Thursday, December 14, 2006

Exit anger, Enter Grief

(If you haven't done so already, please read Third Mom's 100th post which is as moving as it is empathetic.

It was just a matter of time. Grief has finally arrived.

First, there was anger. Lots and lots of anger. Mostly directed at the way adoption was practiced during the Closed Era, abandoning us adoptees to couples who sought emotional salvation in the arrival of pink and blue bundles. Anger directed at my adoptive parents, my child-like narcissistic father and histrionic/depressive mother.

And then, after lots of reflection, a careful examination of my ongoing issues. Which were related to adoption? Which were not. Many were, as it turns out.

And now, finally, Grief.

I successfully found my birthmother and discovered half-siblings, nieces, nephews. The extended family that only children like me wish for. After the honeymoon phase, I learned that my birthmother is a real person with real problems, like addiction to alcohol and bad men.

BUT, even knowing all those problems, I'm feeling more hurt than ever. Feeling the hurt that was probably there all along, disguised as occasional bouts with depression, anxiety, hypochondria and my biggest battle...failure to complete big projects that require commitment and focus, like finishing a novel, my most important goal.

No matter how glad I am that I found my birthmother and my heritage, the loss is still there and it's profound. I have to admit that being relinquished is almost unfathomable. Yes I understand she wanted a better life for me, one that she could not provide. Yes I understand she was poorish and that she had two young adult children and a 15-year old ill teenager at home.

But a voice inside me says, wait, you were 37! You were not a coerced, vulnerable teenager. You did this because it was also best for you. You may have done this with a lot of guilt. But you did it anyway, even refusing to see me more than once because you couldn't let yourself "get attached." Did it help that I looked like my father? Somehow make it easier?

I have felt so many things in relation to my adoption, but I was terrified to face this one. In the beginning, when a nephew said he wasn't sure he could ever face me because I'd been given away and he felt so ashamed, I leapt to my birth mother's defense, citing a laundry list of reasons why I didn't judge her for making that difficult decision. But he was just being honest.

There is no sugar coating my relinquishment. A 37 year old woman defied her friends and family and surrendered me to strangers and, in all those years, never once contacted the county agency to ask after my welfare. The agency is still in existence. A social worker would have duly noted it in the file. And now that same mother is happy to hear from me, glad to know I turned out okay, happy to know she made the right decision. And you know what? I care more about me right now and dammit, and it SUCKS.

And, as if the timing fairy waved its wand, I came across this quote last night in Robert Anderson's book about his black market adoption (Second Choice: Growing Up Adopted): "All adoptees must deal with the fact that their mother did not keep them. That realization does not foster self-confidence."

So I'm dealing with it. Finally.



Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Good for you Nina. It isn't easy but you are on the road and even if you weave a bit, at least you are going in the right direction.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Thanks for the support, Leroy! Just remembered a long talk I had with another adoptee who said she was so grateful to her adoptive parents (who did sound lovely) and that she was not troubled by the fact the her rich bio family made her mentally ill mother give her up for adoption. YET this same woman had been suicidal more than once and has a host of relationship issues...and, during therapy, adoption was a non-issue. I wonder underneath all her problems is unexplored grief. I'm grateful to finally let it percolate to the surface.

12:51 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Nina...being that your friend's mother was mentally ill, it is possible that the adoption issues are compounded by whatever she inherited. I am sure that there are some unexplored grief issues that are buried underneath the depression and whatever other diagnosis' she may have. I am not big on diagnosis/labels because they often lead to stereotypes that put pigeon hole people.

Everyone has "issues". Does that mean we all have a diagnosis? Depends on who you talk to I guess. If that is the case, it must be normal to have a diagnosis. I would sooner talk about situations, relationships, and their effects. And I am glad that you are letting it surface. I am sure it has been a long ride for not only you but those that surround you too. You are brave!

3:47 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Lastly, the steps you describe in this post about going from "anger" to "grief" and finally to "acceptance" is really the same as the stages of death. If you ever get a change to read Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's books on Death & Dying, she describes these steps in detail. It seems to be that this all about the death of a childhood one never had with their parents. A journey toward peace.

4:06 PM  
Blogger Nina said...

Odd. I've read the Death & Dying book within the last ten years and never thought to link it to all this "stuff," but it makes sense. I'll dig it out and reread it. As for the friend I mentioned, her mother was seriously bipolar, but my friend thought her episodes were situational...triggered by her husband leaving her.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Third Mom said...

Nina, thank you for the link, it's really kind of you.

I think to acknowledge and accept the grief you are experiencing is the most honest response an adoptive parent can have.

I hope you have support from others as you face your grief. Certainly there's an online community here to listen and offer support, but I hope you have it in real life, too.

5:54 PM  
Blogger LeRoy Dissing said...

Nina...with your friend, I agree that when one's spouse leaves it triggers all those feelings of abondonment she may have had as a child and now an adult. She needs a lot of support right now. It certainly sounds like what she is going through could be situational. I hope she is seeing someone.

And I agree with Third support is great but it doesn't replace (dare I say) flesh and blood, real life people who can listen and empathize with you.

7:50 PM  

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