Lessons in Grief

Somewhere along the journey through infertility and adoption many couples (especially women) find themselves swimming in grief. This is normal and actually healthy. When we lose something, especially something that we have dreamed of possessing but then never can touch, it is right and good to grieve. It is through the tears and the pondering within the safety of our own minds that we work through the feelings of disbelief, the pain and unbearable sadness, the depression, the reality of what has been lost. So much of our grieving happens within ourselves. I don’t think it is a coincidence that understanding then comes upon our minds. A whispering thought that calms our soul and begins to shine light on the question “Why?”

Grief helps prepare us for the answers only Heaven can give.

But there are some who find themselves not swimming in grief but rather drowning. I was one of those people. I didn’t realize it when it started to happen. It took many years for me to finally see that I wasn’t in the realms of “good grief.” I was losing myself. Each day was not only hard, but so heavy. There were times I wanted to die. This was before we had adopted any children. We were in the process of adopting but had not had a placement. We had been chosen, but then the Birth Mother changed her mind due to a great deal of family pressure. I had no feelings of anger toward her. Just love and I understood why she didn’t go through with placing her 1 month old baby. I still love her to this day and yet have never met her. This failed placement opened the door wide to a flood of grief. I found myself in the nursery holding clothes to my chest and sobbing. This was actually a good grief time. It was right and healthy to feel those feelings of loss. But as time went on the pain remained.

Months later Brenley was placed with us. Then a couple years later Haley was placed with us. I didn’t realize then that the grief had never gone away. It changed its face so I didn’t recognize what it was. When Brenley came I had this overwhelming worry that she would be taken away. I also felt a huge amount of pressure to fulfill every dream I ever had regarding things I would do with my children. I put so much pressure on myself because I was scared this would be the only time I would get the chance to fulfill these dreams. In some ways I was exhausted. I had so much joy when Brenley came to our family and the joy multiplied when Haley came – unspeakable joy and that lifted my soul. I am so thankful I was able to enjoy this special time in my life. It was a gift from my Heavenly Father. Grief hadn’t left me at this point, but I was so busy being Mom I didn’t realize how grief showed itself in me.

As Haley grew I continued to enjoy my children very much. I never felt sad about them or how they came…not one single minute. But I did have unresolved grief that showed up in my relationships with others. The not so nice things that people sometimes say became more than just something they said…it took up space in my mind and it would swirl around and around each day. Each word said would cut like a knife. I had a hard time being around family. I dropped all of my “fertile” friends. My heart hurt all of the time. I took offense easily. I felt I didn’t fit in anywhere. I was quick to be negative about what people said to me or just quick to feel negative toward them. I would go over and over in my mind conversations where the things that were said about adoption or infertility were not true and while I tried to defend the truth I failed because I lacked self esteem. I would later realize what I should have said but didn’t, and that would make me mad at myself. 

It was during this time of great turmoil of mind that one day while I was having all of this hurt mulling around my mind I had a clear thought that said, “Your grief is prohibiting your progression.” At that moment I saw that this voice that spoke to my mind was speaking truth. I called my husband and asked if he would support me if I went and sought counseling. He said yes. At that time in life money was tight and I didn’t now how much insurance would pay. So as a back up plan I called my parents and asked for help if we ended up needing it. They were very supportive. I then knelt down and ask God to bless me with the counselor He had in mind for me – the one who would help me the best. The third phone call I made was to LDS Family Services where I asked for a counselor who was a woman and not involved in adoption. I was blessed with Lani Taholo. She was not only a great counselor but she knew the scriptures like the back of her hand and she was absolutely the person who was meant to help me.

The experiences of seeking help, going to sessions, doing the homework assignments Lani would send me home to do and praying all prepared me for the healing only the Savior himself can give. The gift of healing didn’t come all at once. It came a little at a time until one day a few years later I realized I had been truly healed. I had an amazing experience and the peace that came to my life is indescribable. It has touched every aspect of who I am and how I am to my family. 

This peace and healing also allowed me to feel comfortable having completely open adoptions. What a joyous day it was to invite and have Birth Parents over to our home for dinner. I can’t explain how it felt. It was a special reunion! But it never would have been like this if I still was drowning.

Why do I tell you this long story? I see too often couples (especially women) drowning in grief and yet they don’t even know it. 

Sometimes grief masks as something else like:
  • Extreme Sensitivity
  • Dwelling on the negative whether that be hurtful things said to you by others, dwelling on what you can’t do, dwelling on worries about health etc.
  • If you have adopted already you may have hostility, worries, anger, irritation or feel scared about dealing with or towards your child’s Birth Mother.
  • You don’t want to be around children.
  • You don’t want to be around pregnant women.
  • You can’t rejoice in another couple having a placement. You feel resentful toward them or feel despair that you haven’t been chosen.
  • You feel entitled.
  • You can’t let go of conversations.

This list could go on further but hopefully I am making my point.

It is good for couples to stop and take inventory of how they are feeling. Kind of a self check. You may not feel all of these types of things. I didn’t experiences all of them. We all grieve differently. But if you are drowning and not swimming, then you can’t get through the grief. 

Life is to be enjoyed! Grieving is healthy when you aren’t “stuck” in it. If you find yourself stuck then seek help, pray and listen for answers. Grief is powerful and it can help prepare you for incredible joy and peace. But it has to be good grief in order for you to get through it. If you are drowning in it you will never have peace. Our Heavenly Father can help you. He is more powerful than your grief and He can extend His hand and save you.

Your relationships with family, Birth Family and especially your spouse and children that are in your family or will be coming to your family will all be blessed because you chose to act and seek help.
Overcoming grief brings great peace and light to your life. I know because I have been there!

If you would like to read more about my experiences/writings about my grief please visit my I AM blog.
Special note: I am not a mental health professional. (hoping to be someday) My advise in this post is from my experiences and thoughts. If you are struggling please seek out a mental health professional.
We’d like to hear from you. Have you struggled with feelings of grief during your infertility and/or adoption journey? What helped you get through those feelings? What advice can you share with others? Leave your comments below, or submit a guest post.

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