#AdoptionTalk - CLOSURE


In November of 2014 I had the great honor to do an exclusive interview with Deborah, the Birth Mother from the hit documentary CLOSURE.  (find it on Netflix, Amazon Instant Play and more).

I have been so blessed by her friendship.  I have sat and watched in AWE at the transformation that Deborah has made over the past 2 years.  I have  talked for hours and hours with this amazing woman.  

We have talked about life and death and disappointments and regrets.  We have talked about kids and family and God, always talk of God.  We have talked about the "hurry up and wait to die".  We have talked about living in the dark.  We have talked about trials and punishment and what we deserve and who we are most mad at and the pressures of others.  

We have talked about everything. 

I have always admired Deborah and her honesty and her surprising grasp on her reality but I always knew that the fate that she believed was in store for her WAS NOT GOING TO PLAY OUT THAT WAY.  

She believed that she was undeserving of love and life and adventure and promise and freedom and independence.  She has sat for years and years alone in the dark just waiting.  Waiting for God to take her, waiting for whatever was coming for her.  


I had the deep honor of sponsoring her for our BTG Soul Cruise for 2016.  I knew that this would push her outside of everything she had been doing for her life over the past 20+ years.  I knew that she would have to break out of the comfort of the waiting......that she would be forced to interact and to share and to go out on her own and to see things and hear things that would be completely new to her.  

As I watched her on this trip I learned so much about myself and saw a side of her that wasn't newly discovered....it was something that was finally AWAKE!!  Something that has ALWAYS been there but has never been fed.  

She was brilliant and open and caring and honest and adventurous and generous and loving and funny and I am sure TOTALLY embarrassed by us as a whole! 

She woke up every morning on the boat at 5:00am to go and sit with a dear and amazing couple that she met.  They would sit, have coffee and talk about life and loss and share their experiences and their HOPES FOR THE FUTURE!  

I watched as she interacted with the women on the trip half her age and laugh and joke and LEAD.  She brought things to the table, experience and perspective that NO ONE else could bring.  She taught about life and depression and disappointment.  She talked fearlessly of her choices and her regrets.  

She walked off that boat ready to get a job, ready for adventure and LIFE.  

No more waiting.....................

less proving....................

MORE LIVING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

I am going home and I am going to start living my life for ME, not for anyone else. This is about what I want and I am capable of doing it all. No one is going to tell me “I can’t” anymore. I am going to start living my life. I have missed so much.
— Deborah Johnson

continue scrolling to read our exclusive interview from 2014.  

*DISCLAIMER.  It has taken me a very long time to put this post together, to collect my thoughts and decide the direction that I have wanted it to go.  Every time I sat to write I was blocked, distracted and I could not get my heart into it.  As I sit and write today it is not the direction that I had planned, but this is what my heart needed to shared.  It is what WE wanted to share....And it is long....but beautiful.  xo, Ashley Mitchell

I asked our private support group of birth moms if they believed that we could find real closure in our journey.  Many said yes, some said no, some said that it totally depends on the situation and the individual.  Some believed that ACCEPTANCE was a better word, that we maybe don't every really have closure as birth parents but maybe we find acceptance which leads to a greater peace.  

A definition of CLOSURE says:

: a feeling that a bad experience has ended and that you can start to live again in a calm and normal way

My life since placement has never been lived in a calm and normal way.  It has always been a very tricky blend of coexisting with this choice.  I have found acceptance, I have found peace and forgiveness but there are always things in this life that show up to rattle my soul, to change my course, to draw me back..my birth son is out there, he is living a life and I get to be a guest role in his life from time to time but I find myself frozen at times, crippled by the reality of my choices.  

Do we really ever find ultimate CLOSURE?  In something that remains present in your life, that is constant in the front of your mind, that is forever a part of who you are....can you really ever get to a place of CLOSURE?

I have been working with women for the past 6 years, specifically women of the adoption community and even more specifically birth mothers.  I have heard incredible life stories.  I have heard stories that break my heart into a million pieces, I have heard stories that have healed my heart and bring great hope to my life.  I have heard stories that have stayed with me....that have changed me, deep in my soul.

