It’s so hard to try to explain to other people why being adopted is not always the most fun, because basically you’re trying to convince others as to why you have a right to feel sadness and grief, and as to why life is just hard for you at times.
When people smile and tell me it’s “great,” I know that they mean well. But that smile can slice through my heart like a piece of broken glass.
There is this strange tension that happens when it comes to the issue of adoption. Those on the outside expect an adoptee should be grateful and content with the “second chance” in life that has been allowed them, while the adoptee feels a deep sense of loss and displacement that conflicts with this notion that he or she should feel “grateful.”
These well-intentioned yet oblivious folks fail to acknowledge not only the persistent and unresolved loss and grief but also the complex issues that come with being adopted.
When someone loses a spouse or a loved one, people know to respond with compassion and understanding, with patience and gentleness.
Well, for those who don’t know, an adoptee has also lost loved ones. He or she has lost both her mother and her father, and for international adoptees, their first language and culture also. That’s nothing over which to rejoice and feel “great.”
If you meet someone who lost her parents in a car accident when she was 3 years old and was raised by her grandparents, I would hope you wouldn’t respond by saying, “Wow, you must feel so fortunate and so lucky that happened to you!”
Well, when you tell an adoptee, “Wow you must feel so fortunate and so lucky to be adopted,” you’re essentially saying the equivalent of the example I just gave. I know that you mean to say that the adoptee must feel grateful to have a family, but you must remember that the whole reason she or he had to be adopted in the first place was due to the fact that the adoptee first LOST his or her original family. And no matter what, the initial loss is not rectified or undone by the action of adoption.
It’s more complicated than what you may initially think. It carries a lot more emotional consequence, baggage, and difficulty than what you might first realize.
An adoptee didn’t come to be adopted because she decided one day, “Hey, I want to be adopted.” But rather some form of tragedy occurred that left her as an orphan without mother or father or any other family member to care for her.
And although it is the case that she eventually received a family, it does not then nullify the tragedy and loss that preceded her adoption. It does not erase or prevent the hardship that she will face for the rest of her life as a result of the subsequent displacement and ongoing irresolution.
I know there are people out there who feel as though adoptees like myself seem to only focus on the “negative” without acknowledging the “positive.”
I have no problem acknowledging the good things that have emerged in my life. But I do have a problem with the lack of understanding and, at times, the chosen ignorance regarding the adoptee experience.
If my experience as an adoptee demonstrated that people have overall come to understand the hardship and difficulty that adoptees face, I would not feel such a need to “educate.” But it is the apparent oblivion and unawareness, and sometimes even a favored disregard that compels me to continue to write and talk about these “negative” aspects to the adoptee experience.
Things have come a long way. I’ll admit to that. But there is still a long way to go. And I feel almost a responsibility to help it get there.