Friday, September 29, 2006

The Next Chapter of My Life - "Love You. Mean It" Continues

Gladney Mom Julia Collins (far left in photo) is currently waiting for her daughter from China. She also just published a book, Love You, Mean It. It's best to let Julia tell her own story as only she can, so without further ado here is Julia's post, followed by a link to a recent USA Today article. - Editor

My name is Julia Collins and I am very excited to be adopting a baby girl from China. My dossier has been submitted and I am currently in the “waiting” period. I’m thrilled for this next chapter in my life.

You see, five years ago I would have never thought I would be where I am today. Five years ago, my husband, Thomas J. Collins, was killed in the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001. It was a day that changed my life forever, as well as so many others. At the time of Tommy’s death, we were trying to start a family. Although I’d always wanted to have a family someday, I’d never taken it for granted that it would happen, which made it all the more amazing when I began to let myself dream that this was something Tommy and I would do together. We were ready to start this next phase in our life.

After Tommy was killed, everything stopped. My head felt like it was going to explode- like I was listening to people talk but the conversations were taking place somewhere far away from me. My heart hurt so badly, it was like it was being ripped out of my body. I couldn't comprehend how my heart kept beating under such heartache. It can be so overwhelming at times that it is difficult to breathe and you wonder if you will physically survive the loss, much less emotionally survive it.

In the fall of 2001, I was introduced to another September 11 widow named Claudia, and within several months, she introduced me to two other widows, Ann and Pattie. In the months following our meeting, we were drawn together by the unthinkable – ten months previously our beloved husbands had died for no other reason than they had gone to work in the World Trade Center one blue-skied day in September. We soon discovered we had much more in common than our shared suffering. From that first meeting we formed an unshakable bond, one that was grounded in grief’s unbearable intensity and a mutual determination to find ways to go on with our lives.

Taking our inspiration from the men we so desperately missed; me, Pattie, Claudia, and Ann felt this friendship was fated to positively influence what had happened to us. We began calling ourselves the Widows Club, signing off emails and phone conversations with a lighthearted phrase: Love you, mean it. “Feeling this love for one another meant our hearts were beginning to open again. It was a risk—love brought with it the ever-present possibility of loss. But this was a risk worth taking. More than ever, we understood how important it was to put love at the center of our lives.”

We spent the last few years writing a book called Love You, Mean It. ( In this shared memoir of loss and rebuilt lives, the four of us recount the experiences of the coming years, during which time we support and encourage one another toward brave new futures. Love You, Mean It is a book we hope will both console and inspire with its true story of friendship, empathy, and emerging hope. To us, the message is clear: Love is a gift, share it.

In the spring of 2004 I met with Andrea Yonai at the Gladney Center for Adoption in New York City. She talked me through the adoption process. We discussed my various options. I told her I was interested in adopting from China—I had a very good friend of Chinese origin who could help me acclimatize the child and help me keep a connection with the child’s native country. We talked about the process of assembling the documents required by the State, the Federal Government, and the Chinese authorities. Andrea showed me pictures of some of the girls who had been recently adopted. Looking at them I felt my heart quicken—but I pulled myself back from getting too excited until I knew this was even a possibility.

“How much harder is it for a single parent to adopt?” I asked.

She told me that due to a Chinese policy that applies to all U.S. adoption agencies; only 8% of the total number of completed applications in any year could be from single parents. The single-parent quota had already been reached for this year. However, this didn’t mean that I couldn’t adopt, it just meant things might take a bit longer than they would otherwise. “Who knows?” Andrea advised me. “Towards the end of the year, you might get your application in and have your baby by the following year.”

I left the meeting feeling philosophical. If I managed to adopt, then so be it. If it didn’t happen, then other options would come along, I was certain of it. Adoption might take a few years, but that was okay—I still had some learning to do in the meantime and I had been through so much already that I knew I would be able to persevere during a lengthy and complicated process like this one. The main thing was to keep putting my best foot forward.

My dossier is now complete and I couldn’t be more thrilled to be receiving a baby girl. Although Tommy is not here to share this new chapter of my life, I know that he is watching out for me and this new blessing. I’m truly fortunate to have had the time I had with my husband. There will always be loss written into my heart, but I know that he is always with me – he is my guardian angel. Although I never would have chosen this path, loss has given me the opportunity to become more empathetic, more complex and more attuned. Tommy taught me to live each day to the fullest and to look at life-the demands of it, the fragility of it, and the beauty of it—with all its possibilities.

As we write in the book, “There can be hope after grief. Surround yourself with love. Immerse yourself in the many things that make life, not just bearable, but worth it. Cherish the love you receive.” I can’t wait to share this love with my new daughter. Julia Collins

And here is a link to the USA Today article about the "Widows Club" and their new book, which appeared over this past Labor Day weekend:

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