This is one of those stories.

The women that I am going to tell you about have blessed me greatly and will stay with me throughout my life.

In February of 2014 I ordered a copy of the compelling Adoption Documentary CLOSURE.  There was some buzz going around social media and the story was brought to my attention.  I remember vividly watching this film, draw dropped and tears rolling down my cheeks.  

I wrote a review and posted it within two days of watching the film.  

In May I reached out to Angela Tucker, the Adoptee star of this documentary.  I asked if it would be ok if I sent a gift to her Birth Mother, Deborah for Birth Mother's Day/Mother's Day to honor her and let her know that she was not alone.  Angela, not knowing me or my story took the time to read it, respond and share the information that I needed.  

About a week after Deborah received her gift I received this from Angela:

Hi Ashley, I spoke with my birth mom who was in utter disbelief upon receiving her package. She said that she put the box on her counter and stared at it, wondering who would’ve sent her a box like that. Then she invited some of her neighbors inside to open the box with her. Finally she opened it, and she and her friends fought over the shirt, they are each wearing a wrist band, and Deborah refused to take the sunglasses off. Needless to say this was a gift unlike anything she’s ever received. THANK YOU.
— Angela Tucker

I have learned so much over the past 9 years.  Not just about myself but about ALL sides of adoption.  There are so many stories, so many sides, so many voices.  Each full of their own amount of pain and loss, their own self discovery and joy.  

I know what it has done for me and my story to be heard, to be celebrated, to be met with opposition, to seek validation and to earn respect.  

That is what we all want, and what we all deserve.  And the more we continue to open our hearts and minds and educate ourselves...we will be able to change opinions, change hearts, change the stereotype and with that comes GREAT HEALING.

When I watched CLOSURE I knew that I really wanted to reach out and talk more with Deborah, to be someone that she could depend on, someone that could understand what she had been through, what she was going through.  

WE ALL NEED SOMEONE. I do not care where you stand with adoption, what your opinions are or how you feel...when you are in it, you can NOT make it through alone. It is too damn hard.
— Ashley Mitchell

And this is  where I start with Deborah's story, reaching out to her and giving her an ear.

In a time when God and respect for your Elders are a way of life, Deborah found herself in impossible circumstances.  Choosing life on the street over disrespecting her own Mother, even when she had been wronged.  

Pregnant and alone Deborah chose adoption for Angela.  She chose life for Angela.

November 21, 2014 - phone interview   

Ashley:  Tell me about who Deborah is and what it was like growing up.

Deborah: I was born in 1954 in Atlanta, GA but was raised in Chattanooga.  I am a quiet person, I don't talk about myself.  I was raised with my parents but I spent more time with my grandparents.  My mother said I act just like her mother.  I love country life.  I am not a city person.  I love to have an open field and love to grow my own vegetables.  I am a dirt person.  We used to have the well in the front yard to get our water, I wish I had one now.  I love the spring water.  People in Chattanooga used to just line up to get the spring water.  My mother and my grandmother were religious people.  My mother sang in the church.  I was baptized into the church, my whole family was.   

When my grandmother died I kind of shut down, I couldn't really talk to anybody.  I was in the 9th grade and so I didn't know many things, i couldn't talk to anybody.  My mother was a strong person but she never asked you anything.  I felt like she should talk to me not just do things but my mother wasn't like that.  My mother said I was just like my grandmother.  I had twin brothers, one that left our family and joined the Marines and one that gave up his life to work so that his sisters could finish high school.  He gave up his life."

Deborah went on and shared many fun memories of her childhood and what it was like growing up.  Sharing her daily struggles, many similar to those that we all faced during that time.  

Ashley:  Tell me about your children 

Deborah:  "During this time, just about 1973 I was working a job in a plant making about $4.00 an hour.  At that time it was just my mother and me and then I had my eldest son.  My mom stayed home with my son and I would go to work.  That is how it went.  Then I had my next son, now this son was real rebellious.  Even though me and his father were no longer together I sent him to live with his dad in Oklahoma City.  I would not stand for his disrespect.  You do not raise your voice, regardless of what they tell you, you do that.  Even if you disagree, it doesn't matter, it is over.  I called his father and said you have to take him because if he does it again and is disrespectful again I am going to hurt him.  His father came and got him and he spent his life there.

