The Gift of Presence

We are so honored to have as guest blogger this week Whitney’s literal lifesaver, Kristi Marshall. Our readers were first introduced to her in a recent series: Between Two Worlds, Seeking Help and Laying It All Out. There was a time in Whitney’s life when Kristi was her only safe person in the entire world. During that incredibly difficult period, Kristi taught and loved and guided and challenged and stretched. She would say that was just “doing her job,” but her calling to walk alongside hurting people is something that has forever changed our lives. We know that each reader can find something here to cling to in this special guest post.

If you are interested in submitting a guest blog on any adoption-related topic (KADs only at the present), please email us at

Hello! Let me introduce myself! My name is Kristi and if you have been following We the Lees, you may know that I am a licensed professional counselor. I have many years of experience counseling all members of the adoption triad – adoptees, birth families and adoptive couples.  To say that adoption is a passion of mine would be an understatement! Needless to say, when Whitney stepped into my office, I was thrilled to see her. I could tell from the look on her face that she was weary from walking her journey alone. She tried to mask it with her big beautiful smile, but her pain was obvious. I think it’s so common to feel “alone”- alone in your struggle, alone in your pain. Sometimes the biggest thing counseling can offer is the gift of presence. There is nothing magic about talking to someone (although I do have a magic wand in my office for emergencies), but as Whitney can attest, there IS something “magic” about being vulnerable. It is so intimidating to think about going to a “stranger” to talk about “feelings.” I always tell clients, I am first and foremost, a human being (not a robot). Yes, I am a therapist, but much of what we discuss in counseling is the nature of what it’s like to be human, to have big feelings…sometimes scary feelings. There is no judgment in a therapist’s office. Ideally, everyone finds a safe place that is full of grace and compassion; permission to be where you are.

Your struggle as adoptees is unique, however, at the root of most clients’ struggle is the issue of loss. Whitney touches on grief in a previous blog post. I once heard someone say, “The people who know how to grieve well are the healthiest people.” I believe it! Grief and loss is at the heart of what hurts us. Loss of a marriage, loss of a person, loss of faith, loss of expectations, loss of an ideal plan for the future, loss of your birth family, loss of being in a family that “looks like you.” I could go on and on…but the point is: until we grieve, we will never be healthy. As adoptees, permission to be where you are might be in the middle of a birth parent search, or it might be in the middle of big feelings about being an adoptee, or feeling grief around some of your losses. Any and all of those would make a lot of sense. No one comes to therapy because they have it all together…we all sit on that couch because we need a safe place to “just be.” Whitney definitely needed that safe place. She had a lot of big feelings that she wasn’t giving herself permission to feel. And when we don’t let ourselves feel, we swallow those big feelings way down deep…where they proceed to become a big infected mess. The only way to get the infection out is to feel the feelings…and maybe, just maybe, find a safe person with whom to talk. I am so honored I could be Whitney’s safe place. As you know from this blog, she is a pretty special young woman, with so many gifts and talents. She has been forever shaped by her adoption story, and while it has had many ups and downs, she will be the first to tell you it’s not finished yet. Adoption is a complicated (and I would argue VERY SPECIAL) issue with which to grapple. If you need someone to walk alongside you, I would encourage you to find a safe person. It may be a therapist, or a friend, or a fellow adoptee. If you would like more resources, please feel free to reach out to me at

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