Adoptees, Let's Get to the Wound
I used to avoid talking about my adoption. It was the last thing I wanted to share. I'm not sure why because the fact that I was adopted was evident. People could clearly see that I was not biologically related to my family members.
The fact that I didn't resemble anyone in my family was a painful truth. My being different, in that way, was embarrassing. It made me feel like I didn't belong. Like I couldn't ever really be included, or claimed. So very often, I wanted to hide.
Hiding was safer than facing the questions that would surely be posed by others outside of my family. Hiding was safer than expressing my true feelings within my family and risking their disapproval. Even worse, their rejection.
The wound was raw. I could feel it. Eating away at my joy. Sadness became a constant companion. I just didn't feel like I could be happy. I lived between two realities and I didn't know which me I could safely be: the first me before adoption, or the me I was now. The only identity I knew to offer was that of an adoptee.
Yet, this was a word that made me mourn my life, for a time. It did. How can you celebrate living when a part of you feels dead? Banned from existence. Silenced. The title of adoptee meant someone or something had been lost. How do you celebrate loss?
The label of adoptee seemed to prevent me from fully living. It segmented my emotions and my feelings. It drew a line that I couldn't step over. This word, this title, made me feel so small and discarded. Why couldn't I just rip it from my being and move forward? Free. Happy.
Why was I forced to speak of my own abandonment as if it was conversation for someone else's entertainment or curiosity? I didn't want anyone's pity. I didn't want to be seen as someone whose first parents had left. I didn't want to nod my head in agreement at how good my adoptive parents were for saving me. That hurt. Time and time again, it left me in pieces. I wasn't charity. I was a child. I just wanted to be my mom and dad's kid. Their daughter. Their girl. Without any explanation of why or how. I just wanted to be.
Yet, that's not the adoptee experience. Mostly it's not. Mostly, we are people very much aware that we possess stories rooted in loss. A family had to come apart in order for another family to come together. As much as the coming together is celebrated, there is still a part of us that weeps. Deep down inside we mourn a very real and constant loss. One that, too many times, we are asked to ignore.
And so, adoptees don't get to the wound. The more we bury it, the more we fear it. We're afraid to face it. Afraid to reveal it. We tell ourselves that the wound doesn't matter. Not really.
But, it does. The wound matters. It matters greatly. Because the wound, if unattended, becomes our life. Our identity. We can't heal it, so we become it. Even if we’re not aware that the wound is taking over…
For me, healing began on the day when I realized that the title of adoptee was not my wound. Abandonment was. Abandonment had left me stripped of a sense of worth. It had fragmented my sense of self. Abandonment had left me standing on the fragile ground of rejection. I didn't feel safe. Abandonment had trained me not to trust. Not to share my feelings. Abandonment had left me isolated and ashamed. It was not the title of adoptee that found me struggling; no, my struggles stemmed from the lingering hurts of a wound called abandonment.
I began to ask myself what, within the title of adoptee, made me stronger than the wound. After all, look what I had survived! I asked of myself to recognize the loss that consumed my early life, and then to appreciate—and honor—the kind and compassionate person I'd become, even though abandonment had altered my path.
My worth and my sense of self would not be defined by abandonment. I, as a strong and capable adoptee, would define my value. I would accept—finally accept—that I was not a broken person. I was a child who had been in a broken situation, and there’s a difference. I would open myself to trusting, to sharing, and to living free of shame. I would see myself as part of a community. No longer isolated. I was included. Needed.
This was a shift in mindset and in heart space. I would not tolerate lies residing within me, anymore. Only truth. I began to embrace the word, adoptee. Why? Because it had taught me deep and valuable lessons about my ability to overcome, to forgive, to let go, and to become whole.
Dearest adoptee, what is your wound? It would be my honor to help you identify the wound that may be holding you back, to face it, to examine the hurts, and to transform the past into a most promising future.
Together, let’s get to the wound.
You’re a warrior.
You’re a brave and beautiful adoptee.