Good Grief!

I always wondered what ole’ Charlie Brown meant when he said that. How could grief be good? I suppose the addition of the word good, was meant to emphasize, and call attention to the next word, like Good heavens!

On my Mama C facebook page recently I posted a little observation that I woke to, that had me filled with momentary, palpable grief. The post read like this;

woke up with this deeply sad realization; every moment in public that he is with me my first born’s other color shouts to the world that his first mom was not able to be parent him. I tried to imagine if I was wearing a sign all the time that said; “my wife left me” or “my job let me go” or “my mother was not able to parent me” for any who were looking my way, and focusing on the “sign” that way. Thoughts on this?

The responses ran the range, as you’d imagine they might. But it was what people seemed to worry about while reading this post, that intrigued me. My facebook folks, were worried in many cases (on and off the fb page) about me, and my perception of myself as a mom. Or they were determined to assure me that when people see adoptees they do not think sad thoughts, they see love in action. And, lots of it in our case because we are so visible.

All of the above may be true.

But the post was not about me. It was a wail from my heart for an instant. It was my echoing grief for a perceived sorrow my oldest son will live to an extent his entire school age life.  Or at least the years that include me in tow more often than not.

It was what I thought to be an obvious realization intellectually, but one I had not embraced so deeply in my cells as I did that morning, laying next to him, asleep in bed. I felt desperately sad for the fact that he doesn’t get to ever walk down a street with his first mom, who looks just like him at his side. He’ll never know what that’s like. Well, not until we travel across the country to visit her, when everyone involved is ready for that to happen. Then we can go out to eat, and he can feel invisible for a moment too. Not that that is what he’ll be feeling at all…

(Imagining that for a moment here.)

Back on the facebook page there was also the voice of Tara Kim, of Adoption Mosaic and an adult adoptee who wrote;  I don’t think it’s uncommon for adoptees to feel like “seconds”.  Especially transracial adoptees who never get a break to be able to, for a moment, “just blend in” with their parents.

That is what I was fearing, her words a nail through the heart of that moment in time.

Good grief is when you are allowed to grieve for someone, and that process allows you to grow and understand them too. Good grief is not a sad, bad, or weigh you down thing. Good grief is recognizing the layers of pain and joy that pass through us at all moments.

One of my dear friends saw the exchange, and wrote to me off line with a cautionary tone. She was reminding me that my children are children, and they need our light, and joy, and ease too. She saw in my public realization what many of my friends and “likers” were also seeing, that Mama C often leans to the heavy side.

There is also a part of my “Mama C” persona that feels called to talk about the hard work, the heavies, the painful parts, because I want to, and I do it well.  This doesn’t mean that I walk around my house all day moping.  This blog is my confidant in many ways, a public diary, a place to whisper and scream, cackle and pause.

I remember when Sam’s first mom, Tea, told me in the hospital that this child needs your joy, and that she would take care of the sad part.

Perhaps all of us are right.

Good grief to me means holding them both, but when Sam and I get on the teeter totter, it is more often his body, that is flying high in the air, as my largess holds the rest of it down on the ground.

It is a constant process as an adoptive bloggin’ Mama to hold so much. Maybe I am too heavy. Maybe it’s time to get on the swings? Oh that reminds me of a great picture of joyful and light me for this post..


  1. I read your facebook comment when you first posted it and I didn’t think I had ever thought those thoughts about my son. But then I did some more thinking and remembered a night when my son yelled out from his bedroom – “Mom are we black or white”. As I started my response about Grandma and Mommy being white and him being black , he said I know that Mom, but what color basketball jersey do I wear tonight? And there was the time at baseball practice when the kids on the playground started whispering – “Stetson’s mom is white” over and over again. And I got asked if I was Stetson’s mom. I said yes and the leader of the pack – about 9 years old – said that’s cool, I have friends who are black and adopted white kids. I think as parents, especially of children of a different race, we are so concerned about how they feel about the difference that sometimes we don’t realize that we are the one’s worrying about it not our children. That’s not to say we won’t have issues or problems as he gets older, but for now I’m trying to concentrate on our similiarities and our love.

