One of The Paramount Keys to Adoptee Healing is Feeling
Many of us might try to escape our adoptee pain by seeking external sources of happiness, but true happiness comes from within.
We can run from our adoptee pain but can't hide for long. Pain is an inevitable part of life. We all experience different forms at different times. Unfortunately, many Adoptees often avoid feeling feelings by suppressing their emotions, distracting themselves, or numbing their realities.
This was me.
This was my life.
Abandonment, rejection, grief, loss, complex PTSD, anger, rage, substance use disorders, mental health issues, and relationship issues plague adoptees, myself included. They surface in our personal lives, our professional lives, and in the relationships that we have with ourselves and our loved ones.
This isn't new, but what is new is the reality of how adoption impacts adopted people being brought to light more than ever before. Many of us have lived a life where adoption was never discussed in our homes or with our close friendships and relationships.
Consider Reading: Living in Adoptions Emotional Aftermath
Instead, our adoptive parents were told, "Shush, just don't talk about it, pretend this child is your own, move on, and everything will be fine!" They were told to sweep our beginnings under the rug as if they didn't exist and that we were blank slates. Our government helped co-sign with the legal process of secrecy and shame to conceal our original identity, hide all the evidence that we had any beginnings, and throw away the key of knowledge ever to learn who we are or where we came from.
We are then assigned a new identity, expected to be grateful, and never ask about our beginnings. The two people that mean the most to everyone, our biological mother and father, are discarded as if they don't exist. We are gaslit by the world that we should be thankful someone took us in when our own parents didn’t want us.
Life moves on for our adoptive parents, and adoption is always the big elephant in the room. The unspoken truth stays hidden, and everyone pretends the new setup is authentic, but something happens.
The adopted child grows up, and many of us start thinking of our biological connections as early as we can remember.
This line of thinking is still prevalent in adoptions today!
Many of us learn we are adopted and our lives are never the same. Yet, no matter how gentle or upfront in delivering our new realization of being adopted, our brains never settle down from that moment forward. Instead, many of us become obsessed with finding our birth mother and our truth.
But often, we internalize our feelings because we get the hint that no one wants to know how it feels to be adopted. As a result, most people can't fathom what it feels like not to know what the faces look like of the two people that brought you into this world, to lose critical biological connections. They have likely never thought about what it's like to look at themselves in the mirror daily, not knowing who is looking back at them.
It's unimaginable not to know what your mother's face looks like or what genetic traits you carry and whom they come from. Yet, the privilege of knowing these fundamental human rights is unnoticed by non-adoptees who have lived knowing the truth of their origins for their entire lives.
While many adoptees feel the world is up against them and misunderstood, an underbelly of pain is always below the surface. Some of us develop healthy coping skills, while others don't.
I was an adoptee that didn't develop healthy coping skills for the big adoptee feelings that come with being adopted. As a result, I hated myself deep down for most of my life. I learned from a very young age that these big feelings were so big I couldn't possibly feel them, so a dependency on alcohol started at 12 years old and would dominate my life for the next 27 years. The truth is, I could run, but I couldn't hide forever. Deep-rooted trauma and issues will always catch up with us eventually.
On August 13, 2012, the shit got real, and I put the alcohol back on the shelf and decided I wanted to work on healing. Substances and trauma work don't work well together, so I knew I had to be intentional about my healing journey. I believe facing it head-on and not using substances is the best way to deal with pain.
Acknowledge, feel, and allow yourself to grieve healthily or process adoptee pain.
This time in my life, I had fought the entire world for my truth, and I am glad I did, or my healing would have been prolonged even longer. But, unfortunately, we can't heal from adoption secrecy, lies, and half-truths. The reality is that in order to heal from whatever our truth is requires honesty, transparency, and a willingness to confront brutal truths.
When our truth is hidden and concealed, it's impossible to heal or feel because we don't know what we are healing from. This means we can’t feel authentic feelings because we’re only given small fragments of our truth if any at all.
Running from pain and using substances to avoid reality only prolonged my suffering. Many of us might try to escape our pain by seeking external sources of happiness, but true happiness comes from within. Only when we confront our pain can we overcome it and move forward.
