Sunday, January 5, 2014

The visit

For the last 40 days my children, his step children and our son H have not seen their step dad/dad. While the older ones are understanding of this and just want him to get better the youngest has had so much to internalize. Yes he is 3 but from what we have gathered he has internalized more of this than we expected.

It took me a few weeks to realize that H had more of an idea of what was going on than I gave him credit for. A few weeks back my friend Connie took H to his therapy appointment and while they talked in the car H suddenly blurted out that "daddy was in the hospital, he got mad and tried to take me from my mommy." "He hit the fridge and scareded me." When my friend told me this it broke my heart and left me in tears. What has been done to my child? Why did he have to experience this? Why oh why did he have to recall that day in it's entire detail?!

I called "Uncle Seth", our family friend but the kids call him uncle Seth. I was sobbing when I told him what he had said today. I felt so horrible that he has been internalizing this since day 1. Seth was in shock just as I was. Chris was left with the memory of his child having a look of fear and shock on his face and my son was left with the memories of his dad trying to snatch him from my hands and leave because he was so disoriented and unaware of what was going on around him. This suddenly got much larger than what I was planning on dealing with. Now not only was I having to rally around my husband and support him and help him get past the pain he was dealing with, I now needed to consider how to get H through the trauma he had experienced that Saturday morning.

When Chris originally moved to the PHP or Partial Hospitalization Program a few weeks ago we had tossed the idea around of him seeing the older kids but not H. With him having Autism we feared this would be detrimental to all that he was having to deal with already, such as schedule changes, school being out, his sisters being in town, the whole shebang. We decided that I would still be the only one who would see him until we had family sessions. He wouldn't come to the house and we would carry on as we had been so that it wouldn't further complicate things. This only was an issue for a few days because he relapsed and had to go back into the hospital because he just wasn't ready. I was surprised they had put him there in the first place after having flashbacks, and breakthroughs during his sessions. H was still believing that daddy was in the hospital and that he was getting better that he needed rest and we could visit him soon.

Once we hit the five week mark H slowly stopped mentioning where his daddy was. He was learning to live life with just mommy and his siblings. Uncle Seth had stepped in to help with therapy runs, saving us during crazy ice storms and just pinch hitting when I needed another set of hands to help us out. Seth along with several other friends had begun to rally around us and do what ever it took to ensure we had the help and support we needed. However as thankful as I am for this help and these friends it doesn't replace the fact that they are all standing in for my husband who should be here with us. However him receiving the help and treatment he needs is far more important now. We just didn't anticipate 40+ days of limbo and no answers. Its unnerving and frustrating.

Friday we got word that H and I could be given a special visitation. They treatment team said that it would be good for both H and Chris to be reunited after being apart the 40+ days. I was hesitant to this because I was worried of the repercussion of what would happen once we left after the visit. Saturday afternoon Chris called with the details that we would meet in the morning on Sunday for an hour. I agreed to the morning because this would be easier to have the day to process what was going on instead of having to wait all day and then come home and not have much time to adjust to the events that just happened. I didn't tell him till Sunday morning we were going to see dad. I normally prep with social stories and prompts but for this I was winging it. I honestly had no idea what to do for a situation like this. Its not one of those things that comes up daily.

I wasn't prepared for the reaction today when I told H he was going to see his dad. I was telling him that we would get cleaned up and showered and once we were done we were going to see someone special. He smiled and said " Uncle Sef?!" I replied "No, we are seeing daddy!". When I thought he would perk up he got very upset and said he didn't want to go and he didn't want to see him he wanted to go play at uncle Seth's house instead. YIKES! Now I started to doubt myself and wonder if it was my fault he didn't want to see his dad because I had been so adamant about keeping them apart while Chris was in therapy that maybe I was doing more harm than good. I texted Seth in a panic. I was so overrun with guilt I was hoping he could provide me with answers. After a few moments of frantic texts, him reassuring me he is recalling details about the last time he saw his dad and that we were all nervous it would all be ok.

After some fighting and meltdowns I got H in the car. The ten minute drive seemed to take forever. I was assured by Seth that this was a normal response given what he had been through and hopefully things would be fine once we got into the groove of things. We walked in the reception area and Rose knew we were there for our special visit. She collected our information, gave us our name tags, collected my belongings and tried to make small talk with us. After a few moments she lead us to the other building. H began to get clingy and quiet. I was truly scared on how this was going to play out. I also just prayed that H wouldn't bring up the reason why he was there etc. That would add insult to injury at this point.

The reunion was awkward at best. I was on pins and needles and H was all over the place with emotions and behaviors. I did what I could to remain calm and even tempered. I let Chris and H do most of the interactions since I would be going back Monday for my own visit. Sadly they had us meet in the cafeteria that was full of stimuli for H. The buzzing of the lights, the clanking of the dishes as they prepared for lunch, the soda machines and the smells of the food being prepared. The visit was off to a rocky start.

Over the course of the hour I could see H relax a little and Chris too. H started to settle a bit and actually show affection and attention to Chris. It was brief but it was something. I could see the hurt and pain in Chris face but I believe at the same time he understood. The hour passed quickly and I could tell Chris was sad that we had to leave. Once we returned to the reception area to gather our belongings H kept saying that "daddy was staying at the hospital." He wasn't upset he seemed to just be stating facts I guess.

This has been an emotional day for sure for all of us. H did handle it better than I expected. He has only mentioned it a few times. When we went to Seth's to pick up Sean he brought it up but it was brief statements and nothing more. As the evening has progressed the less it has come up and it seems to be a non issue. When Chris called tonight he took the phone and spoke for a few seconds. However H is not really ever interested in talking on the phone as it is.

These last seven weeks have been the most trying on us since H's diagnosis with Autism. This has had a huge impact on the family. Our dynamic has completely changed and while we are adjusting and doing fine as soon as Chris gets through treatment we will go through another big transition of the homecoming integration. It of course will be well worth it once he is here but these things often cause huge setbacks when it comes the progress H makes. Our focus for now will be to keep H on routine and schedule the best we can. We both agree despite where Chris ends up the process, once ready, will include the work with H to help him comprehend and understand in his own way that daddy will be home it will just take time.