  2. Catherine, what a fantastic photo this is! Filled with lightness and joy indeed. Keep on bloggin’, girl. I love every word that I read, mainly b/c it’s so open and honest and true. We get a glimpse into your heart every time you post, and it continues to remind me of the connection we have as bloggin’ adoptive mamas (speaking of which, I need to get back on the bloggin’ bandwagon…it’s been a while since I wrote of my Matthew). Love and hugs, Kathleen

  3. “I remember when Sam’s first mom, Tea, told me in the hospital that this child needs your joy, and that she would take care of the sad part.”

    That one quote hit me like a ton of bricks. I have only just been approved to adopt… and quite honestly… the one concern I have at the moment is the day of the birth. And what that will feel like. I just can’t fathom the mix of emotions… I am constantly empathizing with our potential expectant mother… How is it possible to be joyful during her time immeasurable pain?! But this quote is amazing and beautiful and gave me a different perspective.

    We are adopting transracially and it bothers me a little when people just don’t understand what that entails. There are just so many unique scenarios to factor in when adopting a child that obviously does not resemble you. My husband suggested I write something for all my family members. So they could know the right or wrong things to say… and things to be prepared for.

    If you educated your family or friends about adoption… what would (or did) you say?

    • Oh–that is such a great idea that your husband has–but where to begin? I think you are doing all the right things now–reading–wondering–asking all the right questions. I found that my voice, my needs around family and friends evolved as we went. I had a lot of one on one conversations with my family and friends, around where my heart was, and what I needed from them for Sam, and for the world we all inhabit.

      Maybe just a letter to your family, sharing your joy and excitement, and perhaps some resources or articles that they might read on their own, about transracial adoption if they have questions? My experience was that folks were afraid to say the wrong thing, and looked to me for cues. Perhaps others here will have ideas? I’ll think more about it!

  4. I am in tears over “this child needs your joy” and that she’d “take care of the sad part” because that describes my son’s mother to a T. It describes her mood after he was born and after he was relinquished.

    I tihnk grief is a part of life. We are entitled to visit it when we need it after we are ruminating in the goodnesses in life.

    The idea that a parent could not parent a child is sad. I ithink it is okay to acknowledge that it is sad.

  5. Just reading this today. I know exactly what you meant when you wrote about the Scarlett A that our children walk around wearing. Sometimes I tell myself that, just maybe, when I am alone with Maya, people think she is my daughter biologically and that her father is darker. But when we are three, with my white husband Tim, or five with her brother and sister, there is no denying that she has been adopted into our family. People who say that other people just see love perhaps don’t want to recognize that there are many people who don’t see it that way.

    Your situation is even more difficult that mine. I see Maya’s mother fairly often. I have been able to say to her, “I know this is difficult on you. Is there any way I can make it easier?” In the end, I recognize that is all I can do — make it as easy on her as I can. Sometimes that means carrying the conversation and being light so she can be too. Sometimes that means being glad for Nikki when Maya calls her “Mommy.” Sometimes that means trusting that Maya will be OK when Nikki runs off with Maya to a neighbor or friend to introduce her daughter. Sometimes that means calling to tell her about some milestone that Maya has achieved. Sometimes that means understanding when Nikki doesn’t call back.

    People who see our situation might think that somehow I don’t think I’m *really* (there’s that word again) Maya’s mother because I involve Nikki so often. What they don’t understand is that it is precisely because I know so fundamentally that I am Maya’s mother, that I *can* do the things I do. I feel no fear in allowing Nikki to share in the joy that is Maya. Nikki and I are both well aware that I have all the *legal* power to share or not. That is the sad truth.

    Do I hang around my house all mopey and gloomy? Hell no! I’m living in the joy that my three children bring me.

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