To spell it out with clarity: Finding one’s biological family does not fix everything.
It does not make the pain go away. It does not heal the wounds. It does not lift the scars. It does not answer all the questions, and many times, it stirs up even more.
It does not simplify the existing complexities of an adoptee’s life. It complicates an identity and experience of family that is already confusing and convoluted.
I know to many I may sound negative and ungrateful. How can you say that? You are so lucky? Do you know how many adoptees long and ache for what you have?
Yes, I know. I know all too well. Finding my biological parents after a seven-year search and coming up on my 35th birthday, I am very aware of the pain and longing adoptees endure as they search for answers.
I am not saying that I am not fortunate for having the rare chance to connect with my Korean family.
I am simply adding to the strange and indescribable experience that as awe-inspiring and wonderful as it may seem to you, it is additionally as equally heart wrenching and terrifying for me.
Often adoptees focus on the difficult aspects of adoption because those aspects are generally neglected, ignored, or tucked away as if they are aberrant or rogue. Suppressing or disregarding the painful experiences of being adopted is not only detrimental to the adoptee’s well being, but it also does not somehow magically make it all disappear. It only allows it to fester until a later time, at which it may emerge in destructive and unhealthy ways.
Hence, it is necessary that more and more adoptees have the freedom and opportunity to voice the truth about our experiences. It may not always be pleasant, but when did losing one’s family as a child ever become a pleasant experience? And that’s basically what an adoptee has experienced—the loss of his or her family.
After someone has been kidnapped and subsequently returned to his or her family, although there may be joy upon the return, the consequences and repercussions of such a traumatic and intense experience will unfold over time and require attention and processing.
In the same way, even after adoptees have been adopted and subsequently, if years later they reconnect with their biological families, they have a lifetime supply of tangled emotions to process.
I am not subversively comparing adoption to kidnapping (although, there are certainly cases in which adoptions have taken place as a result of illicit practices—so be cautious and educated). But I am again trying to draw on metaphors that will help others to understand why the experience of being adopted is so emotionally complex, and why it is crucial not to ignore the challenging and painful sides of adoption.
Just as in the case of a child who was kidnapped is returned to his or her family, an adoptee that finds his or her biological family will have to undergo a long process of working through complex emotions and experiences as a result of the trauma of losing his or her first family and then suddenly finding them again. This is in addition to all the complex psychological and social consequences of being adopted into a nation and people from whom the adoptee is physically different and of losing one’s first language and culture as a result of being assimilated.
As I have quoted before from The Spirit of Adoption (Gritter), “We must be careful not to sanitize, sentimentalize, or even glamorize the pain of adoption; it is really miserable stuff, and it is intensely personal. It is interior. The pain of adoption is not something that happens to a person; it is the person. Because the pain is so primal, it is virtually impossible to describe.”
The above explains in part, perhaps, why I may at times seem repetitive in what I say or write, why it may seem at times, that I am blowing the same whistle or setting off the same alarm. It is as Gritter so aptly writes, the pain that I experience “is virtually impossible to describe.”
In addition, I am also what I refer to as a “late bloomer.” It was not until I was well into adulthood (my late twenties) that I even began to have an inkling of how adoption had affected my experience of life. Therefore, in many ways, I have only just begun to deal with and untangle the deep and pervasive emotion that comes with being adopted.
It is a pain that I hope with which to learn to cope, but one that I question as to whether I will ever fully recover or from which I will ever wholly heal.