About a decade ago, my husband and I went through the process of trying to adopt a child, and unfortunately, it didn’t happen, despite years of effort and tens of thousands of dollars. Someone recently asked me if I ever get sad when I think about what could have been.
I thought for a moment and responded that if my husband and I could somehow make life go “our” way, we would easily have double the number of kids. Apparently God had other plans for us and what plans they turned out to be! I was able to take what I learned during our journey and my time around other adoptive parents and use it to develop an amazing post-adoption support program for Care to Change. I’m now part of a team of professionals who walk alongside couples who have decided to create a loving home for a child in need, guiding them through the steps and the surprises.
Did it hurt when our adoption fell through? Absolutely. Was I disappointed at the time? That word doesn’t even begin to describe it … we were absolutely heartbroken. I could let those feelings continue to dominate my life, but instead I’ve made a conscious choice to focus on the lessons I’ve learned rather than allow all those “what ifs” and “why mes” to circle down the drain of despair.
We all have hopes and dreams, and we build ourselves up in preparing for them. Our brain chemistry makes us feel great when we think about those things by releasing chemicals that elevate our moods. And then things that are outside of our control happen, and we’re disappointed. Our dreams go unfulfilled, and it’s all too easy to sit in the rubble and give in to despair and defeat. It’s all too easy to complain that life is unfair. And it’s all too easy to give up and stop trying.
Just like joy, disappointment provokes a physiological response in our brain chemistry, making us feel even worse. That may happen automatically, but what happens next is entirely up to us. We decide what we’ll choose to do. We decide where to turn for comfort and support. We can choose to remain glum and protest, or we can dust ourselves off and move in another direction.
That’s important, because whatever happened that led to disappointment already happened. Unless you’ve discovered some kind of magical rewind switch, we can’t go back in time and hope for a different result. We can obsess over it and let it drag us down even further, or we can accept it and move forward.
At times, do I still wish our adoption efforts had been successful? Of course I do. I still have a drawer full of our paperwork and the journals I had written to our girls that we never received. But if I stay in the disappointment then I miss the present. My husband and I have two wonderful biological children. And, had we adopted I’m sure I would not have started Care to Change, who has now helped more than 1,000 families. Further, the Care to Change team has been able to do to support adoptive families because we have professionals with dozens of years of experience working with adoptive families. Clearly, God had a different plan than the one I envisioned so long ago. His plan may have been difficult, but it allowed me to grow in ways I might not have otherwise been able to do, and through that growth, I’ve been better able to serve others and the impact of Care to Change still expands as we add more to our team.
Disappointment is hard. When life doesn’t turn out how we imagine it can be frustrating. Allow yourself to be sad and to mourn for what could have been. There is no reason to rush past the reality of disappointment and grief of unmet dreams. But please, for the sake of those who need you, and for the sake of the purpose in your life, please don’t stay settled in that disappointment. Use it to fuel you. Start looking for what will come next. Down the road, you may look back and realize that the good things you’ve experienced might not have happened without that disappointment, and if you look closely enough, you’ll see God’s hand at work once again. Something we say often at Care to Change: God paints on a canvas bigger than we can see.
If you’re finding it difficult to move past the hurt or disappointment, or if it’s become overwhelming and is interfering with your daily life and relationships, set a time to talk with one of our counselors. It may be that part of your plan is learning from someone else.
Sitting with you,
More about April here.