How to Move from Gray into Color

How to Move from Gray into Color
Nelo Hotsuma/Creative Commons

A friend of a friend approached me with questions about open adoption the other day.

“Do you ever wish you had just walked away? Closed the door on everything after leaving the hospital?”

My answer needed only a split second of reflection.


In my days without Dominic, — about 500 since he was born — the world around me is dull and gray. Activities that used to bring me joy pale in comparison to being with my baby.

When visiting Dominic, I feel like Dorothy stepping from her Kansas home into Oz. My world becomes magical, amazing, colorful. I can’t imagine living without that color.

Stuck in my colorless universe, I asked other birthmothers if they live in gray, too.

“I don’t have grayness,” one birthmom responded. She placed a few years ago. “For the first two years, the adoption was a constant thought and worry and concern, but I haven’t had trouble finding joy outside of seeing my daughter. …[T]hrough a lot of self-care and therapy and support, I definitely have joy — and sorrow and fear and love and happiness — in my life.”

She said that in her therapy, she set specific goals of reducing her anger, forgiving and working through certain fears.

“One other thing that helped was to be self-reflective and see if what I was doing would bring me closer or farther from feeling more happiness,” she said. “I learned to say ‘no’ to more things and say ‘yes’ to others just because it felt right to do so.”

A second birthmother, who placed her daughter at birth almost two decades ago, said she also described her depressed feelings as “gray” when talking to a therapist once.

“Since I did not have the option of visits with my daughter, I did not have the experience of only finding joy in those moments with her, so I had to fortify my life to ensure that I had other happy moments besides the two times per year I received photos from the adoptive parents,” she said. “I had to forge ahead to limit the gray-days.”

For this birthmother, humor, music, art, volunteering and keeping a curious mind are major factors that bring color into her life.

This month, Dominic will be 18 months old. In the slow-but-quick passage of time since his birth, I’ve been trying to attain a new rhythm. Although many birthmoms tell me that the first year is the hardest, the next big hurdle I hear them talk about is waiting until the child becomes verbal.

Until Dominic can talk and recognize me regularly, I question whether he will love me. When he can say my name, will he want to have me around? Will he look forward to my visits? Or will he be ambivalent?

I read somewhere that long-term memories begin forming around age 2. Other birthmoms tell me stories about their child starting to understand “I was in your belly” around age 3 or 4.

Evaluating where I am now, with Dominic barely one and a half, I feel bogged down. How can I keep running, searching for my rhythm, in this overwhelming grayness? Where is my Oz?

As the two birthmothers reminded me, the power to move through the grayness is not just in the hands of time, but in my hands, too.

Even if it doesn’t feel like it, I know what brings me joy. I just have to keep doing those things until I can one day look up and see color again.


In your times of depression, what has helped you move through? If you’ve had a life-changing experience or loss that sent you into grayness, how did you deal with it? Leave a reply in the comment box below. Please be familiar with the comment policy.

2 thoughts on “How to Move from Gray into Color

  1. Grace Flannery

    I have had many days and months of grayness in the years since my daughter was placed for adoption. I think of the first few years as my “zombie period.” These days, I don’t always succeed in bringing myself back to living in color right away. I try to honor the sadness that lives in the gray zone. But then I ask myself to get into action, to work in my garden, pet my cats, call my friends, love my spouse and watch funny videos on you tube. Exercise helps a lot. Love and feeling a sense of community do too.

    • Emily

      I like your perspective, to “honor the sadness.” I am learning how important it is to listen to my feelings without becoming stuck in them, and I appreciate the way you explained your journey. Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Grace.

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