Saturday, March 20, 2010
adoption: generally misunderstood
The persisting lack of knowledge and awareness regarding the issues that adoptees face continue to astound and confound me.
I was reminded recently how rampant and pervasive are the utter ignorance and incomprehension when it comes to the profound loss that adoptees experience.
My husband was speaking with a friend. We'll call him Clark.
Clark and my husband, Mike, happened to stumble into a conversation about a friend of Clark's. Basically, Clark's friend has a daughter in her early 20's, who Clark described as troubled and distant. Clark's friend was described as being a father who is removed and frustrated by his daughter's apparent disconnection and detachment.
Well, eventually it came up that Clark's friend's daughter is adopted. And not only is she adopted, but her [adoptive] Mom died recently and suddenly--only two years ago--in a car accident. (The first loss of her biological family is compounded by the loss of her adoptive Mom).
Of course, as Mike was listening to Clark describe the situation, Mike was startled by the lack of awareness and understanding and proceeded to try to explain to Clark how being adopted most likely accounts for much of the daughter's behavior.
Clark demonstrated difficulty grasping the concept, and in response to my husband's efforts to educate Clark, Clark asked, "Well, do you think it's just better for parents not tell their children at all that they're adopted?"
Inside, Mike is thinking, "!!!!!!!!" There seemed to be no acknowledgment of the double trauma experienced by Clark's friend's daughter as a result of being adopted along with the recent loss of her adoptive Mom.
Although frustrating and alarming, neither Mike nor I should have been surprised.
As much progress that has been made, we still have a long way to go.
It is estimated that there are anywhere from 6 to 8 million adoptees living in America. Sure it may only be a small percentage of the overall population but it's significant enough that most people know someone who is adopted, if not multiple persons who are adopted.
And yet, the adoption experience remains one of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted issues even today. It is subject to repeated euphemism and often the general public thinks they understand when they really have no clue.
What other trauma or loss is treated in the same way? Divorce, death of a loved one, returning from war--all of these major life events are viewed appropriately and treated with matching sympathy and compassion.
Yet when it comes to the adoption experience, society ignores any acknowledgment of trauma to the adoptee. It's not simply frustrating, but it is detrimental and hurtful to all of those involved in the adoption triad.
When a woman experiences a miscarriage, generally, most understand the loss involved. (Although, certainly, there will always be people who say well-intentioned but utterly misguided things).
How great is the loss when a woman relinquishes the child she has born? How deep the grief when that child must spend his or her life having lost the first mother and even more so having no answers, no knowledge of what happened.
It is indescribable the frustration and angst I experience in response to the lack of respect and understanding for the situation that adoptees face.
I continue to encounter individuals who not only do not understand but make no effort even to acknowledge the simple fact that adoption involves a profound loss and the accompanying grief and sorrow, confusion and pain that such loss involves.
I hope with time, more and more people will be willing and open to acknowledge the inherent trauma that adoption involves.
And if you're reading this and you think that perhaps you're one of the folks who perhaps does not quite get it, but you're willing to try to at least attain a basic understanding, please keep trying.
And feel free to contact me any time. I am more than willing to help you understand. And I promise I will be patient and considerate--just as I would hope that you would be patient and considerate toward me.