Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Grief, the "Rape Card" and Other Tidbits from Deanna Shrodes' Memoir, RESTORED"

photo credit:  facesandvoicesofrecovery.org
I just completed Deanna Shrodes' memoir, Restored: Pursuing Wholeness When a Relationship is Broken, over the weekend.  It could not have come at a better time. Both my husband and I are currently going through some personal issues at work that have been very difficult to cope with, especially since they are occurring at the same time.  Deanna's book reminded me of some of the basic principals in understanding people, trauma and reminding me and her audience that when you have lost something of value you desperately wanted or had at one time, there is hope on the other side -- that God won't replace that thing or relationship you lost or never had in exactly the same way, but there will be an abundant blessing coming your way in the future.

I have experienced this phenomena this week when I lost something that was very important to our family, and within several days, it had been replaced two-fold. I am completely in awe as to how just last week, I believed one thing and now I am sitting here still trying to process the sudden turn of events.  I guess life is like that.

I have been taking Deanna's advice by crying over what I lost; however, I am feeling lighter as the hours tick by as my body and mind begin to accept the changes my family will be experiencing over the next several weeks and months. Deanna said something in her book which really surprised me -- that grieving our losses is part of our spiritual walk -- something I never contemplated before, but makes perfect sense.  How can we truly and deeply love other people when we are walking around bleeding and wounded but refuse to go the hospital and get treatment?

I am one of those people who will instantly feel my feelings about a loss or disappointment (although admittedly, sometimes the way I express these feelings could be uncomfortable for others within earshot). . . ..I learned from a pretty young age in Psychology 101 that the grieving cycle by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross looks like this:

Knowing this cycle has always been helpful to me even for non soul-crushing losses in life, such as when your car breaks down, you drop your cell phone in the toilet or you lose a $100.00 bill.  No matter what the loss, one must go through this cycle.

Now, the important thing to remember is that grief does not occur in a neat and tidy order as this chart suggests.  You could literally bounce from one side of the chart to the other and back again before you reach complete acceptance. I have noticed that the older I get, when I experience a loss, the faster I get through the cycle.  You truly have to lean in to the grief and not fight it.


In Deanna's book is a quote that I had seen on Oprah years ago by Maya Angelou:

"When people show you who they are, believe them."  Here is the original version with a bit of the background of the quote.

"Often used by Oprah Winfrey, but it was her mother-sister-friend and mentor, Dr. Maya Angelou who originated this quote.  Many people misunderstand this quote.  They associate “the first time” with the literal meaning. However, you can know someone for years and see who they are for ‘the first time’ years later. But most of the time people show us (and sometimes tell us) who they are in a short period of time. We simply choose to not to believe them and ignore the signs."

article here

I can see Oprah now, loudly proclaiming that this quote changed her life.  I know it changed mine!  I can literally see in my mind's eye now as I review quite a few relationships that took a nose dive over my life, and if I am honest with myself, I can look back to the beginning and "see the signs" I missed. Those little comments, that body language, that warning by a friend, those little nuggets of truth that I chose not to believe at the time.

As I mention in my blog, When Your Adoption Reunion Goes Bust, Hold on to the Good, I was caught up in the excitement of finding my mother after 40 years of not knowing who she was and I missed some signs during our first phone call.  I am a very intuitive, emotional person, but I have learned that we are usually blind to the signs when it is a relationship that is so deeply important to us, that we literally choose on a subconscience level to ignore the signs, because what we want to believe can be so much more powerful than what is.


I was really happy that Deanna felt comfortable enough to share in her memoir about her experience with being told she was conceived in rape. She mentions me in her memoir as we both were told similar stories about our unknown fathers, seemingly, at close to the same time period. I have appreciated her support and being part of her support system as we have walked a path that most people (fortunately) will never have to experience and referring to me as a hero was completely not warranted however I deeply appreciate the sentiment.

My birth mother is also an unhealed woman who I also wanted a close relationship with. Like Deanna discusses in her book, there were hidden expectations on my part that I was not aware of at the time I was walking through my reunion.

The first one was this:  she would automatically tell me my father's name 

It truly never occurred to me that there would be any issue at all with this revelation.  I have known many adoptees whose birth mothers told them their father's names at the first meeting or soon after. One of my closest friends is a first mother who eagerly offered up the information, including an offer to get in touch with the father, even though they had no contact in decades.  It was not even a possibility on my radar screen that my situation would be any different.

My mother did show me who she was from the beginning.  I was flying out to meet her and her family solo in another state and staying in her home for the first night.  I really wanted to bring my son Matt as my husband was unavailable due to work.  My birth mother asked me not to bring him because she said she wanted to be alone with me. (red flag no. 1)

When I flew into the airport, my birth mother's husband and my sister were there to greet me.  My mother was not there. (red flag no. 2).

When I got to their home, my mother did not hug me or appear overly excited to see me when I first met her. (red flag no. 3)

My mother shared story number one about my father on the beach during our first full day alone together which had some holes in it. (red flag no. 4)

My mother drank too much alcohol that evening and got pulled over by the police for swerving down Ocean Highway and later made me promise not to tell my husband.  (red flag no. 5)

I chose to ignore all the signs and continued on in a "relationship" with this woman that I fantasized my entire life about . . . .one I deeply wanted to feel some acceptance and love from.  Instead, I received lots of confusing stories containing missing information and a few years after I first met her, the "rape card" was introduced in a very hurtful way.  I knew immediately it was a lie.  (red flag no. 6). . . .

I continued on in this relationship denial for some time because I just didn't want to admit to myself that it was not working.  (I suspect many divorce lawyers hear this same story daily).

Each phone conversation became more painful to deal with until I finally just decided that I knew the relationship was not healthy for me, that I felt disrespected and most of all, that I could not believe more denial that this woman who gave birth to me, would purposefully hurt me like this.  Like Deanna mentions in her book, my view  of what a  "mother" is and my birth mother's view of being a "mother" were two completely different realities.

I had failed.  I had trusted somebody who was not trustworthy. I only had myself to blame.  I knew better.  I knew the Maya Angelou quote.  I knew the cycles of grief.  I knew the red flags for untrustworthy people.  But still, I lied to myself.

And that, my friends, is how many times we become broken and in desperate need of restoration.

Thank you, Deanna, for being who you are -- one classy lady --- and for sharing your gifts with the world.  Love you!

You can visit Deanna at her blog or purchase her book here.


  1. I feel that I share your story, minus the actual physical meeting... My birth mother did not want me to be known to her family but to remain a secret. Thank You for posting this... It holds so much TRUTH... Sarah Pepe

    1. Thank you for commenting. I'm glad this post was meaningful to you, Sarah.