Adult adoptees all have the experience of being separated from their birth families and placed with an adoptive family. Some adoptees have a visceral feeling of this separation their entire lives, but all adoptees experience it. Adoptees often feel different. Adoption by definition is built on different, usually problematic foundations. Everyone in the adoption triad deals with the issue of loss, because the experience of loss is the fundamental ground upon which the event of adoption is built. For the adoptee, there is a separation from and loss of the birth mother, a separation one author calls the “primal abandonment” that accompanies every adoptee in the adoptive home and possibly throughout life. With loss comes grief and mourning. Often grief is repressed, and when grief remains unresolved, it can be activated by many life stressors, including search and reunion.
Some adoptees are able to put their adoption into the background of their sense of self. For others, it is absolutely primary, an awareness that begins the moment they learn they are adopted and is never outgrown. But whether the fact of being adopted occupies a greater or lesser place in one’s overall identity, the adopted person feels different from the non-adopted.
Things you have been feeling or wondering about:
- You may feel disloyal or guilty for wanting to search for your birthmother and birthfather
- You may wonder about and have questions about your identity
- You may feel shame and discomfort about your feelings about being adopted (while feeling pressured to feel “grateful”)
- You may wish to locate and develop contact or build relationships with your birth family
- You may desire to access your adoption records
- You may be grieving the loss of your birth family
- You may experience abandonment even if you understand the reasons behind your placement for adoption
- You may wish to know more about your family of origin
- You may feel different from those around you and as if you don’t fit in or belong anywhere
- You may feel angry with your birth family, your adoptive family, or the adoption system as a whole
Some additional issues we may explore include (but are not limited to):
- Loss and grief
- Feelings of abandonment and rejection
- Identity and self-esteem issues
- Anxiety or depression
- Issues of trust and fears of rejection
- Thoughts, fantasies — and realities — of search and reunion with birth families
As adult adoptees, it is important to be able to work through many of these to have a successful and fulfilling reunion. Search and reunion is complicated, exciting and intimidating. Even though you feel you have been ready for reunion with your birth family for your whole life, the actual process is almost always more complicated than anticipated. Pre-conceived notions and ideas about the birth family oftentimes will not meet your expectations. Fantasies and dreams about what it would be like to finally meet the birth family can be very powerful yet fraught with mixed and confusing emotions when brought into reality.
As an adoption specialist for over twenty years, I can help you through this time as you get ready to begin your search and hopefully your reunion. I invite you to contact me today to discuss how my therapy services for adult adoptees can benefit you.