I’m thankful that more people involved in adoption have started recognising that there is loss with adoption and being adopted, how or when it affects the one adopted is individual, but loss there is. Yet, I’m also wary when I hear people acknowledge that, people who aren’t adopted but adopting can’t really understand what that loss truly is if they have only seen it, but haven’t lived it. It makes me worry that their acknowledgement will just become a trite expected thing to say, rather than any deep understanding what it is.
I say the above because along with that acknowledgement of loss in adoption, comes the belief it is easily overcome, healed, whatever term you care to use. Adoption loss is not the same as the loss felt when my parents passed away, although both are losses, they are very different. With mom and dad passing it was a tangible loss, a loss made somewhat less hard by the knowledge they’d lived a good life and they were both ready and waiting for the end to come. With adoption loss it seems to be a mix of both tangible and to a large extent ambiguous loss. The tangible being the day you weren’t kept that is complicated by the internal war of logically understanding of the why it happened, knowing what the reality was that your mother and family faced if you were kept, and yet, the why’s are meaningless in the heart sense, because, ultimately your mother did what mother’s don’t do, walked away, willingly, or not. The ambiguous side includes the lack of knowledge; knowing the ones you lost, those that by right you should have known, the lack of any closure when there’s no way to get that closure, it remains: unresolved and unsolvable.
The loss feels unresolvable at the times when it’s present; other times it just sits there silently waiting to engulf you when you least expect it. It can hide away for months, years even, then it reappears. What it doesn’t do is leave for good, because unlike death of a loved one, there is no finality, it just is. Adoption and being adopted spirited you away from the road of life you should have travelled, the family members you should have grown up knowing and, you can’t fix that, it also is what it is, because there is no going back, and for some of us, the loss that would create if we did (I know that really doesn’t make sense).
And I know some adoptees truly never feel the loss; and yet, I don’t know how that is possible, but I know that it is. I also know other adoptees never feel it till their well into middle age, or beyond, and then something triggers it and it hits like a ton of bricks. Nor does it seem to matter whether you had the best of the best parents and life, or the worst life possible, how we react is unique to the individual soul.
Which, in turn, makes it so hard to even talk about it, much less expect non-adopted to understand. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. What it doesn’t do is magically go away, it just hides and waits for another day, for a time when you’re the most vulnerable.
I’m most vulnerable during the Christmas Holidays, have been since adulthood, too many painful memories happened during the holidays, yet I still love Christmas and work hard to create good memories. Thankful for a husband who is content to let me be me, whether it’s the everyday me, or the sad me. We had a good Christmas because we don’t put expectations on the other to be any specific way. We can find joy in the day, with each other, and hold reverence for what we lost. It’s okay to hold dueling emotions, it’s okay to dwell sometimes in the hard, it’s not okay to stop living life as it happens. Balance, perseverance, overcoming and pushing through, that really is what living is all about, taking the good with the bad and carrying on. Pretending the bad didn’t happen or you’re over it when you aren’t isn’t good, it just creates a fake version of who you are to make other’s comfortable at your expense.
Mary Guathier is an adoptee from my era, her lyrics describe the loss she felt and her journey.
The lyrics to all the songs in The Foundling by Mary Guathier.