I sat down with an adoptive mom yesterday evening and we talked about adoption, grief, loss, heartache, joy, and the many emotions that surround our unique situations. I walked into the conversation with a business approach, it was an interview for my book for our local paper, but I felt the need to speak more freely and she did as well. The entire interview was recorded, but the intimate moments that were spoken between the two of us (recorded or not) brought a lot of healing and perspective to my own adoption experience. What will be shared in the article will be raw, beautiful truth, and the part that will not, I will hold dear to my heart.
November is National Adoption Awareness Month and for most birth mothers it is an opportunity to educate and share their stories. However, it is also a time where social media is flooded with photos that trigger trauma and grief. I find myself bouncing back and forth from wanting to promote and advocate, to feeling a need to turn off my notifications.
The truth is, National Adoption Awareness month is painful!
I have circled the adoption community for over 19 years. I have spoken to thousands of adoptive parents, birth parents, social workers, adoption agencies, and lawyers—BUT something about my conversation yesterday with this adoptive mother reminded me that the heavy heartache that surrounds adoption is not carried only by birth parents.
Don’t get me wrong, adoption can be beautiful! It can connect souls who are meant to be together. Families who are meant to be as one, who otherwise would not have been. I see the higher working and power behind adoption. And the lastest and greatest new hashtags and promotions to highlight the positive aspects of adoption have some truth to them. But we cannot forget the pain that also surrounds this month.
The grief that hangs in the shadows for birth parents also hangs in the shadows of adoptive parents, and my guess (though I do not have as much experience on this side), adoptees. What one side is given to experience, the other is not. The moments I grieve are moments cherished by another. There is no complete circle in adoption because each one of us will never have, or experience, what the other is fortunate to have.
So, can we stop pretending that this month is bliss and also communicate to society how painful and difficult it can be? At the same time, can we rejoice in the fact that we are flying above the ashes that once burned holes in our sleeves? The ashes of grief, loss, and pain.
Adoption is full of disenfranchised grief, on every side! Disenfranchised does not mean “make-believe” or “made-up”. Disenfranchised grief is grief not acknowledged by society. “Not acknowledge” does not mean fake. Grief doesn’t have to be attached to a loved one who died—can we change this in Wikipedia, please! It is the response to the loss of time, someone, something, and/or moments to which a bond of natural affection is formed. Grief, my friends, can show itself in your body, physically, socially, spiritually, cognitively, behaviorally, and does not have to be attached to the death of someone.
Adoption is not a fairy-tale, happy ending, or butterflies and rainbows. It’s complicated relationships full of grief surrounded by individuals who are doing their best to live life, love unconditionally, and educate the masses on the complex emotions that we all battle daily.
To my fellow birth mothers, no, to my fellow grief survivors: In light of all that we have lost—time, moments, individuals, relationships, there is so much we have been given and without the absence of what we once held dear, we would not know the sweetness of what we have to hold.