We all have stories. Some make us laugh until we cry. Others? Well…they just make us cry. If you have lived at all, you have likely experienced both joy and heartache. While it can be easy to wish that we lived a carefree existence without the difficult moments, sometimes even our most trying burdens can become our biggest blessings.
Have you ever gone through a situation and felt utterly alone? Have you been ashamed to speak your truth out loud? Have you ever just needed someone to say, “It’s okay. I’ve been there, too.”? Most of us want so badly for someone to identify with, to normalize what we often think are unique struggles. In these times, the testimony of others can be a bright and shining light in the darkness. So…have you considered sharing your testimony?
Benefits of Sharing
When people have gone through a difficult situation, sometimes sharing their stories is the last thing on their minds. They do all they can to bury it. Why speak of something if it brings them pain? They may face emotions such as guilt, shame, anger, resentment, regret, sadness, and a myriad of other feelings. This is normal and completely understandable. Many people prefer to put their past behind them. If they ignore it, it will eventually go away…right? Unfortunately, that’s not usually how it works. While we may be able to dismiss our pain for some time, or even numb it by replacing it with something else, trauma has a way of rearing its ugly head just in time to knock us down unexpectedly. The sooner you are able to own your story, to accept the situation, and to move forward with your healing, the better off you will be.
When we choose to share our stories, we take away the power of the pain. When we stand and speak our truth we are saying, “Yes, this happened. No, I can’t change it, but I can use it to impact another life in a meaningful way.” The first time you share your story out loud, it may feel very nerve-wracking. When your soul is still raw from what it has endured, it can feel quite difficult to refresh those old wounds. What’s nice though, is that as time progresses, your story will become easier to share. While it may still be emotional, your voice will become more steady. Your strength will be bolstered. You will begin to see the benefits of your words in your life and in the lives of others. Acceptance is key to healing yourself. Sharing is key to helping others heal.
All Types of Stories
If you think that nobody is interested in what you have to say, you’d be surprised. Whether you are a birth parent, a potential or current adoptive parent, or a person who was adopted, your story can touch the lives of countless others. Don’t forget about the stories in your life that are completely unrelated to adoption as well. First, it can help to think about where your story begins, how it progresses, and how it has led to your current situation. Also remember that your future is still wide open, so your story is never really finished. If you aren’t quite sure what aspects of your story may be helpful to others, here are a few ideas, While this list is by no means all-inclusive, it may spark some ideas:
- Possible Birth Parent Testimonies:
1. Unplanned Pregnancy- Many birth parents come to an adoption decision after facing an unplanned pregnancy. Some became pregnant at a very young age. Others may have become pregnant at a later, yet still inconvenient time in their lives. Perhaps you have a story to share about practicing safe sex. Maybe you will fight to prevent teenage pregnancy by educating young people. You might even advocate for birth control to be made more readily available.
2. Rape or Sexual Abuse- If your pregnancy was the product of rape, you can share your story of survival. Many survivors of rape, incest, and sexual abuse hold their pain and their stories inside. They need someone to encourage them, identify with them, and give them a voice. Perhaps that voice can be yours.
3. Choosing Life- While everyone is entitled to make their own decisions, if you have placed a child for adoption it means that you have chosen life for that child. When faced with the difficult decisions following an unplanned pregnancy, abortion is an option that is often pursued. Sharing your story may help another person to see that while abortion may be an option, it’s not the only choice. Adoption can be an option as well: a caring, loving option that will brighten the lives of many.
4. From Pregnancy to Placement and Beyond- Your story includes multiple parts. Sustaining a pregnancy and remaining healthy both physically and emotionally, even while knowing that you will not be parenting a child, can be incredibly difficult. Do you have tips or tricks that helped you get through it? How about stories of your adoption placement? How was your time in the hospital? Is there anything you would change? Did you have a placement ceremony? If you placed your child(ren) for adoption when they were older—whether through an agency or through the foster care system—how has that affected you? What types of emotions do you feel and how would you recommend dealing with the situation to others who may be experiencing it? What do you say when confronted with the opinions and questions of others? After placement—how is it going? Is it what you expected? Better/worse? Is there anything you would change or that you wish had worked out differently? What parts of your adoption journey do you love? Which parts are your least favorite?
5. Open vs. Closed Adoption- If you were involved in a closed adoption, how did that affect you? What concerns and emotions did/do you have? Do you advocate for open adoption and reunion? If you are involved in an open adoption, how did you choose the adoptive parents? What does it mean to you to receive contact or have visits? How do you deal with conflicting interests or viewpoints that may occasionally arise? Do you recommend open adoption to others?
