Pain doesn’t just go away by itself.
Losing a loved one, whether through death, divorce, or something else – like adoption – isn’t an event whose consequences you can just “wait out.”
But grief can be so raw and feel so unbearable that our brains tell us we simply cannot deal with it. We let ourselves become numb, burying and ignoring the pain, and we simply wait for it to pass and for life to get easier. Some of us do this by sleeping in bed all day or by distracting ourselves with hours and hours of junk TV. Others fill up every moment of every day with activities so they won’t have time to think about how they feel. For example, Chelcie at BirthMom Buds describes how she “went back to school about two months after [having her daughter] and lost 50 pounds in five months through diet and exercise.”
Numbing yourself to pain is a normal part of the grieving process – but only for a few weeks. If months have passed and you are still not allowing yourself to feel the pain of your loss, that means you are not healing. For Chelcie, that meant that “one day it all hit me. I was just plain sad. I had never let myself truly grieve for what had taken place.”
We sometimes suggest to clients, especially those who have other children or particularly busy lives, that they actually schedule fifteen minutes a day just to “feel their feelings” by talking to someone, writing or drawing their emotions, or just sitting or walking alone. It is important to give yourself time to sit with your emotions and let them hit you without trying to push them away.
As writer Carol Crandall states, “You don’t heal from the loss of a loved one because time passes; you heal because of what you do with the time.” Healing doesn’t just happen on its own, which is why you can’t bury your pain and expect it to pass. Kelsey, who placed her son for adoption five years ago, explains, “I gave my heart when I chose another family for my son.”
Healing from such a loss can’t possibly be easy, but that’s not the end of the story for Kelsey – or for anyone who has grieved their parenthood for a child. “I feel it constantly and the pain has not gone away,” she says. “I know it never will. However, the pain is only one piece of the puzzle.” If you can sit with your suffering, endure it, and work through it, you can come out on the other side. That pain will still be a part of you, but it won’t define you. It won’t keep you from living, loving, or being happy in your life. If you run from your feelings, on the other hand, “they will catch up to you and hit you harder.”
Have you ever numbed yourself to the pain of adoption? How were you able to heal?