Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Things NOT to Say to Adoptees & What to Say Instead

Things Not To Say To Adoptees
(Please Add Your Thoughts and/or response in
the Comment Section at the bottom of this posting)

1. You're special because you're adopted
What you could say instead: You are adopted and this means you are now part of our family and we embrace you. You are a part of your first family too and maybe someday you will meet your first parents.
2. You were chosen
What you might consider saying instead: You were given to us to be our child to raise by your first parents because they didn't have the tools when you were born to take care of you. Your first parents thought that we could help you and love you and raise you because we have the tools now to take care of you and to help you be the best you you can be. This doesn't mean that your first mom and dad don't love you. All babies and children are loveable. For now as you grow up we have the privilege of raising you as our child and some day, if you want, maybe you will meet your first parents.
3. Your mother loved you so much that she gave you up
A more compassionate and honest response might be: Your mother loved you and I know that if she could have kept you that she would have kept you. Your first mother will always love you and think of you. For now she just isn't able to take care of you. Her choice to give you to us to raise is not a reflection of who you are or a measure of how much you are loved. You are loved and there are two families now that embrace you. One could tell more of the birth story here...And about the birth mother...
4. You're lucky
Things to consider: Luck has nothing to do with it. Saying you're lucky is like saying it is a wonderful thing to not know where you come from and then consequently not know who you are as the history and heritage stories and knowledge are absent. What should be said instead is a sharing of information in an effort to educate others. For the adoptee one should never say this to them, but instead an inquiry to them of something like the following might work: What do you think or feel about being adopted? What has been challenging in your experience being adopted? What has been hopeful? What has been hurtful?
5. Being Adopted Doesn't Matter
What a way to make someone feel invisible by discounting their experience and life circumstances. Say...being adopted must matter; how does it matter to you?
6. You should be angry.
Things to consider thinking about and saying instead: Being angry is a healthy thing as it empowers one to come to terms with their life circumstances. It is natural to be angry in a situation like this as decisions were made that affected the adoptees whole life and internal world and sense of self. Yes, anger comes with the territory and if expressed and channeled in a healthy manner can indeed empower the individual to change, understand, and strengthen their sense of self and the control in their own lives. How about asking: Has being adopted made you angry?

7. You shouldn’t be sad.
Well, we all know that no one likes to be “should” upon. There are no shoulds when it comes to feelings. Feelings are what they are. Asking an adoptee not to be sad is denying them the grief that they need to express as an outcome of the adoption experience. Being sad and expressing feelings of grief is the healthiest thing one can do. To deny them this process and emoting is to deny the tremendous losses that come with the adoption experience. As the adoptee finds their first families new losses emerge in their consciousness and new grief is experienced. As one goes through their life course and experiences things like the birth of a child, the birth of a grandchild, marriage, health challenges or other experiences these feelings of loss and grief resurface. Feelings of sadness come out at unexpected times, in reactions to things that make adoptees feel puzzled, and even when one is still and quiet and the feelings have no concrete preceding cause that makes sense. Grief and sadness are part of this experience and expressing and feeling these lessens their grip on us. I feel that the grief piece will never quite disappear, but by expressing it we lessen its grip and depth.
“To weep is to make less the depth of grief”
–William Shakespeare
One could ask instead: Have you had to grieve because of losing your first family? How has being adopted made you sad? Has adoption made you sad?

8. By finding her you are invading her life.
Perhaps. And yet without finding her I might never find my self. My birth brought our lives together in a intertwining that holds us together stronger than any other connection I may have in my life. The invasion happened when I was severed from her and adopted into another family and made to adapt and bend to find success in that family. It would be surprising to find that in some way and on a very frequent basis, the memory of my birth and existence doesn’t invade her on some level. She gave birth and for this she forever has the responsibility to respond in some way to the child she brought into this world. This is called taking responsibility for my actions. One could ask instead: How do you think your first mother will respond to your contacting her? Will she be surprised or feel as if her life will be interrupted after so many years after relincquishment? The question asker should also do some inner pondering if they have a negative stance to adoption, reunion, or birth mothers. What is it that disallows them empathy and compassion in these questions?
To be continued...
(Things Not To Say orginated on the Adoption Crossroads website. I have reprinted it in part here on my blog with Joe Soll's permission. I have added the response alternatives to the list.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Why Do We Cut Off From Each Other?

