parenting concepts for me: sad looks like mad

Lights on the Lake by Lindsay Megahed

A concept I’ve heard more frequently lately — especially as it applies to adopted and foster children — is “when sad looks like mad.” (I think it originally comes from my buddy, Karyn Purvis.)

My little introvert self has always been quietly perceiving the roots of external actions and words of those around me. They’re saying this, but they really feel this kind-of-stuff. In kids from “hard places,” and surely many “normal” kids, sad frequently looks like mad. In me, too.

My biggest areas of sadness lately are related to the unpredictable delays and out-of-nowhere disappointments related to our adoption process. It lately seems that any bit of hope is soon met with some sort of discouraging news. (Lately? Maybe not lately. It’s just getting harder again as we get so close to the end.) Even getting an unexpected video of the boys turns quickly into the saddest reminder that they are very much out of our reach, and we have absolutely no control. This is nothing new, really.

But suddenly, I find myself inexplicably mad. Mad at Dan for… wait, I can’t remember now. I can’t remember, because my anger was precipitated by some other event that made me deeply sad. Those events usually happen during the day — emails from our agency, alerts posted by the Department of State, even rumors shared on message boards. I’m alone, I’m sad, and I keep it in.

The day passes, Dan comes home, and my sad about adoption has transformed into mad at Dan for who knows what. My sadness is being expressed by anger.

Our kids will likely do this, too. We’ve definitely seen it in our Safe Families kids. They will be sad that they have come home to a home that is not their parent’s. They don’t have the ability to put words to the sad. So they get mad at us for not letting them eat a popsicle for dinner.

I, on the other hand, do have the ability to put words to my sad. I just gotta do it. Painful as it is. Over and over again. It’s worth it to not feel this inexplicable mad. 

If this topic interests you, I recommend this video by the folks at Empowered to Connect.

  • I am there with you sister! It is so interesting how all these adoption books teach you how to recognize signs of trauma and how to regulate emotions in children, and I find myself learning how to recognize these things in myself. I find myself using phrases like “regulating myself.” Anyway, we are in a very much unexpected delay with our process too and it’s put me in a big funk. I’m sad, angry, apathetic, skeptical, etc. I find myself disconnecting from our daughters photos, and videos in an effort to prepare for the worst. It’s hard sometimes. Praying for you.

    • natalie

      right there with you. sorry to hear you’ve hit an unexpected delay… was wondering how you were doing. hang in there! praying for all of us waiting for our kids for different reasons.

  • I totally get this! Just found your blog and reading around 🙂

    • natalie

      hi! welcome! doesn’t it make so much sense? 🙂