, or good friend who can be your back up on
your toughest days. Make sure you plan respite time for yourself or for you and
your spouse to recharge. Above all, take good care of yourself. Your child’s
success depends largely on your own ability to help yourself be in the best
state of emotional health as possible. The healthier we are as individuals, the
better parents we will be able to be - more naturally, and with less effort.
Q. What would you do differently in parenting your daughter?
A. When we first relinquished Emma, I felt regretful that we had pushed
her so hard to attach. We did so much intense work with her initially, she
could only respond to our overwhelming efforts by pushing us away. At the
same time, we didn’t know what she’d been through and what she was capable
of, and if we hadn’t put forth the effort, I would have always questioned
whether or not we did the right thing or did enough.
I would have been more forgiving of myself. I don’t think it benefited anyone
for me to be so hard on myself. Parenting a child with special needs requires
an immense amount of energy, work, and drive. There isn’t any way to do it
perfectly, and certainly not day after day. I would have taken better care of
my own needs – it was easy for me to become overwhelmed with and consumed
by Emma’s needs, allowing her to be an unhealthy focus, and therefore a drain
on all of us. This is the challenge of almost any parent raising a child with
special needs. It took me time to realize that taking care of me, meant taking
care of her and everyone else.
Q. How has your story impacted you being an adoptee yourself?
A. I’m grateful. I’m grateful for the gift of adoption - I appreciate the gift
more now than ever.
Q. Do you still believe in adoption?
A. Yes. As having been on the receiving end of adoption, how could I not?
The life I have today is in part due to someone caring enough to adopt me into
their family. Adoption is a gift. There are unique challenges and issues that
adoptive families will inevitably face, but it can succeed, and it can be good.
My own story as an adopted child is testament to that.
My story as an adoptive parent is also testament to the fact that in some cases,
there are circumstances by which disrupting an adoption really is in the best
interest of protecting and encouraging everyone’s health. I don’t believe
anyone adopts with the intention to disrupt. I know we certainly didn’t.
Families who find themselves in situations like ours can feel ultimately like
their adoption was a failure. Many of the parents who turn to disruption find
themselves seeking that as a last resort after much heartache and struggle. I
view our adoption story, not as a failure, but as a purposeful step in the process
for all of us, Emma included, towards healing.
Kristen Richburg is available for interviews by contacting Rhonda Funk at
Bring It On! Communications.
Email: rhonda@ bringiton communications.com