Saturday, December 13, 2008

Adoption: Kills Grief on Contact

I think a lot about my genealogical field trip back to Philadelphia, and my experiences on the last day.

The person I think the most about, oddly enough, isn't my mother, but the woman in the chapel.

Not so much her really, more her reaction.

I made a complete stranger burst into tears with just one line:

"I never knew her."

I find it amazing, really, how adoption magically washes away the abject misery of never once in your life seeing the face of your own mother.

If I had said I was adopted from the start, she would have never reacted like that.

If I had said I was adopted after I made her cry, I believe her tears would have dried up immediately.

I believe she may have even felt angry that I made her cry over such a trifling thing. Adopted! Why, that means you were very, very, very much wanted!

What I can't believe, however, is how difficult it is for people to understand this.

The reaction of that real kid in the chapel is fascinating and validating to me. Here was a grown woman in her sixties, a complete stranger, immediately transformed into a sobbing child at four little words: "I never knew her." This, I believe sometimes, is the real reason the denial in others to adoption runs so deep.

What could be more horrifying than being separated from your mother as a child? What real kid wouldn't fear that?

“This was my family’s church. I came here from New York. I wanted to see it. Seeing it makes my loss that much more real. I never knew my family”

Oh sure, sure, oh yeah sure, oh you never knew your family

“I just wanted to say a prayer for my mother. I didn’t want to cry like this”

Oh sure, sure, of course, you miss her, you only have one mother.

You miss her so much


I bet she was your best friend


“I never knew her, but yeah, she was in my mind. I always loved her”

You never knew your mommy”, and she started to cry

"Mommy," she said.

A grown woman.

I love that woman, whoever she is. And I'm sorry I made her cry. No adult should ever tap into that deep fear of a child separated from their mother. There's just too much grief in that to bear.

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6 complaints from ingrates:

Unknown December 13, 2008 at 4:28 PM  

Oh T.

I know, the word adoption is like a heavy drug.

Michelle December 14, 2008 at 12:32 PM  

It is amazing, Theresa. I was talking to a friend who hasn't seen her mother since her parents divorced. The reaction she gets is, wow, that sad, yeah...divorce is hard on kids. No one ever said to her, but your father re-married so you at least you got a step-mother, right?

But with adoption it's hurray! you lost your parents, family and identity and got it all replaced, and the goverment won't even tell you who your family was or what your identity is! Yay!

Triona Guidry December 15, 2008 at 5:31 PM  

Wow, Theresa... I wasn't reading adoption blogs when you posted the first time around, so I feel like I just lived it with you for the first time. I'm glad you didn't mention adoption to the woman. I probably would have and would have gotten exactly the reaction you mentioned.

I have been explaining to my kids that I haven't seen my mother in a long, long time (because I'm not going to pretend she doesn't exist). My daughter says, "You miss her lots." A five year old gets what most adults do not.

Funny, because I wrote two of the articles in that PARR newsletter you left in the church (the Donaldson one and the review of The Stork Market). I wrote them when my birth mother's denial was fresh and raw (which it still is, maybe always will be). So I feel like a little piece of me was there with you, sharing that awful grief.

Dammit, you made me cry! *sniff*

Ungrateful Little Bastard December 15, 2008 at 6:00 PM  

Oh now I'm crying.

How incredible that it was you who wrote those two articles. It's heartbreaking and sad all at the same time.

And your kids... you know that's a part of it that's not discussed, is the way this doesn't end, and it confuses our kids. Yeah, a five year old gets it. I just want to shout that from the roof at times. A five year old can understand.

Judy December 15, 2008 at 11:54 PM  

Wow. What a compassionate woman. I'm not sorry she was there when you were; I'm glad you had someone there to witness for you, witness your pain.

For whatever that's worth, which must be something for you to remember her and the experience so poignantly.

~ Judy

Triona Guidry December 16, 2008 at 6:14 AM  

Those were some of the first articles I wrote on adoption. After my bmom's denial, I felt like I had to do SOMETHING to deal with the pain, something that would help other adoptees like me. I'm glad to think of them sitting there in the church, kind of like you brought your own bastard cheering section with you.

Trying to explain to my kids is the worst. I tell them that I will never, ever leave them, but I can see it in their eyes: if their OWN MOMMY was left by her mommy, is it going to happen to them too?

And yes, they completely understand why I would be upset at losing my mommy, in fact it's so obvious to them they don't even question that part. They want to know what happened, why she didn't raise me, but I don't have those answers for them.

The worst part was when I was actually communicating with her through the anonymous letters. They wanted to know who I was writing, so I told them (again, not continuing the plague of secrets among families) but they don't understand why they have never met their mommy's mommy and why she stopped writing. Can't say I understand it myself.

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