I’m Adopted: You Can’t Fix Me or Take My Pain Away. Please Stop Trying.

Is Anyone Even Listening?

Ouch, this might have come off as abrasive right off the title. Hopefully so because my aim is to grasp the attention of anyone in the adoption arena in hopes to help someone who might not understand that you can’t fix adoptees and you can’t take our pain away. We need to embrace it and learn it’s here to stay. The sooner I acknowledged it, stopped running from it or trying to mask it with substances, the sooner healing started to happen.

National Adoption Awareness Month to me means I need to add my voice somewhere to the adoption arena because I’m adopted, and I know how it feels. Over the last 10 years of my activism in sharing how it feels to be adopted, I keep hearing the majority of adoptive parents say things like, “I just want to take away my adopted daughters pain” or “I don’t want my adopted son to feel like he was abandoned”.

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Photo by Casey Anderson on Unsplash.

I moderate multiple platforms online where this is a common theme and every time I hear it, I cringe. I think to myself, “They can’t possibly understand what damage they are doing by this mindset!”

Because if we know better, we do better and once you know, you can’t un-know. 

I decided that time is the most important thing we have, so I didn’t want to waste another minute not putting this information out here.

When a child or baby is adopted or separated from their biological mother for ANY REASON, no matter when it happens in life, it causes a trauma for this child. That trauma has to be acknowledged, but it also has to be exposed and brought to light so the person who has experienced this trauma has a chance to heal. As a baby, born and relinquished by my birth mother, my trauma happened at a preverbal state so growing up I never had the words to tap into this trauma. I didn’t have the language or memories talk to anyone about it. While this trauma has been stored my entire life in my subconscious memory, the fact that it’s never been addressed or acknowledged growing up has led me to a lifetime of addictions and unhealthy behavior habits.

I think if my adoptive parents understood this, they would have been able to help me. In 1974 they were told to not talk about it and move on. Sweep the truth under the rug and press on with the “better life” theory and act as if this real trauma never existed. Once this trauma occurs, it can never be undone. Healing is possible, but in order to heal it we must feel it and the earlier we start to do this, the sooner we start to heal.

Adoptees deserve to heal. 

I think as parents, we naturally want to take our children’s pain away, adopted or not. I’m a mom, I successfully have raised 3 kids to adult hood as a single parent and I have said many times, “I wish I could take your pain away” when they experience painful things in life. In acknowledging my own pain, I have been able to learn to acknowledge their pain.

There is a big difference in saying this but not reserving space for the pain to be processed vs saying this but also allowing space for the pain to be processed.

We can’t heal our wounds by saying they aren’t there.

While I believe many people have good intentions, we naturally don’t like to see people hurting, especially children. We want to help them, but the biggest mistake that can be made for an adoptee is when people try to fix us, or attempt to take our pain away by trying to make us “FEEL BETTER” without ever actually acknowledging that pain (trauma) to begin with. This is really life or death for adoptees everywhere. Of course, it’s life or death for anyone that’s been separated from their birth mothers, but I speak from an adoptees perspective so that’s the lens I’m sharing from.

The biggest deception in adoption today is that LOVE will somehow take the pain away, or that love will be enough. Well I’m here to share from my perspective and experience that love isn’t enough, and it will never be enough. The feeling of pain was far greater in my life than being able to FEEL LOVE.  Let’s be honest, there has never been a safe space for me (or most adoptees) to share them until Adoptees Connect, Inc. Because my trauma and pain was so BIG and LOVE was presented to me as abandonment, LOVE is something that confuses me to this day.  Love leaves, love is loss and love is abandonment. “My birth mother loved me so much, she gave me away” is my view of love.  Because of this, LOVE has always been a foreign concept to me when it comes to other people loving me.

Having children of my own, I finally know what it’s like to love others, but I still struggle to this day believing or FEELING like anyone loves me. I know it’s rooted in my adoption experience because I’ve spent the last 7 years in recovery working on myself. I’ve been able to identify the root issue being abandonment & rejection from both birth parents, compiled with C-PTSD, grief, loss and trauma.

Throughout my entire life I longed for my birth mother. The sadness that followed is something I can’t even put into words, but it stuck with me my entire life. I drank alcohol for 27 years to COPE with this experience because I couldn’t handle processing this pain, but alcohol temporarily took the pain away. No amount of love, material possessions, people, places or things could make up for my trauma and loss of my birth mother at the beginning of life.

