Loss in adoption

05 Jan

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.


Posted by on January 5, 2020 in Adoption


Tags: , , , ,

19 responses to “Loss in adoption

  1. maryleesdream

    January 5, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    There’s definitely an idea that, if there is loss, it’s easily overcome with love, and a good family. I don’t think that’s always the case.
    If there is loss, and pain, adopted people are wary about expressing it, because it’s seen as disloyal to the family that took us in.
    We’re reduced to the orphan, the beggar who is lucky to be taken in by good people in our hour of greatest need. How dare we feel anything but gratitude?

    A difficult position to be in.

    Liked by 4 people

    • TAO

      January 5, 2020 at 8:32 pm

      Agree with all you say Marylee – it’s so complicated. Happy New Year…

      Liked by 1 person

    • TAO

      January 5, 2020 at 8:33 pm

      Have you read any of Mary Gauthier lyrics? If not, you should.

      Liked by 1 person

      • maryleesdream

        January 5, 2020 at 11:44 pm

        I’m a big fan. I saw her live a few years ago.


        • TAO

          January 6, 2020 at 12:57 am

          That would have been wonderful.


    • Findingmywaythroughthedrama

      January 14, 2020 at 10:40 am

      completely agree. x


  2. BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

    January 5, 2020 at 9:57 pm

    “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.” TAO, the preceding is a profound statement. I liked the truth of your entire post, but I just quoted the part that struck me the most.

    Without internet blogs such as this, those in the adoption triad were alone in the maze of silence. Therapists had no idea what we were talking about and just dumped us in with the losses that most every human experiences in life, thus often doing more harm than good. I did not appreciate being told by a therapist that normal grief does not last longer than a year, while he suggested that grief beyond that time is pathological.

    Our losses are not the same as losing a parent, as that is usually an expected loss due to their age. Women usually live longer than men, so that losing a spouse, though often difficult, is usually preceded by what grief experts have called “anticipatory loss.”

    It is my belief that few of us are looking for pity! in my mind, pity differs from true empathy. What we long for is understanding, empathy and validation. Is this asking too much?

    Liked by 3 people

    • TAO

      January 5, 2020 at 10:49 pm

      Thank you and agree with you.


  3. Tiffany

    January 6, 2020 at 6:45 pm

    I have a little different take on this, maybe because of what you said- I am not adopted.

    I think everyone has a right to their own personal feelings at any given moment, period, and I think that is very hard for everyone in general to accept. While you say that your loss of your adoptive parents was easier to handle and grieve than you loss of you natural family, someone else who is adopted may feel exactly the opposite. Both are ok. Neither are wrong nor right.

    Feelings are feelings, and they are not correct or incorrect or bad or good or wrong or right. They just ARE.

    It’s our actions that we are responsible for and can have right or wrong attached to them. For instance, you can feel angry with someone because they said something you don’t agree with. That’s totally fine. You cannot punch that person. That’s not ok.

    With my daughter who is adopted, I acknowledge all of her rights to all of her feelings, whatever they may be. She can’t control them anymore than she can control the wind. All we can do is work through feelings and try to manage their impact on our well-being, and that can take time. Sometimes a lifetime. Of course you are right that I can’t personally understand, and I can’t fix that, but there is much in life I will not experience firsthand that I can still express compassion for the person and help them by being supportive.

    But I do think, like I said, that this is hard for people to accept, just in general. I have a friend who is struggling with clinical depression. Her mom is very loving to her, but she keeps telling her she needs to “move past this and stop being negative” anytime my friend expresses her pain or sadness. It’s not that simple with depression, first of all, and second of all, it’s not that simple with feelings, period. They exist within us completely out of our control. Pushing certain emotions into a box and ignoring them because society views those emotions as negative or bad doesn’t make them go away. But it seems that we struggle with dealing with anything that isn’t an overall easy or positive emotion. Sad about something? There is an unspoken timeframe for how long it is ok to be sad about that thing, and you can expect most people to start enforcing it if you don’t follow it. Angry about something? Same thing. But if you are happy about something, there isn’t the same response.

