Thursday, May 19, 2011
Adoption is built on trauma, pain and loss
The first time I heard the phrase "adoption is built on pain and loss," I literally lost my breath.
I was horrified.
I was sitting in a training session at a lovely Baptist adoption agency, meeting requirements so my husband and I could adopt a child. I had heard so many sermons over the years comparing adoption to God adopting us into His family. My husband and I both had fathers who were adopted. It was this beautiful, glorious, self-sacrificing gift of life-long service to adopt a child.
"Adoption is built on pain and loss."
It was my first exposure to the underlying current of adoption ... the truth that my children and their first families would experience pain and process that pain throughout their lives. I was raised by an adoptee. I had many, many friends who were adopted or had adopted. I had friends who were first mothers and made adoption plans for their children. I thought I knew it all!
I was a very sincere idiot.
On that day, these lovely women at this lovely agency with lovely snacks ... broke us wide open. I'm not sure if I was more angry or terrified. Okay, I was more terrified. The anger was simply covering up the terror. I could no longer avoid putting myself in the position of my future children. I could no longer just NOT think about their first parents. My brain and heart had to go there and it HURT. Yet, I knew that it could not begin to touch their experiences.
We deal with the trauma and pain and loss of adoption regularly in our home. I was foolish enough to think that my child who experienced the least amount of trauma in their adoption would somehow be "easier." I basically categorized their grief. I made an assumption that I desperately wanted. Of COURSE I wanted it to be easy for them! I'm their mother! Yet, it's not.
On behalf of every adoptee and every first parent (not individual experiences, but everyone as a whole), I will always stop occasionally to remind us all about the loss in adoption. One easier grief process for one individual does not negate the very difficult journey of pain for hundreds of thousands of others. It is swept under the rug all too much. It is rarely a topic at adoption conferences. It deserves our time and attention.
Let's all educate ourselves more, and provide a safe space for those in our lives to work through the pain and loss of adoption, regardless of their place in the triad. Here are a few places to start:
"The Seven Core Issues of Adoption" presented by the Center for Adoption Support and Education.
"When I told the director that I thought adoption was trauma I about lost my job because we do not normally think that adoption at infancy is trauma but it is. It does not mean that it is a bad thing. I am an advocate for adoption. I’m an adoptive mother and I think it is a wonderful way to build a family and to create connections. I also think we do a disservice to our children by not acknowledging that adoption is trauma, simply because an infant and an older child has lost everything that is familiar to them." (Interview with Heather Forbes)
"So, no matter what way things happen, the kids who are at GLA (God's Littlest Angels in Haiti) already have gone through trauma. For some of them they have been through a lot more than others, but they have all experienced significant loss. It’s not painting a negative picture, just a realistic picture." (from TomVanderwell's post titled "Which is better? It’s not black and white – question from the blog ...")
"At yesterday's "Beyond Consequences" presentation by Heather Forbes a mom came forward to ask a question about some very difficult behaviors that were taking place in their home. Heather asked this mom if the children had experienced a lot of trauma before coming to her and the mom said, "No, not really...they were in a lovely orphanage."
We don't get it."
(from Coffee Catharsis' post "Adoption is Trauma")
"It isn’t like there is a giant balance inside adopted kids with pain and loss on one side and love and acceptance on the other. You can’t just pile on enough love to tip the balance away from the pain. That pain might be like a splinter that resurfaces through out their lives, sometimes hurting more sometimes hurting less. Just because you don’t want it to be there doesn’t mean it will go away." (from Amber's very raw and honest post, "On Adoptee Blogs")
"My daughter appears to have made some “peace” with loss, but deeper inspection tells me otherwise. She is moving into another phase of grieving—denial of her race and culture." (from Judy Miller's post, "Loss: The Well of Grief")
"Once the pain of adoption is acknowledged, it can be understood and the healing process can begin. You cannot heal something you do not admit exists. Acknowledging the pain can be as simple as allowing yourself to feel sad and not judging yourself for your feelings." (from Birth Psychology)