My Views on Adoptee vs. Relinquishee

Over the last few years, I’ve learned the noteworthy difference in the concept of an adopted individual referencing themselves as a relinquishee and why this is even a thing. Take note while I share here, I’m sharing from the perspective of an adoptee adopted from a closed adoption in 1974. I’m not referencing individuals who have never been separated from their biological mothers at the beginning of life.

10+ years ago, I began to come out of the fog regarding my adoptee journey, and in that time, it’s been ten years of processing pain, heartache, adoption, and relinquishment trauma. I had to trace back to the beginning of my life, which we would typically consider being conception. I actually wrote about this before many years ago, Is Adoption the Problem or is Relinquishment the Problem?

 However, we must go much farther back and allow ourselves to spend some time in our birth parents’ shoes, their parents’ shoes, and their parents’ shoes.

Over those ten years, I’ve learned the knowledgeable difference between someone using the reference adoption trauma and relinquishment trauma. They are two very different things, and we must recognize them as such to embrace our healing journeys.

For myself, the root of my pain is a reflection of the original separation and relinquishment trauma from my birth mother. This wound in the adoption community is fitfully referenced as The Primal Wound.

I share my thoughts and feelings based on my experiences, which is especially true for my healing journey. One’s healing journey is never cut and dry, reflecting ONE WAY, so I will never insist what works for me will work for you too, but it might.

I used to refer to adoption trauma as the root of my trauma; however, my growth has caused my views to change over the years. Today, I hear countless individuals reference adoption trauma as the soul wound that an adoptee carries; however, I would disagree. The first trauma an adopted individual experiences is actually from the relinquishment from our biological mothers. This trauma is first, and it is the root of our heartache and pain. Trying to heal these wounds “out of order” where we aren’t acknowledging the root first, can and will stall our healing as relinquishees.

Adoption trauma is definitely in the mix for most of us, who consider our adoptive homes a traumatic experience. Still, we must acknowledge that relinquishment trauma, aka the primal wound, was FIRST.

Adoption trauma compacts relinquishment trauma, making one big cluster fu*ks of trauma on top of trauma. I’m a firm believer in getting to the root of the problem to pull it out and set it on the table to work on it. In my opinion, we must start referring to our pain to share where the root of our heartache and pain comes from, and that’s relinquishment trauma.

The loss of our birth mother is so profound that until we start to recognize this as our original trauma that happened FIRST, our healing will be stalled.

Adoption trauma is a thing. Being forced to bond with a family, you are nothing like is a thing. Adoption abuse is a thing. Adoption itself is separate from relinquishment and in this acknowledgement, I’ve learned this is one reason adoptees are now referencing themselves as relinquishees.

As I embrace a New Year and as 2021 approaches, I feel that for my writings and personal journey, I am going to starting writing from the perspective of a relinquishee because, for me, that’s the one wound that’s been the deepest. It’s the root of my pain. To recognize this, I want other adoptees to consider acknowledging this as their root wound as well. However, it could also be known as the mother wound for adoptees that wound is dual damage.

I have learned over the years some adoptees do not acknowledge adoption or relinquishment as a trauma. However, I feel they likely haven’t done enough research on either of these to make the correlation.

One dynamic of connecting these dots was to step out of denial about relinquishment trauma. This only happened by researching and trying to understand pre and perinatal bonding, separation after birth, and the emotional, psychological, and preverbal trauma that occurs when relinquishment/separation happens. Another avenue to research is generational trauma. No one will tell us to research these things to understand them better, so we must embrace this on our own.

Acknowledging these differences in relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma is critically essential, and our healing depends on it. Moving forward, you will likely see me reference myself as a relinquishee about my views on relinquishment trauma. I encourage you to do your research and study all the adoptee experience dynamics so you can best understand the complex layers of trauma that an adopted individual experiences.

For most adoptions to take place, the adoptee is a relinquishee FIRST. I think this difference is a noteworthy one those in adoption circles should acknowledge because the more we understand, the more we heal.

Thanks for reading.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are that of the author, Pamela A. Karanova. Reproduction of the material contained in this publication may be made only with the written permission of Pamela A. Karanova.

13 thoughts on “My Views on Adoptee vs. Relinquishee

  1. I see “adoption trauma” as covering more ground than “relinquishment trauma.” Adoption trauma covers everyone involved, including the adoptive parents, many of whom experience trauma around the very fact of their need to adopt.

  2. Bingo. The weird thing is we don’t use the relinquishment word. We just say we were adopted. We and our original families had to lose so much already to be in any position to get adopted. And its glazed over so much. I feel it is basically a psychological death for our mothers to us. Its worse. We know they still live… and they know we still live. Its harder and more complicated than any other loss. And its glazed over in order to sell it as a more palatable word and reason to celebrate instead. It ends up being a mindfuck for all involved in my opinion. Its no wonder we suffer so deeply and so long without supports or educated professionals to help us.

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I agree wholeheartedly on us not using the word relinquishment. That was one of the main points of this article is to highlight that we must trace back to the relinquishment. And if you think about it, generational trauma is also an important factor because until we know the TRUTH of what our birth parents experienced generationally, and their parents, it’s hard for us to connect the dots on the WHYS. That’s a whole different topic I want to write about.