    I think sometimes it is also the duality of conflicting emotions that live at the same time for many adoptees. Many adoptees express they are both grateful for their life and sad for the one they might have had but lost. It’s hard for a lot of people to be accepting of opposite emotions both being expressed simultaneously. Like if you have an abortion, people would react poorly to someone who expressed both sad and grateful feelings for having one because they would view it as a choice and as such, there should be only one emotion expressed. Either you should be glad you had one or regretful you have one- not both. But someone could legitimately feel both at the same time.

    I think overall, we are not compassionate with each other’s feelings. It is a frequently expressed refrain from many groups (people with mental illnesses, people who have been sexually assaulted, minority groups, the list goes on) that people who have not experienced these events/circumstances cannot just shut up and let those who have express their feelings without judgement. You can’t compare being adopted to anything else. You are right that anyone who isn’t adopted just doesn’t understand. We couldn’t possibly. The same is true of many life circumstances. The solution is to stop dismissing the emotions expressed by any adoptee and just letting them all be true all at the same time and listening without judgement, condemnation, or a timetable.

    Liked by 3 people

    • TAO

      January 6, 2020 at 7:15 pm

      Always love what you have to say Tiffany. You should write a book, you really should on how to see.

      Liked by 1 person

    • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

      January 6, 2020 at 7:48 pm

      An enlightening post, Tiffany, to guide so many of us in our feelings about different life circumstances. I especially agree with “Feelings are feelings, and they are not correct or incorrect or bad or good or wrong or right. They just ARE.” And yet, there are unenlightened people who will say, “Aw, you shouldn’t feel that way.” And I’m not just talking about adoption issues; the speaker could be talking about feeling angry about something. As a listener, we can be helpful by just allowing the person to talk about the anger and “to be with the anger,” without making a judgment. Not always easy because many of us think we have “to fix things.” There are people in this world who think one must always be positive, that is, one must always express positive feelings. Telling a depressed person she must stop being negative could make that person feel more depressed for not living up to the other person’s expectations.

      By the way, if you are not already a counselor, you probably would make a good one!


      • Tiffany

        January 6, 2020 at 8:29 pm

        Oh, and Books, I totally agree! Forgot to say that in my reply. So many people think you always need to be positive. A lot of us are uncomfortable with deeper feelings.


    • Tiffany

      January 6, 2020 at 8:27 pm

      I was a little nervous my thoughts would come across as dismissive of what you said, TAO, so I’m glad they did not.

      I always feel to inadequately experienced to even think about writing a book…. like I don’t possibly know enough to tell anyone much of anything!

      I minored in Psychology in college with the possibility of going to med school for Psychiatry (majored in Bio and Chem and minored in Conservation and Psych and was going to pick conservation biologist or psychiatrist). But life had other plans for me. 🙂 I work as an engineer now in Biotech. Which is basically a job surrounded by people who struggle expressing emotion. Haha! But I do love being there for other people, and I try really hard to be supportive with my kids and their feelings. I think I am a natural “fixer,” but in the sense of listening and supporting and validating more than trying to actually, literally “fix” a problem for someone- most things can’t really be fixed.

      Liked by 2 people

      • TAO

        January 7, 2020 at 1:25 pm

        I didn’t hear them as dismissive, I heard you expanding the conversation. Conversation is vital so that people can dig deep or have something click. You’re good.

        Liked by 1 person

        • beth62

          January 8, 2020 at 6:01 pm

          I’ve found a few losses along the way. I’m thankful for those that can talk about loss without expressing pity, I agree, it’s not what most are seeking.
          It’s good to keep a tool box full of things that could help patch up the mess you’ve found, or made. The different “types” of losses tend to work a little differently. For me, loss caused by Adoption has been the very most complicated machine to work with, figure out. When I’m working on it, like a 98 Dodge, I tend to think about a few inconsiderate mechanical engineers I’d love to get my hands on 😁

          Loss from Separation and loss from Adoption are two different machines, sometimes they work together, separation for Adoption being one way. Not everyone that is separated from their family, for a multitude of reasons, deals with Adoption losses as well. Some would say, only the lucky few, some would not.