“There are very few human beings who receive the truth,
complete and staggering by instant illumination.
Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a
small scale, by successive developments,
cellularly, like a laborious mosaic.”
~Anais Nin
Lately I’ve had time to browse through After the Search and Chosen Babies triad online forums and listen to what adoptees and first mothers are pondering, struggling with, and searching for in their experiences in the arena of adoption. First mothers are always intriguing to me as it is a real opportunity to hear them speak and to share their issues as it sheds light on what my first mother must have struggle through. What I hear again and again from both adoptees and first mothers is the pain that comes when an adoptee cuts off contact or a first mother cuts off contact. In one of the online forums a first mother shares her deep concern in regards to her first child shutting her out after months of what felt like a happy and connecting reunion. The following is my response to her not understanding why her child would make this choice.

Gosh, I just have to respond to this. I am an adoptee and I, too, limited contact with my first mother after contact for about 8 months. I empathize with how difficult giving up a child is and the long term grief and loss that accompanies it. I think that I can empathize because I experienced the other end of that loss. They are different experiences however. As an adult or adolescence giving up a child comes with having developed cognition and social experiences as an adult or young adult. You have a base line of identity and self development that an adoptee lacks when it comes to dealing with the grief and loss from the separation of mother and child. Cutting off communication on both sides is common in the reunification process. What I also hear often is black and white thinking on both sides. It's all or nothing many times. I believe this is why so many professionals recommend preparation for this reunion experience. Why would anyone going through this expect that it would be easy, think that it would go smoothly, or expect those involved not to have huge issues to deal with; which by the way we all do differently. The adoptees need to turn inward or to cut off communication is a way of reclaiming power once again in their lives. It is done in the way it is done often; without communications or finesse because the experience for adoptees most often is a preverbal experience; which leads the adoptee to have periods of overwhelming and confusing emotions around these issues. It is also totally blanketed in survival issues. It is base in this way. For adoptees our survival came into play and we questioned our very existence and the physical and emotional stability and trust of our experience. Some compare the separation of child from mother for the infant as a sense of falling into an abyss with no ground under their feet, no world to hold them safely. So, it confuses me when first mothers demand so much from them when adoptees turn inward and take back their own power and control from this situation. Adoptees need to emotionally sever ties often in order to gain a sense of control and safety around these experiences with their “lost mother”. Often first mothers internalize this turning away as a personal affront, as if the adoptee is so one dimensional that they suddenly don't love them any more. It is not this simple; how I wish that it was as this would have made my life tremendously easier. I love my first mother and father like NOTHING else in this world. In fact, I am baffled by this very thing in my life. I was adopted when I was five, was removed by the state for neglect and abuse, and then I was adopted. I have many reasons to dislike my first mother, but these things and memories and deep wounds do not negate the eternal love and connection that I organically have for my first parents. Perhaps it is these very feelings that make processing what reunion and first mothers mean to us that makes us turn inward and away until we figure it out. It is not a swift process. We as adoptees need to rebuild or build for the first time after reunification a solid sense of self. In this process we learn to incorporate our first families along with our adopted families in new ways. Our loyalty and risk of abandonment from our adopted families lies prominently in the picture and the risk of challenging this family connection is real when embracing or coming to terms with how to embrace both sets of parents without hurting or threatening anyone involved. It is a precarious load for the adoptee; to keep themselves safe, to preserve the connection with their adopted family, and to become brave and courageous enough to embrace our own overwhelming feelings of love and risk for our first parents while trying to integrate our new sense of self with all of the life perspective changing information coming to us. For first mothers it is reconnecting with the past, a past self, a great loss of a child, integrating this truth into their current adult life...risking being honest and being courageous enough to live with the consequences of honesty in their lives, these are huge, but they don't address survival issues in the same way that adoptees feel it. I believe that these core survival issues and emotions and the other pieces of the process demand that the adoptee pull back and/or pull inward to make meaning and to regain control of their sense of safety and survival. I think first parents would help so much if they could recognize the pulling back as a survival and integration process and that it is natural and organic in this process of reunification instead of being mad at them, or giving up, or taking it as a personal affront. It isn't meant that way. Adoptees, too, have had to live with the loss of their mothers This is the greatest loss that makes for a life of self doubting and fear. Let us have our fear as we have let you have a life without us. Don't pull away in anger and self doubt. Find your motherly strength to not take it personally and prepare yourself to have limits in healthy ways that opens doors for love, support, and healing for yourself and for your child.


Ban Asbestos – Prevent Mesothelioma

Help save millions of precious lives from this deadly cancer - click here'>"> – Get Asbestos Banned
blog counter
blog counterDiseño WebImprenta Sevilla