This post is by Tiffany, her second guest post here, she’s also one of my friends. She’s fierce about what’s right, what’s wrong, she’s also an adoptive mom. A while ago, I asked her to write a post that might help others understand the complexity and challenges of adoption. She said she’d tell her story and see if that helped, it did, people loved it and it made a difference. Today’s post took me back to when I was a little one with big feelings I didn’t know how to deal with, that in this post, are dealt with wisdom and grace, please hear what she’s saying, it’s important.
“I miss my family.”
The tears fell as I wrapped my arms around her. My daughter, who is adopted, had been playing very happily with her younger cousin, who had been counting the days until this visit. We live across the country from my husband’s family, and we only see his brother’s family every two years or so. The cousins adore both my daughters and every minute they spend together is filled with fun. My older daughter is not adopted, but there is no difference in how my kids are treated by the extended family; they are both loved dearly and welcomed with happy, open arms each time we visit.
In the middle of play, my daughter had come to me and pulled me down the hall. I thought maybe she and her cousin had had a disagreement, but when we got to the bedroom, she started to cry, and that’s when the words came to show that what was wrong was adoption grief.
I pulled her into my arms as she sobbed.
Her cousin meandered in, concern in his eyes, and asked what was wrong. I smiled at him as she hid in my arms and told him that she just needed some mama hugs and would be back out to play soon. He backed slowly out and shut the door, his face still expressing that he was worried.
Grief is a sneaky fellow. No one truly heals fully from a deep loss. We just learn to live with and walk with it. Adoption is the loss of a person’s family of origin, and regardless of how very much their second family loves them, the loss of one’s genetic connections is a deep sorrow. In the midst of a family full of people who love her, my daughter was suddenly overwhelmed by the realization that none of these people look like her. None of them share her ethnic background. None of them have her roots. They are all connected by blood, but she is alone. She is in a family of strangers, much as we love her. But she missed those who share her DNA and that she has unfortunately never gotten to know, and perhaps never will. Although we are in an open adoption with her parents, they do not choose to see her often, and she does not know her extended family.
I held her, and I said, “I’m sorry. It must hurt very much to miss your family. I can’t make the pain go away, but I’ll sit here and hold you while you are sad.”
We sat with her in my lap and arms wrapped tightly around each other. She cried. I cried for her. I asked if she wanted to text her mom, and she did. It unfortunately was never answered.
Sometimes, life is very unkind.
After a few minutes, she looked at me and made a goofy face, and we both laughed. I told her how much I loved her. I’ll never forget what she said to me: “I love you, too, mama. It feels so good to have a mama who understands.”
Another tight squeeze that toppled us over on the bed, laughing, and then she bounced up and ran out of the room, back to play with her cousin.
I am not a perfect mother. I make so many mistakes. But one thing I try so hard to do with both my children is leave space for feelings. For my daughter who is adopted, this takes on an extra layer. I have learned, since the night we brought her home, to make space for grief in times of joy. That first night home, I was so filled with joy over this new little life in the world, so excited for her potential and her existence. But I was also full of grief over the dissolution of her family, and I could tell she was grieving and confused as well.
Sadness. Joy. Holding hands in a single moment and swirling together inside of us.
It is often at the happiest times that the losses from adoption roar suddenly into consciousness. It reminds me of the Pixar movie, Inside Out, and how nothing worked out for Joy until she allowed Sadness to be her full partner and to stop trying to change Sadness. You cannot shut out feelings or push them to the side or pretend them out of existence. They must be acknowledged and given room to simply be. It’s ok to feel two conflicting emotions at one time. A coin has two sides, always. They exist as one.
Make space for sadness, for grief, for loss. Sit with it. Love through it. Let it be. Only then can we move on to joy.