Trauma Triggers

I Will Never Let you Go

My back is heavy against the front door. I sit on the hard ground, salty tears pouring down my face. I’m crying so hard that speaking is not possible. The pain. My heart feels like it’s breaking. Snot slides onto my lips. But I can’t move. I can’t get up. I can’t leave this door. So I don’t. 

Please let me go Mommy. Just please let me go. Why won’t you let me go? 

I’ll never forget that moment when I rounded the corner of the house and saw you there. Shoes on. Jacket on. Determined look on your face. I’ve seen this before. I know what is about to happen. Our eyes suddenly meet. Everything turns to slow motion. 

Please let me go mommy. Just please let me go. Why won’t you let me go? 

My fingers barely grab onto the end of your jacket. You pull away, dragging me with you. I wonder if my fingers will slip off. I’m so scared. My heart is racing. You continue to try to get away, and I somehow get my arms around you. I half pull, half carry you into the house. I lock the door and slide down onto the floor. 

Please let me go mommy. Just please let me go. Why won’t you let me go? 

I pry myself off the ground and make my way over to you. I sit next to you and pull you into my arms. I squeeze you tight and let you know how much I love you. Your whole body shakes as you cry out your pain. My tears join yours as our hearts hurt together. We sit that way for a long time. I rub your back and reassure you that you are okay. That WE are okay. That I will NEVER let you go. 

(Written by me 2/10/17)


I wrote this not long after one of our children tried to run away. This wasn’t the first time, and it may not be the last. The reality is that children who have come from hard places have lots of trauma, and that trauma doesn’t just disappear no matter how loving of a home they are now in. I don’t think a lot of people realize that. People just assume that once a child has been in your home for a while that things should be going great…that any problems you had at first would be all better by now. But as a foster-adopt mom, let me assure you that that’s not how it works. The impact of trauma is far reaching and long lasting and different triggers can cause it to rear its ugly head.

In our case, when one of our children’s trauma was triggered, they attempted to run away. Our child didn’t really want to leave. Our child was scared of being loved and of loving. Scared because everything this child had loved in the past had been taken away.

The thing about trauma is that you never know what is going to trigger it, or when it is going to be triggered. It could be as simple as a smell that reminds them of something. It could be a word you say. It could be a food that you give them to eat. It could be a situation they are in.

Sometimes I feel like a detective, as I try to figure out what is going on underneath the surface when our children act out in these ways. What part of their story is being triggered? How can I help them walk through what they are experiencing in this moment?

And in case you were wondering, yes, it is emotionally hard when your child does something like try to run away. Yes it is hard not to take it personal. Yes it is hard not to be mad. Yes it is hard to remain a calm presence. Yes it is hard to not feel rejected.

In these moments I have to remind myself that my child has gone through a lot and is responding out of the trauma, not based on whether they are happy here. I also have to remind myself that our children are gifts for us to steward…loving them is about THEM, not about US.


3 thoughts on “Trauma Triggers

  1. Oh my Lori very difficult for you both I am sure. Its incomprehensible to imagine what these precious ones endured, trauma comes in many forms from many places for them. It is my hope for them through therapy and love they can and will overcome many issues they deal with. I wish you strength in your guidance. xx


  2. Yes yes a thousand times yes. As a foster to adopt mom myself I have been there. People assume it all magically becomes better after the child has been with you a while. Most people, unless you are a foster/foster to adopt parent, don’t understand what goes on daily. Smells, sounds, places, anything can remind them of their past. Praying for continued strength and guidance. Love them through it


  3. I’m on the middle-aged adult side of a traumatic childhood and can attest that trauma triggers are definitely a long term challenge. Some you un-learn. Some you learn to recognise enough to catch before you act into the trigger. Some you keep tripping over again, and again, and again. As you get old enough to be conscious of what’s happening and choose your response, it improves for sure. But it’s a lifelong process. New patterns come slowly.


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