- Possible Adoptive Parent Testimonies:
1. Infertility and Miscarriage- Unfortunately, many people deal with the struggle of infertility and miscarriage. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6% of married women ages 15-44 can’t conceive after one year of trying. Also, 12% of women in the same age group struggle to get pregnant or to carry a pregnancy to term, regardless of marital status. It is believed that 1 in 4 recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage. 1 in 100 pregnancies at 20 weeks or later end in stillbirth. These numbers are devastating. Many parents choose to keep this information private and end up holding the pain inside. By sharing your story, you can help others to know that they are not alone, that it is not their fault, and that it’s okay to grieve, to feel angry, or to feel any emotions that may overcome them. You can refer them to counseling or help them find ways to grieve the loss of a child or the chance of becoming biological parents.
2. The Choice to Adopt- What led you to your decision to adopt? Was it something you have always wanted to do or is it a decision you came to recently? Did you choose to adopt through an adoption agency or through foster care? Have you adopted a family member? There are many benefits to adopting, but there are also many questions. Sharing your knowledge about the financial and legal obligations that go along with the adoption process may benefit others. Giving them advice to help them decide what to look for in an agency and having realistic expectations about the entire process can also help. Perhaps your story can help someone who is on the fence about adopting to make an informed decision.
3. Failed Adoption- Have you experienced an adoption placement that fell through? How did that affect you? What emotions did you experience? Did it weigh heavily on your desire to try again or did you pick right up and just keep going? While this type of situation can be painful, it can be helpful to know that others have experienced it and have some advice for coping with the loss of an “almost” adoption.
4. The Joys & Struggles of Adoption & Parenting- There is no doubt that you have experienced both incredible joy and difficult moments on your adoption journey. Which moments made you burst with pride? Which moments were challenging or upsetting? Have you had anxiety about bonding with your new child or becoming a parent in general? How do you effectively communicate with your child’s biological family while still respecting each other’s boundaries? Regardless if it’s biological or adoptive, parenting comes with its own set of joys and struggles. Use yours to help others.
5. Open vs. Closed Adoption- What type of adoption are you currently a part of? Is it completely open, completely closed, or somewhere in the middle? What are the benefits and drawbacks in your opinion? Potential adoptive parents may be trying to navigate how they feel about levels of openness. Your experience can help them to make an informed decision.
- Possible Adoptee Testimonies:
1. Searching for Answers- If you have been raised in a closed adoption, you may have had many questions over the years. Who are your birth parents? Why did they choose adoption? What kind of medical history do you have? What is your cultural heritage? What traits did you receive from your biological family? Even in open adoptions, there may be questions that an adoptee doesn’t feel comfortable asking. How have you been able to find the information you seek? If you are still searching for answers, how has that affected your life and identity (if at all)?
2. Reunion- Have you searched for your biological family? Did you find them? Was your family supportive of your desire to search or were they upset about it? Have you chosen not to search at all, and what are your reasons for that? Is reunion what you expected? Were your records open or sealed and how did you go about getting them? If you have been contacted by a member of your biological family, how did you react? There are many families hoping to reunite (and many who choose not to). Your advice and your story can help them to decide what’s right for them.
3. Advocate for Adoption- Has being adopted impacted your life in a positive way? If you were raised in a loving and happy home, you may be a great advocate for the benefits of adoption. Educating others on the benefits of adoption can help not only potential birth parents and adoptive parents, but also the general public. With many misconceptions portrayed by the media and society, it is important to dispel any rumors that may exist about adoption.
4. Sharing the Struggles- While those who joined families through adoption usually have wonderful lives, there can still be struggles. How do you react to rude people or those who ask uneducated questions? How do you express your desire to explore your roots without feeling like you are disrespecting those who raised you? How do you deal with emotions that may arise due to your specific circumstances? If something has been a struggle for you, it is likely that someone out there is battling with a similar issue. Let them know they aren’t alone.
5. The Foster Care System- Have you been adopted through the foster care system or have you spent any time in the state’s custody? What was your experience? Are there certain policies in place that have been helpful or hurtful to you? How do you feel about the timeliness of the system? The quality of care? The resources available to you? How have you dealt with being apart for your biological family—especially during a difficult situation? Have you struggled with issues regarding trust and bonding? Have you been in a stable home or were you forced to move around a lot?
- Other Stories That Need Sharing: Your experience with adoption is probably not the only story you have inside of you. All stories are worth sharing! As humans, we endure a lot. We can let it hinder us, or we can use it as a stepping stone to achieve great things and help others. Perhaps you have a story that can help others that involves one or more of the following:
1. Medical Conditions- coping with physical or mental illness, becoming a caregiver, etc.
2. Bullying- what it is, how to recognize it, and how to stop it
3. Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse- sharing resources, encouragement, and stories of survival
4. Self-harm and Eating Disorders- how it began and how to get help
5. Addiction- sharing how incredibly common it is, making the decision to get clean, sharing resources and organizations that can help, and being accountable for your sobriety
6. Faith- sharing your testimony with others
7. Grief- the loss of loved ones, the stages of grief, finding peace
8. Literally anything else!- You know your life. You know what you have been through. What stories can you share to help others?