My birth mothers shortcomings didn’t matter to me 

ALL I EVER WANTED WAS HER. 

Instead of anyone trying to fix me, or take my pain away what I needed was my adoptive parents to open the conversations to allow me to process this pain at age appropriate times  I needed them to know AHEAD OF TIME before they ever adopted me that the pain I would experience from relinquishment trauma will be with me for the rest of my life and it will negatively impact me in many ways. I needed them to research relinquishment trauma, pre and post-natal bonding between mother and child and what happens when that natural process is broken, and the bond is severed. I needed them to know their love wouldn’t be enough to fix me or to heal my broken heart. I needed them to know that no matter what they did and how they did it that it wouldn’t take my pain away. I needed them to know about the emotional and psychological issues I would suffer for my entire lifetime because of this trauma, many years beyond being a cute baby and a cuddly toddler. The sooner the reality and truth is brought to light, the better!

Avoidance will only work for so long, and then our emotions start to come out in unhealthy ways. I would much rather sit with my child and HELP them PROCESS the pain by allowing them to feel feelings than watch them self-destruct because they aren’t able to articulate the words about why they are feeling the way they are. We need our parents help to find the right words, and the space to be able to share freely how we are feeling about our adoption experiences. It’s impossible to tap into this when society silences adoptees unless they have a thankful and grateful narrative to spin.

WE HAVE TO STOP BEING SCARED TO SIT WITH SOMEONE IN THEIR PAIN.

WE HAVE TO STOP TRYING TO RUN FROM PROCESSING PAIN. 

WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WE CAN’T PUT A TIME FRAME ON HEALING.

Pain is a natural response to different experiences that happen to us. I say all the time that the way adoptees feel is normal. What’s not normal is being separated from our biological families at the beginning of life. I say this to validate every single experience and feeling of every adoptee who might come across my words. I want them to know they aren’t alone, and they aren’t crazy!

I grew up, and here I am. I survived and I’m surviving daily. I’m in recovery from relinquishment trauma, compacted by adoption trauma. All I have really ever needed was my adoptive parents and those who aren’t adopted to acknowledge my pain, and in acknowledging that pain, sit with me and listen to me share pieces of my story.  They need to understand that there is much more to adoption than what society shares. It’s not all cute and lovely. It’s not all happy and positive. All adoptions are rooted and grounded in the biggest loss of a persons life, and until that’s acknowledged adoptees will continue to be stuck like I was for so many years.

45 Years of my life I can never get back…

I knew someone awhile back who wanted to fix me and was constantly trying to make me feel better. I had to tell them to please stop it because there is nothing anyone can do to change my reality. I certainly don’t need anyone else to try to re-frame my reality for me as an attempt to make me “feel better”. What is so hard about acknowledging someone else’s pain, and just listening to them and sit with them in the pain?

I’m a realist who’s focused on the truth. I didn’t fight for 45 years to get my truth, to turn around and pretend it’s not my reality. I experienced that in the religious settings of my x-church which is known as “spiritual bypassing”. This is when someone uses spiritual practices to avoid dealing with reality. I’ve broken free from that, and I will never live a lie again. So, when I cling to my truth, I don’t appreciate anyone trying to come into my space and change it after I’ve fought my entire life to receive it and I’ve spent many years working towards healing from it.

As a child I never could acknowledge my painful truth because my adoptive parents were busy pretending, I was a blank slate, and they were my only parents. Reality, I had a broken past and history before I ever came to them but them denying it, and pretending like it didn’t exist wrecked me, and it still impacts me to this day. How do you think it feels to be a part of 2 families, but never being able to feel like you fully belong to either? Like an outsider always looking in. It’s extremely difficult to navigate so I’ve made the choice to opt out for my own sanity, mental health and recovery.

I share no DNA with my adoptive family, and I have no shared history with my biological family. I’m learning to adapt by accepting I will never truly be a part of either family, so I’ve moved far away across the country from everyone to try to recovery from this experience the best I can.  I now have 3 adult children who are my family. Although, I’m 7 years into my sobriety and recovery journey and I consider myself an adoptee who’s worked through a lot of these issues, not one day goes by where being adopted doesn’t impact me in some way.