After that I had Caroline, and then I had Angela.  

Ashley:  Tell me about Angela, your time being pregnant with her and what that was like for you.

Deborah:  There was a lot that happened between the time that I had Caroline and the time that I had Angela.  It changed the course of my life forever.

There are many things that were shared about this time in Deborah's life that I have felt strongly not to share out of great respect for her, the trials that she faced and betrayal by those that were supposed to love her the most.

In Chapter 46 of the book '52 Ways To Live A Kick-Ass Life' by Andrea Owen  it shares some thoughts on Closure, basically stating that it is overrated (which I totally agree with, at least as far as the literal definition is concerned.)

She says this:

The definition of closure that you’re looking for may never ever happen. Your only job is to create the closure YOU need in order to feel peace and love for yourself.
— Andrea Owen

We can't change the past.  EVER.  NEVER EVER.  And we sure as hell can't force people to sit and listen to us, to accept our apologies, to understand where we are coming from, to apologize to us, to fix all that was broken.....the romanticized version of closure that we have created in our head is probably not going to happen.  

As birth mothers we can drive ourselves crazy searching for the elusive "CLOSURE".  We want to find it with family, with the birth father, with friends, with those that have NOT supported us in our decisions, with the child, with the adopting family....we want to be at peace in our hearts so that we can go on to live in a "normal and calm way".

The biggest problem is that we are searching for closure from other people that have played a role in all of this mess...we need to stop looking for it in others and find it for ourselves!
— Ashley Mitchell

We may sit with someone for hours, asking questions, looking for all the answers and NEVER hear what it is that we want to hear.  The apologies that never come, the explanations of actions that never satisfy.  It is an endless pursuit.

Back to Deborah and her story.

Deborah:  My children had lived with me in a housing project. (son and first daughter)  I had moved and got another job.  My parents had separated but never divorced.  My daddy actually lived about 4 doors down from me.  He helped me a lot.  He made sure that they got on the school bus and I went to work.  

I was working as a cashier at a gas station.  My children were with my mother for that weekend and I had gone out with my friends.  We went out to the club and I met this man.  I knew his name, I knew his brother.  His brother was a professional boxer.  We started talking and seeing each other.  I would see him and then he would come and see me.  

*Deborah goes on to tell a story of betrayal that happened within her own family that took place during this time.  (this is not related to the boy she was dating) An event took place between her mother and sister that caused great turmoil in her family.  Because of Deborah's great respect for her Elder's she was not in a position to defend herself or accuse other family members of wrong doing.  She sacrificed everything to stay respectful to her family.  

The only thing that Deborah could do was to get her children and leave.  She was so heartbroken over the betrayal and any relationship that she had with her mother was now destroyed....and it broke her heart.  

One night her house was broken into.  She was not talking to her mother, but her father said that her Mother wanted the children with her.  It was not safe where they were living to have the kids there.  So Deborah took her children to her mother. She took care of them.

After everything that had happened she started going to clubs and began a self destructive path.  The hatred that her mother had for her really got to Deborah.

Back to the boy that Deborah was dating. 

Deborah:  When we started to date more he told me that he could not have any children.  And I trusted him.  It was the wrong thing to do for me.  When I found out I was pregnant I thought, Oh my God I have got to go!  At that time I was on the street but I was refusing to go back to my Mother's house where I knew that I could not open my mouth about anything!  I couldn't say a word.  So I left.  He didn't know where I had gone.  I did have a job.  I have always been able to get a job, and I was working.  Stayed here, there and some of everywhere.  I was homeless.  

Ashley:  Did you tell him that you were pregnant?

Deborah: No.  I did not tell him.  He would have not believed me, he would have said that he can't have children.  I took it upon myself.  The only thing that I knew is that my kids were safe with my mamma.  

