People Are Not Secrets – They are People
Many adoptions in Canada have been shrouded with lies, shame and secrecy. The secrecy associated with the closed adoption system adoption perpetuates the shame of the “unwed mother” and the “illegitimate child”. It is important to remember in reunion that people are not “secrets”, they are people.
Some adopted adults continue to perpetuate the shame of secrecy by keeping their newly found mother and/or family a secret from their adoptive parents. This is a hurtful and damaging practice. It is degrading and disrespectful for a person to be “someone else’s secret.“ Your mother is a living breathing part of you. Your adoptive parents are well aware that you were adopted. Reunion is an adjustment that needs to be made for adoptive families, natural siblings, your natural mother’s husband and everyone else who is dealing with this new reality.
Conversely some mothers have kept the “secret” of their child lost to adoption for several years, and it will take time to realize that this secret is unhealthy and there is no further reason for this secret. Your child is NOT a shameful secret. It is degrading and disrespectful for someone to be “someone else’s secret”. Your son or daughter is a living breathing human being who is part of you. Dealing with truths and adjustments to reunion is necessary for you and your family. It is not healthy for you, or your son or daughter for you to keep them as a secret any further.
Don’t feel guilty, ashamed, or ungrateful-You have a right to reunite with your family member
You have every right to find your mother/daughter/son. This is your heritage, your blood, your family, your history, and your future. Do not allow anyone to make you feel guilty, unworthy, ashamed, or ungrateful for searching for your family member lost to adoption. It is your right.
Join a support group like Origins, confide in a friend who understands your experience and truth, or see a professional who understands adoption issues. Obtain resources, books, films, attend conferences.
Expect an Emotional Roller Coaster Ride
From the euphoria of first contact to the deflation of a “snag” be prepared to experience a wide range of emotions as you go through an adoption reunion. Being aware that this is part of the process and being prepared helps.
Understand the Process
By understanding the stages and the process of adoption reunion and some of the pitfalls, you will ensure a better outcome. Educate yourself on adoption reunion. Talk to others in support groups who may have reunited.
Take it Slow
Don’t be in a hurry to have an “instant family”. Take it slow, one day at a time, and let it unfold as it should. Don’t try to make up for “lost years” all at once…try not to overwhelm the other person or yourself.
Give the Relationship Time
As with any relationship it takes time to develop trust, shared memories, and a feeling of being close. Although there is a natural love for your mother or child, it will take time for that to catch up with the reality of the fact that you have been apart for so long. But it will…give it time as you share new experiences.
Be Patient with One Another
Keep in mind that this is all very new for both of you. It will take time to process all the new information but it will slowly be incorporated into your life. Be patient with each other as you each process your own information in your own way..and work through the very deep emotions and trauma that are part of adoption reunion.
Adoption has been based on so many lies and secrets. It is very important to base this new relationship on the truth. Do not lie about your feelings in order to please the other person. Give information to the best of your knowledge, but remember you have a right to privacy as well and your adopted adult child does not need to know everything about you and visa versa.
Every person has the right to be treated with dignity and respect. Setting limits and boundaries in relationships is healthy.
Just because you have been separated does not give anyone the right to abuse you. It is ok to set limits as to how much you give of yourself, your time, your money etc. Set your boundaries as you would on any other mother/adult child relationship.
Don’t Push Too Hard
Try not to push the other person to do something they are not ready to do. If your son/daughter is not ready to tell their adoptive parents, be clear that you do not wish to be a “secret” but let them do it in their own time and space. Don’t push. If you have asked your mother to give you information about your father and she is reluctant to talk about it, give her time Don’t push. Think before you act. You are dealing with highly emotional complicated relationships. Try to behave with an eye towards a continuing relationship. Try not to be judgmental or to burn your bridges” by pushing too hard too early for what you want.
Keep in mind that there are other people who your mother/son/daughter loves and respects in their life. Try to be respectful of these relationships for the sake of your reunited loved one. It is always good form to show respect to others, and it is important (even if you do not agree) to try and understand and respect their current relationships whether it be with adoptive parents, siblings, husbands, wives, children, etc. This does not mean you have to compromise your values, just try to understand and respect current relationships the best you are able.
It is likely that, whatever you imagined the other person to be like, there will also be many surprises. It is wise to keep an open mind, remain optimistic, and be prepared to “roll with the punches”.
Sources: “Birthright” Jean A.S. Strauss
“Adoption Healing” Joe Soll
“The Primal Wound” Nancy Verrier
“Your Children” Abreah karam
“Toronto CAS” Disclosure Package
“Reunion Relationships” Marlou Russell, Ph.D.
Copyright Valerie Andrews 2010