An interview with family educator, Valerie Gamache about her relationship with her mother who had bi-polar disorder. Valerie describes her mother’s illness and the frightening ways she could become suddenly violent and then have no memory for the episode. She reports the ways her family tried to keep, “the Big Secret” to the point that a friend thought her mother had actually died since Valerie spoke so little about her. She describes encounters with discrimination and prejudice that fuel this kind of silence. Valerie has taught numerous family to family classes through NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and spoke about her deep motivation that other families not have to go through what she did.
An interview with playwright, Cathy Plourde, founder of Add Verb productions about her new play, Major Medical Breakthrough. Cathy tells the story of writing a play to inspire health care providers to screen their patients for domestic violence. She gave sobering statistics about the high numbers of women and some men, who are being abused who see their doctors during the abuse and are never asked about it. Indeed only 10-19% of doctors report that they screen their patients routinely for domestic violence. Cathy stressed that where there is domestic violence, there is also likely to be sexual assault, something that often goes unasked about. She cites the ACE study to show that the more trauma in a person’s life, the more physical health problems they will have, and unless our doctors and nurses ask their patients, the cause of many illnesses will be missed. She gave a thoughtful description of why providers are hesitant to ask, but encouraged health workers to trust that asking the question, providing support and access to resources can make a tremendous difference.
An interview with author and professor, Meredith Hall about her experience of being shunned when she became pregnant at 16. Meredith speaks of the deep messages to pregnant girls that they are bad, and must be made to keep silent about the pregnancy for the rest of their lives. Meredith describes what it was like to be shunned by her entire community and to be pushed out of her mother’s house when she most needed support. She speaks about three levels of grief, the profound loss of losing the child, the loss that no-one ever spoke to her about this loss, or even acknowledged it, and the loss of her family and entire social world. Meredith speaks about how her anger helped protect her dignity and how seeing that she too had abandoned her child helped her make peace internally with her parents who had abandoned her. She ultimately affirms that she has been able to see the large grief she carries as a gift that has enlarged her capacity to love.
An interview with clinical social worker and birth mother, Marilyn Bronzi about giving up her child for adoption. Marilyn describes the sense of secrecy and shame that surrounded out of wedlock pregnancy in 1966. “It was like having a relative in jail.” She describes her process of making the decision and making peace with it in different ways over the years. Marilyn describes not talking to anyone about the loss for 23 years for fear of judgment. She also describes the experience of reunification with her daughter Lisa, and the ways that she and Lisa’s family have been able to come together. Marilyn affirms that giving up her child was an expression of loving her child, and wanting her to have the best life she could have.
An interview with author, adoptee and clinician, Joyce Maguire Pavao about parenting an adopted child. Joyce describes the changing demographics of adopted children, and how adopted children are increasingly older and may have experienced trauma as well as the loss of their birth family. Joyce asserts that “adoption doesn’t fix anything, ” and that each member of the adoptive relationship will still need to grieve their losses. She describes ways that families can honor the birth family and reassures parents that their child will not be confused about who their parents are, because they know so well who has raised them. Joyce describes the importance of early disclosure to adopted children about their own origins, and also tells her own story of finding and reconnecting with her birth family, with the support of her parents.