The Pain of Empty Arms


Guest Post by Wanda Sanchez

I’m a vocal advocate of adoption, although I don’t have my own adopted children. I do have “children of my heart” – dozens of amazing nieces and nephews and children that I nannied. All of them have had a profound influence in my life.

My Samuel
I haven’t missed the blessing of adoption, however. I’m the eldest of nine brothers and sisters. My youngest brother Samuel was born in South Korea over three decades ago, just about the time I graduated from high school. My mother and Pops were focused and determined to adopt, knowing there were enormous obstacles standing in their way. Samuel, or Sang Soo Lee, as he was christened at birth, was very wanted and eagerly anticipated by my parents, an answered prayer wrapped in a blessing in so many ways, seen and unseen. Although my mother and Pops had been praying for what seemed like forever to hold this little guy and take him home to his new family, they were made to wait for about eight months while the red-tape was completed. But they were finally able to welcome him into their arms and to his new home in Hawaii!
I was working for a family in California when I learned that I would soon have another brother, and I was so excited! But because of the distance and life circumstances, I wasn’t able to meet him right away, although we had begun a long distance love affair over the phone.
Not being able to see him in person for a little over a year drove me a little bit crazy.  But what a memory I have about the first day I saw his sweet, little round face smiling up at me as I lifted him up into my arms.
Stolen Dreams 
In recent research for my new book, Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations For Those Struggling with Brokenness, Trauma and the Pain of Life, I was struck by the stories and heartbreak many have suffered as they’ve waited for a child that they’ve already fallen in love with, only to have the pending adoption terminated. And what of the child who has been waiting for a home, hoping for a place where they finally belong? These children often know how close they were to finding a forever family. Some have bonded with parents, only to have those bonds broken.
Along with my colleague and co-author Shelly Beach, I speak to thousands of women each year about trauma and what post-traumatic stress disorder looks like. Sadly, some of the saddest trauma stories we hear from women is about the pain of incomplete adoptions. These adoptions have already been in progress for months. Pictures and gifts have been exchanged, and some parents have visited the child.
The Pain of Empty Arms 
Waiting families are devastated when adoptions are halted. The hopes of parents, siblings, and adoptive children are crushed. The result can often be traumatic, producing symptoms that can linger for months and even years.
Trauma is real, and post-traumatic stress disorder, the consequences of trauma, can be a devastating result that many adoptive families experience in silence.
If you find yourself struggling beneath the weight of a traumatic event, adoption-related or not, and you don’t know where to turn… many resources are available that can help you connect with hope and point you to whatever you may need as you begin your journey to healing.
Don’t give up. There IS hope.
Wanda Sanchez is the co-author of Love Letters from the Edge: Meditations for Those Struggling from Brokenness,  Trauma, and the Pain of Life” (Kregel Publications, 2014) and co-founder,


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