Avenues of Sharing
You know what your story is, but how should you share it? It can be incredibly scary to think about shouting your most personal experiences from the rooftops, so it helps to start small.
- Just Write! Consider writing down how you feel. Journaling, poetry, or just scribbling notes on paper can be therapeutic. When you take the emotion inside of you and set it free, it lifts a burden from your shoulders. If you choose to write about your story or your emotions, not only will it help to release them, you will be able to look back on them years later and see how far you have come. From there, it is completely up to you what to do with your work. Some people choose to keep it hidden from public view, some people choose to share it with loved ones, and some people choose to crumple it up and throw it away or toss it into a fire and watch as it goes up in smoke. That’s your decision. Everyone heals differently.
- Get Creative! In addition to writing, art can be a very beneficial way to share your story. Through the use of color and context you can convey exactly what you are feeling without ever speaking a word. Draw, paint, sculpt, collage, scrapbook—the sky is the limit! If you are musically inclined, perhaps you can write a song or compose a piece of music that is meaningful to you.
Once you have become comfortable expressing your emotions to yourself, you may want to think about speaking to others who are close to you.
- Therapy- Some people hear the word therapy and think, “Oh, that’s for crazy people,” but that is far from the truth. Therapy is for anyone who would like to work through their personal problems and strive to better their own lives. Therapy is a confidential and unbiased way to share exactly what’s on your mind in a safe place. It may take a few sessions to become comfortable with open conversation, but it can be immensely helpful in overcoming issues that weigh on your mind.
- Trusted Friends and Family Members- Having a solid and trustworthy support system is important. If you have someone in your life that you feel comfortable sharing your story with, go ahead! Those who love you should be available to listen and to encourage you without judgment. If you have friends or family who have been in similar situations, even better! They may have words of wisdom that can help you along the way.
- Support Groups- There are all types of support groups, both in person and on the internet. Do some research and find one that feels like a good fit for you. Once you become comfortable, you can share your story there and help to support others.
- Social Media- Some people don’t like to share much on their social media pages, and that’s understandable. However, if you are okay with being transparent to those who follow your account, you can post your story publicly. While some people may judge you based upon what you have experienced, the vast majority will typically support you and let you know how proud they are of you. You may share a point of view that someone hadn’t previously considered. Yours may be the words that impact someone who really needed to read them. Remember to use your best judgment on how much personal information you share and with whom you are sharing it.
If you have become comfortable sharing with small groups and individuals, how about sharing with larger groups and the general public? This can be incredibly scary at first (especially if you are shy by nature), but it can also be incredibly empowering. If you aren’t comfortable sharing with large groups, that’s okay! Your story can have an amazing impact on your inner circle. If you are comfortable, however, here are some ideas for your consideration.
- Public Speaking- Public speaking has ranked as the number 2 fear that Americans experience…right behind spiders. While it can be intimidating, public speaking can be an exciting and worthwhile opportunity. Check with local organizations in your area to see if there are any events seeking speakers. Adoption banquets, group meetings, celebration dinners, educational classes, and many other events can benefit from having a guest speaker. If you choose to speak at one of these events, prepare in advance by considering the group of people to whom you will be speaking and any specific guidelines the organization would like you to follow.
- Contact Your Adoption Agency- If you placed through an agency, they may have opportunities for you to speak with potential birth parents, prospective adoptive parents, social workers, or others. Ask if there are any areas in which you can volunteer.
- Church- If you attend a church or religious organization, consider sharing your testimony. Has your faith helped you to overcome a crisis or work through a hardship of any kind? In what ways is your life blessed now? Whether you share your testimony in front of the congregation, in Sunday school or Bible study, or even with just one person—it has the potential to make a great impact.
- Write a Book! Even if you never become famous, a book can be a way to thoroughly share the account of your life. Children’s books can be a helpful way to explain difficult subject matter in a fun and easily understood manner. Personal narratives can grab the attention of many. Even those who don’t personally identify with your situation can benefit from an inspirational story. When a person writes genuinely from the heart, it can make people laugh, cry, or think about things in a new way.
- Career Paths- Sometimes we go through something so life-changing that it sets us on a path that will impact the rest of our life. Our pain can give us a purpose. If there is an area that you feel a strong connection to and you feel that you can make a positive difference, it’s worth pursuing! A passion can turn into a career, which can turn into a lifetime of helping others.
Alex Elle is quoted as saying, “You are not a victim for sharing your story, you are a survivor setting the world on fire with your truth. And you never know who needs your light, your warmth, and raging courage.” When you feel ready to share your story, may your light shine so brightly that it illuminates the path for all who encounter it. When you recycle your pain into purpose, your burdens into blessings, and your trials into triumphs—you are making the world a better place.