Monday, October 8, 2012

Adoptees and our Uneasy Relationship with Words

I am moved to share the following quote, which I encountered this morning in an essay by Robert Allan Hafetz:
Simply put, as adopted adults we carry with us the same experience of anger and grief that we experienced as an infant when we originally lost our bonded first mother, but as we mature, we don’t translate those feelings into conscious thoughts and words. We feel without the words to express those feelings or the understanding of where they come from. This separation of what we think and what we feel as adoptees is the great disconnect of the adopted. It prevents us from finding the right words with which to explain what we feel. It inhibits our ability to comprehend, clearly, what happened to us making it difficult to resolve our thoughts and feelings. Some adoptees will throughout their lives try and build a bridge of understanding joining thoughts and memories while others will keep them hidden.
This quotes hits on one of the main reasons why I write this blog. I am a word seeker. I am a bridge builder. It is a challenging task but one to which I am drawn.

The rest of the essay is powerful as well. I especially appreciated the following section, which touches on the communication divide between the adopted and the non-adopted, a circumstance that is an ongoing source of frustration for the many of us who long to have our experience understood:
We say things like; I feel lost, isolated, and alone. We are seen as none of these when viewed from the perspective of friends and family members. We feel disconnected, even in the presence of our adopted families who do feel connected to us. They can’t understand that we may be experiencing deep, everlasting emotions and memories from a time before we could think. Reassurances spoken to us fail to reach the part of our mind that feels. We know what we know, but we still feel what we feel. We feel lost because we need to be found, isolated because we have been separated from our maternal other self, disconnected because no one believes us and society doesn’t understand. We feel grief because we have never completed the process to resolve our grief. It makes matters worse when the government seals our records treating us like perpetual children with no right to know our own natural families.
Hafetz's search for his biological mother ended with the heartbreaking discovery that she had died before he could find her. As some of you already know, this same thing happened this week to a man who is an active member of the adoptee rights community. I know Jeff only through facebook, and yet I cried actual tears when I read the news of his loss. Why? Because the news of his loss went straight to the core of my adoptee tenderness, that vulnerable, infant part of myself that will always be with me, crying to be heard, longing to be held. My heart goes out to all of those adoptees whose searches have ended at the side of a grave. Loss on top of loss ... grief that words can never properly express.

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  1. I am a lurker (sorry) but this rang so many bells in me. i am an adult adoptee who finally, after many years of living in the adoptee fog, sought out my bparents. I was rejected a second time when she decided that she did not want tp revisit a painful past (the BSE). I am still incredibly hurt by this and do not know how to process this on an emotional level -- I can logically but not otherwise. I have only begun to tap into the grief I feel for this visceral loss, and am totally adrift as to how to process it. After all, wasn't I lucky and chosen and special?
    I love your blog.

  2. No need to apologize, but thanks for commenting! What you say makes perfect sense to me. The therapeutic mode that I have found most helpful in dealing with my adoption issues is something called Somatic Experiencing. I found it to be effective because it is body-based rather than language-based. It's about releasing the stored-up trauma. But, healing for me is an ongoing process rather than a one-time deal. Every time I think I'm done I find another layer.


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