          Not every tool works for every job tho, it’s easy to muck things up. Far too easy to cause even more damage, especially if you’ve lost all patience – you can’t fix your broken eye glass frames with a hammer. Well, maybe you can, but you probably won’t be able to see so well. And really, if anyone is tempted or is trying to fix eye glasses with a hammer… I hope they are your own and not someone elses! That’s not very considerate at all! Btw, I’d start with the proper sized screwdriver.

          I have to keep moving, keep laughing. Sometimes you just don’t have a better choice. They are heavy tools sometimes, motion and laughter. I’m gonna have to grab and run with them while I freeze and harden up today. I can’t think of a better way right now, tool suggestions are welcomed. I hate turning off that switch, it’s like a main breaker. I don’t know what else to do. Too many on my street, in our “Purple Heart State”, are getting off of the school bus today wondering when, or if, they will see their deployed mom, dad, grandpa, big brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, mentors, friends, loved ones… again.
          I’m thinking if I don’t keep moving and laughing, and keeping hope hard, I’m just gonna end up lying down on the floor and getting frozen and stuck there. That fear won’t help any of us I guess. But it would be much easier!! Plus I haven’t vacuumed in a few days so… I’m not going to vacuum for a few more just in case 😉
          Trying to pull it apart and determine how to not be triggered by missing people. Ug. Homesickness and missing people is a fairly common thing I think, happens frequently to most all their lives. I think I’m not so good at it, or, too good at it, honestly I’m not really sure which. It’s difficult, I know that much. I’d like to think I could find a new way to do it better…
          hahaha Anyone know what the proper way to miss someone is?
          Or what to say/not say to the homesick when they call? I’ve known those things before, feeling too unprepared right now.
          I’m in a bit of a separation anxiety panic I guess, afraid I can’t keep my shit together when the school bus drops them off :/
          Way too triggering. I can handle the adult homesick/missing situations fairly well. But when I see it in these kids….. I can barely breathe, let alone function. I hate that, I really want to change that. I’m telling all of this because the feelings I am having here are very very similar to those feelings I’ve experienced with Adoption loss. I know I am not alone in these difficult emotions of today. That totally choked up unable to function part has not gone away for me, I’m not sure there is an overcome to it. Other than motion and laughter with the connection switch turned off so that you can still function and not crash. Is that what Safety mode is? ☺.

          Liked by 3 people

          • BOOKS: Sexual Assault, Loss

            January 8, 2020 at 6:43 pm

            Beth, I share your concern for those in the military…was thinking about them as I made dinner last night. I ask myself: Is this just a political move…a distraction? In me, anger comes to the forefront. For my own sanity, I must let it go.
            Physical activity has always been a great tool for me. Sometimes that means I can get a lot done that needs to be done (chores).
            If one is lucky, laughter helps, too; but generally we need someone to laugh with, just as we sometimes need people who will listen when we share frustrations.
            Missing someone is painful. Maybe it helps the homesick one to share their feelings with someone who is in the same boat, who is going through the same thing. Maybe not good to keep it all to oneself.


            • beth62

              January 10, 2020 at 1:34 pm

              I think sharing it with others in the boat might be key… Depending on the others of course lol
              Some brilliant little ones said, You don’t freeze up so much when you lay on the floor – with everybody else. So, if ya can’t beat em, join em. We tried it for quite a while. Then we got up. They were right, yesterday. We’ll see where it goes today. TGIF. I guess I’ll vacuum after all.😉

              Liked by 1 person

  4. Dannie

    January 8, 2020 at 7:25 pm

    Loss in adoption—how about my 5th grader doing worksheets that have to do with immigration, heritage, and information about herself and her birth. I’m proud my daughter advocated for how she was going to do her work to her teacher, grateful her teacher isn’t as rigid as many horror stories I’ve heard, sad that this will be a month long unit that will be slapping loss in her face for the month of January. I would die for my kids, however there are some paths that even I can’t ‘make right’ for one of my kids. It’s glaringly obvious what minor things are a major loss when you see both of your kids, one that I birthed and one that I adopted dealing with life in general.

    Liked by 2 people

    • TAO

      January 9, 2020 at 12:19 am

      Your comment was both beautiful and sad. Hoping for easiest it can be for the month. I wish there was a way to capture how you are feeling and seeing right now and package it up for other AP’s to get that revelation.



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