Friday, December 28, 2012

Five Survival Tips for Adoption Reunion

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1) Find appropriate outlets for your "adoption crazy."

Adoption reunions can bring out the nutty in the best of us. Adoptees and first parents may both enter the reunion process with wounds and scars created by their separation from each other. Reunion also frequently triggers regression to an earlier age; the adoptee may regress to the emotional age of a young child and biological parents may find themselves traumatically "stuck" at the age of relinquishment in some aspects of their development. We may understand certain things with our logical brains while simultaneously experiencing strong emotions that defy and overpower logic. Anger, jealousy, and fears of abandonment or rejection are all normal parts of the reunion experience. Our emotions are real and valid and often very insistent, but that doesn't that mean we have to act on all of them. Take some time to let your emotions settle down before you send that email or text or post that facebook status. Write the letter you never send. Paint a picture. Go for a walk. Call a trusted friend and rant to him or her. Find some strategy -- whatever works for you -- that will allow you to create some space before you say something you will regret to the person you with whom you are creating a tender new relationship. This isn't to say that you should never speak your mind. There may come a time in the reunion process when an open, honest expression of the hard stuff is exactly what is required to move the relationship forward. But proceed with care. Hurt people often do hurtful things, and the results can be devastating.

2) Find a network of supporters who truly understand what you are going through.

Adoption reunion is intense. It can bowl us over in unexpected ways, and often the people close to us don't know what to make of what is happening. Your spouse may not understand what you are experiencing. Your kids may not understand. Your best friend may not understand. The adoptive family probably won't understand. But there are people out there who will understand and be able to provide the support you need. Through blogging, facebook, and twitter, I have been able to form a strong network of adoptee friends, and I cannot say enough about how important this network has become to me. Formerly, I was like one wandering alone in the wilderness. I had to try to make sense of all of my adoptive and reunion experiences on my own. Now I have companions, and they just get it.

3) Seek out an adoption-competent therapist.

This one certainly falls into the easier-said-than-done category, but it's not impossible. Therapists typically receive little training in adoption-specific issues, and they may even have been influenced by broad cultural beliefs about adoption that are less than helpful. But with a little effort, you may be able to find a therapist who is the right match for you and your reunion situation. Not every adoptee or first parent will find therapy necessary or helpful, but some may find that reunion up stirs up issues that are best handled with the help of a professional. I recommend coming up with a list of questions to ask before you commit to working with any one person on a regular basis. Many therapists will also allow you to participate in a trial session before committing to more.

4) Remember that reunion is a process, not a destination.

It would be nice if reunion "fixed" everything, but it doesn't. In fact, it can open new wounds as we acquire new understandings of what was lost. Neither the adoptee nor the first parent is the person they would have been if the separation had never happened. We will have a different relationship in reunion than we would have had if we had stayed together. We need to allow ourselves space to mourn what was lost, while simultaneously appreciating the present-day relationship for what it is. It also helps to recognize that reunions go through many stages. Like all true relationships, they are dynamic and ever evolving.

5) Set boundaries with care. 

Boundaries are a tricky part of the reunion process. As healthy adults, we sometimes need to set boundaries in order to create safe spaces for ourselves, but in adoption reunion emotional regression and fears of rejection on the part of one or both parties can result in misinterpretation of boundaries. If another member of your reunion situation has gotten sucked into "adoption crazy," you may need to create some space for your own sanity. You do not need to get sucked into another person's drama, and certainly no one should remain in a situation that is abusive or harmful. But try not meet crazy with crazy, or to respond to lashing out by lashing back. This is easier said than done, of course! But if you can manage it, attempt to communicate your need for limits in kind ways. Try to make it clear that your boundaries are about your own needs, not a rejection of the other person. Of course, reunion volatility being what it is, the other person may perceive your communication as a rejection anyway, but at least you will have done your part to try to keep things civil. Meet the other person with care and kindness, if you can, but don't forget to extend the same care and kindness to yourself. Remember the airlines' dictum about putting on your own oxygen mask first, before attempting to help others.

13 comments:

  1. Where was this five years ago? Lol. Thank you for the tips, hopefully it will assist may others who are brand new to reunion.

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    1. Agreed!!! I've been in reunion with my son for 2 yrs. The past 6 months he's shut me out of his life and can't give me any explanation. We were pretty close, so it came as quite a shock.

      All I can do is be patient, let him work out his feelings, and know he'll call when he's ready.

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  2. This is wonderful advice that I wish I had when I found my daughter 27 years ago. I will recommend to all my searchers that they read this often before commencing the search or initiating a reunion. Thank you, Rebecca.
    www.priscillasharp.org

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  3. Awesome. Biggest problem I have with my bio mom is her permanently thinking i havent forgiven her for giving me up, even though I am genuinely grateful she did. She only sees her own guilt and cant move past it. And she lacks the discipline to maintain boundaries. So I have stopped speaking to her because I so needed to get out of her pool of guilt. That oxygen mask analogy is excellent. You can't help someone if you are suffocating with them. The problem with bio parents not respecting boundaries, it's like she is consistently trying to rip off my oxygen mask and revert back to the guilt and the crazy.

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    1. My bioson and I both were in that push and pull mode for many months. He had many external issues that went way beyond adoption and I thought I could save him. He thought I could save him.
      We're taking a long break , he's young and needs time mature and get his life in order. Then we can begin again. I have worked through my grief and guilt, and see things much clearer now.

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  4. Can you direct me to a network of supporters, as you call them?

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  5. I am a birth mother. I am on Facebook. Thanks, will try the first site you have mentioned.

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  6. I posted the question to facebook once and received a number of helpful replies. I think you can see the results if you click on the link below. (If not, please let me know and I will try to get the info to you another way.)


    https://www.facebook.com/rebecca.hawkes.925/posts/252553564884090

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  7. is there a adoptee support group you would recommend?

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  8. My own support network has been pieced together bit by bit via facebook, twitter, blogging, etc., but I've heard good things about this forum: http://www.adultadoptees.org/forum/

    There's also this group on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/454453277905996/

    I'm a member but not active.

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  9. AAAFC support group mission statement: http://adultadoptees.org/index.html/?p=35

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  10. This is great I am a First parent wish I saw this 4 years ago!! My daughter found me and I was thrilled !! But at the same time she found me my son who was 14 has been battling medulloblastoma - pediatric brain cancer and he would not survive his cancer I am glad they for to met and Charles was glad that his new big sister would take care I his baby sister and best friend who was 9 at the time so there were so many emotions on the reunion and I didn't see it at the time I was more concerned about my 3 kids being together ! Charles passed away with in the year of knowing his new big sister and the grieving process was and is devastatingly painful I was in place of having my daughter find me she was 21at the time.. And it has been down hill ever since. She made promises to a dying child and hasn't lived up to them and when we have words I throw it up all the time! It's a difficult situation I have tried but it's like I have double the grief and losing my son devestated me and my family . I wonder if Iam the pushing away she never asks us how we are doing or attempt to talk to me or her younger sister and she hates when I ask her to chat with her I am told Iam putting to much pressure on her . Maybe but life isn't all about parties and fun times . She has a great relationship with her first father (we still talk he was very involved) now all his kids are grown young adults so I guess it's a better environment she hangs with them visits them and me Iam left out in the cold . I don't know what I did

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