It's essential not to be afraid of feeling our feelings. We want to embrace it as a natural part of the adoptee experience. We can learn from feeling our feelings and grow from the experience. We become more powerful and can use our pain to catalyze positive change in our lives and the adoption community.
All parties of the adoption constellation need to understand that healing takes time and effort. It might involve therapy, connecting with other adoptees, and open and honest communication. But ultimately, healing from the adoptee experience can lead to a more fulfilling and authentic life for everyone involved. One of the paramount keys to adoptee healing is feeling.
HOW CAN NON-ADOPTEES HELP US?
If you are considering adoption, please consider reading: Considering Adoption? What Adoptees Want You to Know. If you insist on adopting, at least do the work before you make a final decision and research separation trauma and adoptee suicide.
Support 100% truth and transparency in adoption because our truth can save our lives. Additionally, adoptive parents and families must recognize adoptees' unique challenges and provide a safe and supportive environment in which adoptees can express their feelings and emotions. Help us heal by sparking conversations about adoption and becoming experts in processing grief, loss, and abandonment.
Adoptive parents can also help their children to connect with their birth families and cultural heritage, which can be a source of healing and empowerment.
By working together, we can help to prevent adoptee suicide and promote mental health and well-being for adoptees. Non-adoptees must research adult adoptees sharing their journeys and be willing to listen and learn from those with the most valuable lived experiences - The adult adoptees.
Consider Reading: 100 Heartfelt Adoptee Quotes that Honor The Truth of Adoption
One of the most significant parts of healing and feeling adoptee pain is seeing adoptees flourish and thrive as they come to terms with their identity and history. It's a journey that can be painful but incredibly rewarding as we gain a sense of belonging and understanding of our past. It takes time, patience, and support, but seeing the transformation and growth that comes from healing adoptee pain is worth seeing. Even with non-adoptees jumping on board to navigate learning about the adoptee experience in a more profound way, it's up to each of us adoptees to do the work to heal ourselves.
No one else is going to do it for us.
If you are an adoptee who has made it this far, please know that you aren't alone, and how you feel is normal for a not-normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from our birth mothers and families at the beginning of life.
I have compiled a list of recommended resources for adoptees and advocates. You can find it here: Recommended Resources for Adult Adoptees and Adoption Advocates.
Q & A
For my fellow adoptees, have you found yourself struggling with feeling your adoptee feelings?
If so, how have you been able to open up to learning how to feel such big feelings?
For those adoptees who don’t struggle with this, what has the key been for you?
Drop your comments below!
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Understanding is Love,
Pamela A. Karanova
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ASK ME ANYTHING COLUMN
Each month, all subscribers receive an “Ask Me Anything” newsletter — which will answer one or two adoptee-related questions from paid subscribers. Think: What adoptee healing tools have been the most valuable to you? How have you navigated the grief and loss process? What made you want to search for your biological family? How was your reunion once you searched? Do you regret searching? If you have a question for me, please email it to: email@example.com
Here are two recent questions:
When Speaking to Adoptive Parents About Adoption
Ways to Better Understand and Support Adopted Teens
Here are a few articles I recommend reading:
100 Heartfelt Transracial Adoptee Quotes that Honor the Truth of Adoption by Pamela A. Karanova & 100 Transracial Adoptees Worldwide
What Are the Mental Health Effects of Being Adopted? By Therodora Blanchfield, AMFT
10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know – An Adoptee’s Perspective by Cristina Romo
Understanding Why Adoptees Are At A Higher Risk for Suicide by Maureen McCauley | Light of Day Stories
Toward Preventing Adoption- Related Suicide by Mirah Riben
Relationship Between Adoption and Suicide Attempts: A Meta-Analysis
Reckoning with The Primal Wound Documentary with a 10% off coupon code (25 available) “adopteesconnect”
Still, Grieving Adoptee Losses, What My Adoptive Parents Could Have Done Differently.
“Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” - Rev. Keith C. Griffith.
Thank you for sharing!