I work with a group of advocates who champion the cause of encouraging adoption of transition age youth. They go around the city talking to youth about holding on to the hope for unconditional family love and commitment, and they recruit parents to fulfill those dreams.
They hurt today when one young man in the audience despaired, “fuck family!” They hesitated to reassure him for a pain that they themselves still felt. How were they supposed to go around the city touting the value of family when some of them were still homeless, living alone, or with “families” that really didn’t love them deep down? How could they tell a young person that even though their mothers may have hurt them or left them, they never stopped yearning for her? The hypocrisy of selling “happily ever after” was burning them out.
It was hard for these advocates to voice this pain and grief without fear that speaking it would make it too difficult to bear and impossible to bury again. Indeed, our conversation descended to a point where we sat quietly, feeling overwhelmed and powerless. And, I second guessed whether I should have taken them this close to the edge of despair.
But, a deeper truth began to emerge. We all felt more connected to each other in that moment. We leaned in to each other and listened in a deeper way. The shit got real and it hurt to open up, but it felt good too. We all felt a little more known and a little less alone in the world. In that moment, they were creating the sense of connectedness and understanding that families, at their best, provide. They began to recommit to their cause in the slim chance that even one young person finds a loving family. They began to remind themselves that they do this work to do something good in the world and make their lives worthwhile in their own eyes.
Then, I understood the story they should tell. The irrevocable truth of their lives is unimaginable loss and on-going struggle day by day, yet they haven’t given up. They strive to make something of their lives, to help others, and to reach out for love. There is no “happily ever after.” There is only the striving to create fleeting moments of love and purpose again and again while carrying an infinite deluge of grief with ever more grace.
The group ended with hugs and a collective search for a bar and damn good chocolate to be shared with each other, their family.