[For a follow-up post, click here]
Being affected by loss does not require that one first understands loss. That’s comparable to assuming that in order to be affected by a giant cut across my neck, I must first understand all that is happening at the physiological and cellular level. Obviously, I don’t have to understand how and why the cut happened before I start bleeding out and feeling the pain. I immediately begin experiencing its effects.
The same is true for the adoptee that has been cut off from his or her original family and lost his or her own blood. The effects are immediate whether they are obvious or more covert.
This is not to say, however, that understanding does not help one to be more aware of the effects of and hence to better deal with the loss, just as understanding what is happening when a cut occurs helps one to know how to treat the wound.
I use this analogy, because I think parents (and others) often turn to examples of "well-adjusted" or "model adoptees" when they feel uncomfortable with the idea of adoption loss.Well, see that adoptee over there, she's just fine. She doesn't have any "issues."
It's true that there are adoptees that have never acknowledged the loss they have experienced. They appear content and satisfied with not acknowledging the loss. Rather they feel most comfortable with identifying their adoption experience as onlypositive, and any view otherwise is often rejected or even pitied.
But their choice to cope with the loss in their own way—by ignoring it completely—does not therefore discount the loss they have experienced (nor does it discount other adoptees that have chosen to recognize the loss), just as ignoring a cut on my neck does not therefore nullify the wound.
I realize that I may be presumptuous to make such a broad statement, and certainly there are those who will disagree. Yet in my small opinion, they are choosing to ignore the loss. I am not judging this as better or worse—every person must find his or her own way of dealing with adoption loss. But I suppose I am venturing to say that I believe choosing to ignore the loss can be detrimental in the long run, just as choosing to ignore a cut on my neck, and hence the ways to deal with it, will come with consequences.
For example, I could choose to ignore the loss of my friend, Artemis, or to neglect the loss of my husband’s Aunt by simply expressing to others that I’m not affected by it and that I actually never think about it.
If asked whether I ever feel sad about the death of my friend, I could simply smile and say, “Well, of course not. I’ve made new friends since her death. So, I’m grateful.”
If asked if the loss of my husband’s Aunt has been difficult at times, I could respond by saying, “Not at all. I have other Aunts and Uncles, and I’m so grateful for them that I don’t really feel a need to think about her or grieve for her.”
To most human beings, such responses would be received as calloused and even a bit twisted.But that’s basically equivalent to how adoptees are often expected to deal with their profound and pervasive losses.
Simply replace the above scenarios with adoption loss. For instance, if asked whether I ever feel sad about the loss of my biological mother, I could simply smile and say, “Well, of course not. I have a new mom and a new family as a result of losing my biological mother. So, I’m grateful.” Most people hear this and think nothing of the dissonance. They think this is how an adoptee should respond.
But in reality, it doesn’t make any sense logically. Why would someone be grateful for the loss of his or her biological mother, in the same way that you would not expect me to be grateful for the death of my friend?
Yet time and time again, people expect adoptees to respond to their profound losses with gratitude and contentment. Any kind of deviation from a thankful, compliant attitude is often viewed as subversive and negative.
And trying to explain to people why it is not subversive and negative to feel hurt and angry regarding such losses frequently results in blank-eyed stares or patronizing retorts. So many times, I walk away from such a conversation with a sick feeling lodged in my throat that I even attempted to educate someone on the realities of adoption. It’s like putting my heart on a plate for everyone to take a stab at.
Yet, somehow, I find that I can’t not do it.
And I think that makes me my own "well-adjusted, model adoptee." [Insert tongue in cheek followed by a smirk and wink...]
[For a follow-up post, click here]
Note: Please understand that if you are an adoptee who views his or her adoption as only positive, and you disagree with the perspective I have shared in this blog post, I respect and acknowledge your position. I mean no harm or judgment. I recognize that the views expressed here are nothing more than my personal opinion. (Also, just for clarity's sake, I view my own adoption as complex, and hence as being simultaneously positive and negative, not one or the other.)