      I agree on the mindfuc*ks that we all experience! It’s more than anyone not adopted can even imagine. It’s truly a miracle we’re even alive and we survived at this point. And for most of us that is a daily challenge! Sometimes hourly.

      Sending you HUGS and LOVE as we approach the new year. It has to be better than 2020!

    2. Thanks 🙏🏻 for acknowledging biological mothers’ ongoing and insufferable 😣 feat in continuing to “live life” devoid of the baby 🍼 we, more often than not I justifiably surmise, were coerced, forced and were demanded of silently swallowing those harrowing moments where there were plenty of key-players in facilitating the outcome of “adoption”.

      I’m that mother. And I never 👎 anticipated that’d I’d be one ☝🏻 of those victims. Never.

      Thanks again, let’s continue the discussion. #edmondfreynotray #becauseivegotjesus #thebitchwiththephone #adoptionfraud #babiesarenotforsale #jmjmaternityhomes #dianeniswander #FamilyConnectionsChristianAdoptions

  3. Pamela,

    Absolutely true, and a very important distinction for sure.

    My experience is of both types of trauma. I suffered the relinquishment, or genetic abandonment, trauma upon birth. Resultantly, it was ore-verbal, and I had no language to describe it. I then experienced the complex developmental traumas associated with having difficulty trusting and attaching, as well as adapting several unhealthy coping mechanisms I needed for survival, thus further complication my personal development and sense of self.

    It’s all been quite a lot to unpack, understand, and contextualize, yet doing so has made he much more resilient, and happier, than had I not endeavored to do so.

    Be Well,, Jerry growing, and keep healing!

    1. Good morning my friend!

      Thank you so much for chiming in here. You are one of the many adoptees I have heard use the word “Relinquishee” and it resonates with me. I can also relate to both types of trauma, and have realized that they are both equally important to work on, but I have spent 10+ years working on them figuring it out on my own, which is why I wanted to write the article.

      We hear so much about “Adoption Trauma” but not nearly as much about “Relinquishment Trauma” I think for me, Relinquishment Trauma has echoed throughout my entire life, but I can identify this being rooted in a time before I was actually adopted. Then once adopted, that’s a whole different thing. I think one can categorize it all together under “Adoption Trauma” however, for me personally making the distinction of the differences has been HUGE to my healing journey.

      I so relate it it being a lot to unpack. It truly is a lot! Thankfully, we’re in it together! Processing together! Thankful for your friendship through it all! 😀 ❤

  4. Yes I’ve written frequently about relinquishment trauma being the basis of all adoptee trauma that rarely gets recognised .. I define that as separate to the traumas that get multiplied on top once adoption occurs esp if rehoming, abuse, deportation and extra massive traumas happen.

    https://intercountryadopteevoices.com/2020/03/05/the-importance-of-including-those-most-impacted-in-policy-discussions/

    A recent article specific to relinquishment trauma I shared ICAVs network was this one

    https://mariedolfi.com/adoption-resource/relinquishment-trauma-the-forgotten-trauma/?fbclid=IwAR3bNtmQ3iUFcYKPg3uHpoc_wOkEx-AkiroNvTkJTTlvmF785Dfqnmw-N_g

    1. Good morning my beautiful friend!

      I am so thankful you have shared these articles here! So wonderful you have written about them. Would you mind if I linked them to my article? I would love to share. it seems when we team up together, our voices become more powerful!

      No pressure! Thank you for sharing! ❤

  5. Thank you for writing this. I am an adoptee/relinquishee. I recently obtained my MSW and my professional seminar topic was entitled: “The Unrecognized Trauma of Early Relinquishment in Adoption.”

    1. Hi Nam,

      Thank you so much and you’re more than welcome!

      Wow at the topic for your professional seminar! Is it something I can read?

      That’s amazing and I’m so glad more individuals are writing about such critically important topics. So overdue and necessary. We must keep sharing and keep writing. 🤍

  6. Very interesting Pamela, thank you. I have only recently started to research the whole topic of adoption and come across the term relinquished, having used abandoned or rejected in the past. Now I have another layer to ponder and muse on, to heal the relinquishee wound. Blessings Joy

    1. Hi Joy,

      Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m honored to share my feelings about this topic. I truly believe being an adoptee is one set of experiences (being adopted) and being a relinquishee (relinquishment from bio parents) is another set of experiences. They meet at some point for all of us, but I have found the mother wound from birth mother is the most significant wound I have ever experienced, which is also relinquishment trauma. Until I was able to identify the difference, I wasn’t healing at the capacity I desired. That’s why I felt it was important to write about it, so other relinquishees/adoptees don’t get hung up like I did. I hear A LOT in the adoption community of people referring to ADOPTION TRAUMA, but they never really focus on RELINQUISHMENT TRAUMA. Or at least it seems many don’t distinguish the difference. and they are clearly different. Some adoptees don’t consider themselves to be traumatized by adoption, but I get that because those who are just coming out of the fog aren’t able to distinguish the difference. But truth is, relinquishment for ALL is a trauma, and adoption trauma compacts it for many of us.

      Adoption trauma has masked relinquishment trauma, because it’s generally celebrated by the world. It’s really quite complex.

      So glad you open up a new door for you to explore so you can see what works best for you, based on what feels better to you! Many hugs! XOXO Pam ❤

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