Deborah goes on to share the heartbreaking time that she spent alone and pregnant.  She was on the street with a bit of a job.  She looks back now and can't believe that nobody saw what was going on....

Nobody knew what was going on because nobody came around me. I didn’t have any plans I was just out there. I was drinking just to hold on.
— Deborah Johnson

I can relate so much to that statement from Deborah.  When you find yourself in impossible circumstances like an unplanned pregnancy you will be surprised what you will do.  You are pushed to the very edge of your sanity.  I numbed my pain by drinking. I didn't know how to manage my emotion or control my impulses. I wanted nothing more than to just disappear and to make it all just go away!  There are SO many things that I did during the time of my pregnancy that I am not proud of, that I have been greatly slandered for.  It is impossible to understand the choices that were made...for those that have found themselves in this position understand the desperation that comes with the fear, guilt and shame...and the reality of what is going to happen.  

She had already lost so much.  She was now faced with delivery of a child and she was told that Angela was not going to make it.  

I asked Deborah one simple question.  "Was abortion ever something that was on the table"

Without even a second of hesitation she replied

NO.  NO.  

She was unable to remember so much of the delivery of Angela.  She ended up at the hospital some how.  She was told that Angela was not going to make it.  

Deborah:  The doctor told me about adoption.  There was a social worker there and she told me that they could get someone in here to help you.  I didn't know anything about adoption.  I didn't know what he was talking about.  I met the social worker and she knew all about the situation, she knew I was homeless and she know of the medical attention that Angela needed....she wanted to talk to me about adoption.  She told me that she could find a home and some help for the child if she makes it through.  The nurse then came in and said do you want to see her? 

Her response put me in tears. 

Can you promise me that you can get her some help? If you can promise me that you can get her some help I will sign the papers. I can’t hold her. If I see her and hold her she will never get any help. She wont get any help because if I hold her I will never give her back to you.
— Deborah Johnson

She signed the papers, and checked herself out.  

She lived from "pillow to post."

Deborah:  I know that there is a higher power out there.  I know what it is about to live on the street.  I know many people that lived on the street and never made it.  I know there is a higher power because I am still standing!  And WHO AM I that I am still standing.  There has to be something good about me because he has let me stand! 

At this point in life Deborah literally checked out of her life.  She pushed everyone away.  She was alone during the greatest struggles and was alone for every moment after.  

We have these moments in our life....this profound life changing moments that create and sometimes cause the avalanche.  I can look back at my life and pin point moments that if I would have done something different or if someone else would have done ONE thing different my entire life would have been changed.  

Deborah knew what that moment was in her life....it started everything.  She never went to her sisters and had a conversation with them.  She never needed to go to them for Closure.  She just knew that what she needed to keep herself safe and to love herself was to GET AWAY from those that didn't treat her the way she deserved.  The closure that she needed was found within.  

She sacrificed everything to get herself out, to put the space between herself and those that have hurt her.  She knew that she had to keep moving.  She knew that if she stopped she would have just shriveled up and died.

Ashley:  What kept you moving.  AFTER EVERYTHING what was it that kept you moving?! 

You gotta do what you gotta do to survive. I did not want to die. I wanted to see my children. I used to get on a bus and drive by the address where I knew Angela was and I would drive by and look. I never went in, but I would always drive by.
— Deborah Johnson

Deborah never let go of her children.  They are always with her.  Closure didn't come for her with something that was so present in her life...she didn't want to move past it and live in a normal and calm way...

Her children were her driving force.  Not something she was trying to get over.

Deborah:  After many years of just going on and on I finally got an apartment and starting put my life together, and it came little by little.  I met a man and I found out that he was married.  My open heart, it gets into trouble.  I found out I was pregnant again.  This child was going to have more problems than Angela.  

*Deborah had many high risk concerns with her own health.  The doctor told her after her first child that she shouldn't have any more children.  People have been so harsh about her story but she never told anyone about how she RISKED her own life to bring these children into the world.  She could have had an abortion but she risked her life for the birth of these children.  

Years later, when Angela showed up at her house and confronted her Deborah knew in her heart that it was one of them, she knew it was one of her girls that she had placed for adoption, she wasn't sure which one.  She denied being her mother.  Deborah was on the defense and was cornered.  

