The wait. The anticipation. The eagerness to feel complete. The excitement and wonder of their personalities. The pre-adoption season is a time full of emotion, and although it can be spotted with disappointment and setbacks, the general feeling is that you simply cannot WAIT to see your family united.
The homecoming time is magical.
Then, before long, reality sets in. The beautiful, often multi-colored family in the new picture frame, is struggling with behavioral issues, establishing healthy boundaries, and feeling comfortable in their own home. Suddenly, parents are feeling ill-equipped and as if their life is shattering all around them. Isn’t adoption supposed to be a miracle? Where are all the warm, fuzzy feelings? Why doesn’t this feel like a dream come true anymore?
As the parents sit on their beds, head in their hands, processing these thoughts, their pre-teen, adopted child sits alone in his room with similar doubts. For ten years, as he spent his days surrounded by other family-less children, he dreamed of the fairy tale family he would one day have. He imagined the joy he would feel each day, and the love that would radiate from their home. Then, at the first sign of conflict, after his first punishment, with the reality of family stress, his world is shaken. He questions whether he got gypped as he holds on to his dream of that ideal, perfect family.
Not far from their home, a married couple sits silently, desperate and confused after another pregnancy test reveals just one line. For years, all they dreamed of was a house full of little people with her eyes and his laugh. They bought their first home with a yard for a jungle gym and enough rooms for a couple sets of bunk beds. Now, their home, and their hearts, feel empty. The painful sting of infertility has them questioning their identity and their future.
Another young woman struggles to navigate each new day since she was suddenly widowed and forced to bravely raise their two young kids as a single mom. The same loss of freedom and identity is felt by the man recently disabled after a car accident, and the woman diagnosed with breast cancer.
As much as we all love to feel in control, it doesn’t take too many years in this fallen world to understand that our fate is not always dictated by our choices. There are some circumstances we simply cannot change. The final pages of our fairy tale can be torn out and destroyed by a debilitating accident, loss, another person’s poor choices, or an uncontrollable adversity.
So, what do we do with the inevitable heartbreak, let down, or setback? That is where our choices come back into play, and make all the difference. After taking the following steps, we can find ourselves moving forward again and thriving daily.
(Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, life coach, or trained counselor. The following advice/thoughts are my own and based on my own experiences.)
Step 1: Identify and grieve the loss.
Whether it was a failed expectation or a destroyed dream, sometimes we don’t even realize what is causing our sadness, disappointment, anger, or frustration. Take the time to evaluate your situation and if you experienced a loss of some kind. This step alone can give you a sigh of relief and let the healing process begin.
Step 2: Find/establish your identity in Christ.
Often, when our world is turned upside down, we actually regain our focus. When we are stripped of our comforts or our own desires, we learn who we are at our core. If we cling to Jesus and fix our eyes on Him, we are reminded that our identity is in Him. Regardless of our circumstances, God is our constant. No accident or broken dream can change the fact that you are a dearly loved child of God.
Step 3: Accept your current state and start taking small steps forward.
After recognizing the source of your hurt and remembering that your strength is rooted in Christ, you can begin to accept where you are in life, the obstacles you need to overcome, and the new dreams in your heart. Even if you have yet to reach a place of dreaming again, you can still begin to take positive steps forward. I believe we are creatures designed for forward movement and self-improvement. We greatly admire others who have persevered through a seemingly impossible situation, and they inspire us to push through, to dig deeper, and to dream bigger when challenges arise.
Step 4: Choose to proceed with joy because the alternative is letting pain and loss overcome you.
Step three and four really need to happen simultaneously, but they are both so important I thought they both deserved special attention. As you take those steps forward, you are going to consciously have to make the choice to proceed with joy. After experiencing a loss or a letdown, each new morning can seem painful and hopeless. Making an intentional decision for joy each day makes each day a success before it even begins.
Your fairy tale may have been tainted or life may not look the way you imagined, and it is healthy to grieve your loss. However, your story is not over. The Author has always had, and still has, a beautiful narrative with your name on it. Now, go on and live it!