I’m thankful for my kids because without them I wouldn’t be here. 

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Damia, Keila, Damond – Twins 21st Birthday Celebration

It’s us against the world. 

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all. 

I’ve accepted that I will be in recovery for the rest of my life due to my adoption experience. Thankfully I’ve been an adoptee whose found my adoptee tribe that meets in real life and they get me. They understand and they will sit with me in my pain. They don’t put a time frame on it, they don’t try to silence me, and they understand the adoptee journey.  This has been very validating, but I can’t help but wonder who’s narrative might change if other’s hear this side of the story?

Will adoptive parents stop trying to avoid dealing with the truth after reading this? Will non adoptees in society try to listen more and talk less, with compassion and understanding? Will they listen to what I have shared here? Will they try to learn more, and stop trying to bypass the process of dealing with the truth of adoptees all over the world?  I can’t help but hope that if my adoptive parents had this information back in the day, they would do whatever they could to learn to understand the adoptee experience and having the willingness to listen and learn.

Is anyone even listening? 

If you are, this is for you. 

Please know you can’t fix me. 

You can’t fix any adoptees. 

You can’t take our pain away either. 

Please stop trying. 

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7 thoughts on “I’m Adopted: You Can’t Fix Me or Take My Pain Away. Please Stop Trying.

  1. We adopted a sibling group of 6 that were removed from their mom for many reasons. We talk very often with them about their mom and how we know they miss her and we know she misses them. The younger ones don’t remember her but we talk openly about all the things they remember and we understand that this causes them pain. We can’t take it away and we can’t feel it but we hope that acknowledging it helps. I hope so. We know we can’t take away their loss and we can never replace their mom so we hope that keeping it open and honest will help them. It’s hard for us adoptive parents to know what is right.

    1. Hi Leon,

      I think it’s wonderful you are so open with communication regarding the situation. This is really life and death for them. Thankfully because of this, they won’t get to see the side I’ve seen like no talking about it ever at all… Talking about it very often is also the way to go. This gives me hope that things are actually changing. I think acknowledgement is HUGE. I can assure you that is such an important piece of the adoptee journey. The fact that you are so open, will bring the kids closer to you.

      I think adoption is hard for everyone and like any parenting it’s hard to know what’s right. Adoption is so complicated and layered and every situation is so different. Thank you for sharing here! It means a lot!

  2. Great post! You captured a lot of feelings that I would agree with; I too am adopted, and was relinquished at birth. Many of the feelings you shared, I have also felt. I am 39 and still have not gone through all of my feelings associated with being adopted; I have always suppressed my feelings. As a child and adult, I was always made to feel as if I should be thankful I was adopted by nice/good people. I internalized others beliefs and thoughts while tried ignoring my own. My feelings have never been validated. I have always yearned for a family to belong too but never felt I belonged to my adopted family. So I just wanted to thank you; your words are so relevant and very much needed for all non adoptees that will listen.

    1. Wow this is really insightful I always wanted to adopt a baby when I grow up and have a family…but after reading this guess I will have to really study more on this subject before I decide to actually do it

  3. “My feelings have never been validated.” Very sad. When a person dies, we try to validate the loved one’s feelings of loss. Why don’t people validate adoption loss? Insensitive? Cold-heartedness? We, too, need to have our loss validated! While adoption loss cannot be “fixed,” it is cruel to pretend that the loss did not happen and cruel to ignore the feelings emanating from relinquishment and separation.

  4. Dear Pamela, I hope you are doing well!! I have to say thank you very much for your blog, it has been a huge help and an eye opener for me. I am almost 50, and am trying again to find my biological mother and father and who knows maybe have the opportunity to find out if any other people in the biological family would like to know me. I think it is going to be very difficult. I am still so hurt about the fact that I was adopted and as you say our hurt as adoptees are not acknowledged. I found out that I was adopted at about 7. My adopted mom just always avoided the fact that I was adopted. I just always had to hear how wonderful she was for adopting me. Our stories as far as adopted mothers are concerned are very much the same. Your post about your adopted mom was the 1st post that I read and that gave me hope to be strong and to know that I need to proceed, to start healing. Thanks for giving so many adoptees hope and a save place to share!

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