Deborah:  I had a picture of her, and I went to church.  That is what I had.  The people of the church took care of me.  My prayer was simply this:

Please let me live long enough to see that they made it through.
— Deborah Johnson

I am amazed at Deborah's strength.  She continued to share her journey, her struggles and her desire to be understood.  She knew who she was and why she made the choices that she made!  She risked so much for her children, she stayed loyal and respectful and she gave her children a better life than she could have EVER offered them.  She ALWAYS thought of her children, it was literally her driving force to keep moving, it saved her life and has been her one wish and prayer.  

Deborah:  Angela says "26 years and 1500 miles for closure."  She hasn't found closure yet.  Closure is going to come to her when I close my eyes.  Because it will be all over then.  

This statement hit me so hard.  And I believe it truly goes back to what I expressed early.  When it is something in your life that is present, that occupies your thoughts and exists in your space can you really find CLOSURE?  At least in the literal sense?  I think there will always be unanswered questions, conversations that will never satisfy, relationships that will never heal.  

For birth moms the key isn't about letting it go and putting it behind you so that you can live a normal and calm life!  For us it is about CO-EXISTING with our decisions.  Our children are never something we want to get over.  It is something that we need to work at to find acceptance that this is our life, that these are the choices that we made and we are living the consequences.  Find "closure" within ourselves and learn to LET GO of the rest.  

After CLOSURE was released Deborah had to close the door finally on many family relationships because of the harshness of their reaction to her and her life choices.  Her own daughter even took some time away.  Deborah respected them and let them do what they needed to.

She laughs as she dreams and makes plans to move to the West Coast and Sunny California...moving on and away where no one can touch her!  Doing something for herself is unheard of.  It is about time.  


Deborah has come to terms with the fact that she made the choices that she did, that she is going to be alone.  Her life is SO fragile and if it is shook she will break.  

She is so fragile.

Deborah knows without a doubt in her heart that Angela would have died if she had not made the choice that she had made.  She doesn't regret that decision for even a second.

Deborah shares an incredible testimony of God and the promises that he has kept to her.  In the darkest times so many of us lose the faith and she grows stronger, she leans on her Father for everything.  She knows there is more for her to do.  

She shares a testimony about how God brought me to her, that Angela brought me to her.  I am in tears during this interview knowing that I have been the only birth mom that she has ever been able to talk to.  She wants to teach people and educate!!  

To know that someone out there knows deep down, without prejudgment is a testimony of the work that he is doing in my life. Through you he is showing me that I am not a bad person. It is so good to know that there is someone out there that can say I know how you feel.
— Deborah Johnson

I continue to be humbled by the women that are willing to open up to me and share their hearts with me.  I am just thankful to be a part of their journey!!  It is the greatest honor!

Deborah:  Unless you have been there you can not judge anybody.  

Ashley:  If you could tell people anything about you what would it be?

Deborah:  I will give you my life, until you show me that you can not be trusted.  If I have got something and you need it you can have it because I know that God will give me something else.  I don't worry about that.  Money doesn't move me, people move me.  I want to sit around with people that know what I have gone through and not judge me.  One day I want to go home and meet my Heavenly Father, he has done so much for me.  I can't go back.  God pushes me forward, not backward.  I am more than blessed that they made it.  They made it.  People tell me that is isn't any of my doing that they made it and I beg to differ with you.  Had it been the other way around I know they would have never made it.  Yes I wanted my baby but I wanted to be able to take care of her.  I love to laugh.  I am a happy go-lucky person and I love to laugh.  Laugh is what I do through any emotion.  I will go through it with a smile on my face.  I am still an open-hearted person.  It is a part of me, the way I was raised to care.  People don't look at adoption as caring but it is....if it is looked at the right way and know why it is done it is caring.  

I love this woman!!!!  I love this amazing Big Tough Girl and she is still pushing forward.  I am so honored to stand with her as a birth mom.  We are healing together, we are finding acceptance and support, we are looking within for our own personal closure.  

Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!


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