Grief Series - Stage Four: The Blues

It has been about a month since I last posted a blog. The nice thing about blogging is that it’s current; it’s happening right now, and I am in the thick of it. My birth son is less than a year old and I am still figuring out how to live my life. It can be murky at times, but I am here to share my story with all the ups and downs. So this post is #4 in the series, and the subject has been very recognizable to me lately. The fourth stage of grief is Depression. As birth moms, we are no strangers to the blues. 

If you have ever struggled with any form of depression before your adoption journey began, you may find that this depression is different, you may feel it is similar and more intense, or maybe you never struggled with depression until now, and this is all very new to you. Whatever your background is with depression, you probably now realize that depression is a teaspoon of confusion, a cup and a half of hopelessness, and a dash of inner chaos. And if you’ve got struggles in life to add into that mixture… hold on sister.

Tackling depression is often described as trying to climb out of a deep pit- but the pit has unstable walls and nothing to grab onto. With the grieving process, depression may drag on the longest, and it certainly can be revisited. When birth mothers are in the first few months postpartum, we are nearly guaranteed a clash with postpartum depression. This is a doozy because not only are you totally blue, you still have raging hormones. People in our lives expect us to pick up and move on ("Aren't you so glad to not be pregnant anymore?" - ugh.), but we don't even want to open up the curtains, much less get ourselves out of bed. When our minds are thirsting for sanity, we must lead ourselves to the watering hole. 

I am no expert - especially when I still experience it frequently, although some days are worse than others. The best advice I can give is this: When you need help, ask for it. Too many women in our situation fall by the wayside when they let their thoughts and feelings inhabit their mind for far too long. Many times we feel alone because there aren’t always people in our lives that understand. Somewhere along the line I discovered that I can do more than exist. As birth mothers, we OWE it to ourselves to care for our mind. Beautiful women, make it your #1 goal to ask questions and persevere until you get the help you need. Call your agency, your local pregnancy resource center, or contact me and I promise to find someone to help you. Be good to yourselves. We chose adoption for the betterment of our child’s life, but we should never forget about the betterment of our own life.

And to pregnancy and adoption professionals out there, work for these women. When a woman comes to you in need of counseling, we must do all we can to find resources that are available for them. It is important that our birth mothers have a healthy mind and that we take care of these women.

When I was going through depression most heavily, I sought out counseling as well as a support group. It helps to speak with someone who knows your pain, and often feels it too. However, there are longings that your soul needs, that I believe no human can give. I picked up a devotional and I try to read it as often as I can. I talk to God like a friend, and I pray about the worries that weigh me down. Do something spiritual to build faith and bring yourself hope. I like to think of it this way: the sooner you get help, the sooner you'll feel better.

And just because this wouldn't be a proper post about the blues without me giving you some actual blues to listen to - here's a Clapton cover of my favorite blues tune: 

Thanks for your patience in waiting for this post - talk soon!

Grief Series - Stage Three: Bargaining and the Might-Have-Beens

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When people know they are about to lose a loved one, they often attempt to make deals with God. For example, people often say things like, “Take me instead.” When that love one is gone, they tend to have thoughts that reflect back on what they could have done differently to either prevent the misfortune, or show the departed more affection while they were alive. This is all part of the third stage of grief: the bargaining stage. As birth mothers, we experience this in a similar way, especially using the what if’s and if only’s.

“What if’s” are enticing at first, but dangerous if you stick around too long. During my pregnancy and shortly after I placed my birth son, I had all kinds of what if’s.

What if I parented? At first, my answer looked similar to this:

If I had parented, I would wake up every morning and see my son’s smiling face. He would love me and want me to hold him. I would be there to hear him say his first word, watch him take his first steps, and drop him off for his first day of school, and the list goes on. I would be happy.

As you may have noticed, these statements all involve “I” or “me” and they are far from reality.

What would my life really be like if I had parented? Over time, as the hormones stopped controlling my brain, my answer would look something like this:

I would be struggling, which means so would my son. Children don’t deserve a life in turmoil; they just got here! And what about me? Women have dreams and ambitions too, and I have been given another chance to make these things happen.

Asking “what if” is natural; we all do it, but don’t get lost in a daydream of the past. These can trick us and derail us from the track to a peace of mind.

The other trap of the bargaining stage is “if only.” “If only” is one of the most counter-productive phrases in the English language. (Right up there with “I can’t”)

“If only I had been more responsible...”
“If only I had saved up more money…”
“If only I had done more to make him stay…”
“If only I had the courage to take my baby home…”

The list becomes endless, if you let it.

If only’s are ineffective because they aren’t possible. You owe it to yourself and your future to leave your what if’s and if only’s in the past. Look forward to the life you have yet to live. Like all stages of grief, stage 3 is one we must get through, but we don't have to submit to it. Every time I think of what might have been, I remind myself of my child’s version of that.

Remind yourself of your child’s life, but also remind yourself of your own life. You have been given an do-over; nothing is more gracious than that. Exchange your negatives for these:

What if I do what I always wanted to do?
What if I set an example for greatness?
What if I fulfill my true purpose?
What if I make a difference in someone's life?

Take these and live a life you can and will be proud of.