Lying Lips and DNA Kits

It’s not enough that many times the information that is relayed over to the adoptee/relinquishee is shadowy at best. Still, often we are presented with information based on inaccurate data that is usually restricted and modified to stall the adoptee/relinqishee or throw them off entirely from ever learning who they are and where they come from.

One of the many challenging lessons I’ve learned over the last 10+ years of coming out of the fog regarding my adoption journey is that no matter what we find or how we find it, we should ALWAYS back our stories and conclusions up by doing DNA testing, preferably Ancestry DNA. Ancestry has the most extensive database with nearly 20 million people.

Here’s why I make this suggestion.

People lie when it comes to adoption and relinquishment stories. While we learn from childhood that lying is never okay and even receive punishment as a child for such activities, our society accepts this rule in adoption and relinquishment; our culture makes an exception to this rule. Sometimes I believe that people believe their lies, and sometimes we don’t want to accept them. We feel a shadowed conclusion that doesn’t sit well with our internal dialogue.

Let me give you an example of this. I was told back in 1998 from an individual in my birth mother’s family that my birth father was dead and that he had gotten shot. I sat with that for a minute, and it never sat well with my spirit. But, my intuition is on point, so I said to the world. “If he’s dead, let me confirm he’s my father via DNA testing FIRST, and let me stand of that man’s grave and see his death certificate so I can see it for myself.” Unfortunately, I know countless adoptees who have been sold a lie.

I was never able to receive either of them, and in 2010 I decided to drive 11+ hours from Kentucky to Leon, Iowa, and I showed up at his doorstep and introduced myself. That man wasn’t dead, and he was very much alive. So they lied to me, and chances are if you are adopted, you have been lied to also. I learned from a close family friend that I was conceived out of a one-night stand with a married man. He knew nothing of the pregnancy, and he never consented that I was given up for adoption.  

Sometimes as adoptees, we want something to be confirmed with every fiber in our being, so we ignore the signs or subtle hints that a find might not be true, accurate, or correct. Instead, we jump in head over heels, going by what we were told or what we hope to be true. I hope this article puts a pause in play for anyone that reads it. Please tread carefully and always, always, get DNA testing done BEFORE you build relationships with someone you suspect might be your biological family.

Adoptees/relinquishes are vulnerable individuals. When searching, we often open our hearts and lives as wide as they can go to receive whatever it is we have been fantasizing about our entire lives. We assume the best yet frequently are left feeling misled, robbed, or even taken advantage of. Sometimes this can feel like the biggest disappointment of our lives.

Growing up, our life is filled with fantasies about what we will find. Where is the mother that “loved us so much?” But often, we’re faced with the complete opposite, a cold, disconnected woman that shows no signs towards us that feel like anything close to “love.”

People say, “Expect the worst and hope for the best.” Yet, I am here to tell you there is no natural way to prepare for such conflicting and unimaginable feelings and emotions that come with our discoveries, no matter what they turn out like. It’s like opening a pandora’s box, and what we find can be shattering combined with fulfilling. It’s complex at best, but not learning the solid truth can be devastating beyond repair, so DNA testing is exceedingly essential.

My life story backs this conclusion up because, in 2010, I learned I had a half-sibling out there in the world. After a year of searching, I finally found him. We compared notes, and he ended up being the absolute best part of my reunion story. We spent time together from states away, planned visits and trips together. We accepted one another and our children and spent five years building a relationship. I always said he was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and he was and is to this day the only happy and positive part of my whole adoption experience and story.

Until January 2016, everything was flipped upside down. We ended up doing DNA testing to send the results that my brother and I were connected via DNA to my birth father. He has always expressed a deep-rooted feeling of disbelief that either of us was his biological adult children. To be completely transparent, I haven’t blamed him. He didn’t know anything about me, and he said he had reason to doubt my newfound brother was his biological son. This was why I wanted to complete DNA testing with my brother, so we could present the truth in hopes that it might change something with my biological father because initially, he rejected us, not knowing if we were his or not.

While I had taken the position to clear up this bed of lies that my life was rooted in, I had no idea what the DNA test would soon reveal. In January 2017, the DNA test returned and said WE SHARED NO DNA. I will never forget how this made me feel. I was sick and so distraught that I honestly didn’t believe it. The first person I reached out to was the amazing and gracious Priscilla Stone-Sharp, and I asked her if she could double-check this for me. She concluded that my newfound brother and I shared no DNA. However, we could pinpoint that my birth father was my birth father. His mother’s maiden name is all over in my highest DNA matches. However, my new brother is the one that showed NO DNA with my birth father, which means his biological mother gave him the incorrect information on who his biological father was.

Now that I had opened that whole can of worms, I had to reveal this to my brother, which was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. But, unfortunately, he flat out didn’t believe the DNA results and ended up tragically passing away a few months later in a motorcycle crash. This experience sent me into a profound depression and sadness I could not process at all. I was living alcohol-free, but I could not feel these feelings, and I had no idea the level of grief and sadness that would soon take over my life.

It was such a complex situation that no one could help me, and I couldn’t even find the right words to use to describe this situation. I kept referring to my brother as “My brother who turned out not to be my brother” because I didn’t know how to describe it. I couldn’t believe that one ONLY GOOD PART OF MY STORY wasn’t genuine, I was duped once again, and the devastation left me in horrible shape. I couldn’t stand the thought of therapying another therapist, and this is when I put my vision of Adoptees Connect, Inc. into action, which saved my life.

It’s taken me all these years to begin to recover, and I still have a lot of sadness about it. I wanted to share this dynamic because I want non-adoptees to see what adopted people have to go through when we are searching for our truth. All these hoops and hurdles can and do exhaust us, they destroy us, and they can and do take us down. It’s inhumane that the adults in our lives signed us up to go through this. Literally, every adult who took part in signing any adoption documents signed over that they would be okay letting me suffer and damn near die in my pain from all the secrecy, lies, and deception from adoption and the adults that co-signed for this traumatic event to happen to me.

Today, I have annulled my adoption in my mind, body, and spirit, and I sometimes remind myself that I didn’t’ sign any adoption paperwork. Yet, I have survived this nightmare, moved across the country, changed my name, and started my life over.

For my fellow adoptees who might have made it this far, I beg you to please get DNA testing before you build relationships or get too excited about a possible discovery you believe is a biological family member. The pain of the alternative I have shared here is something I do not want anyone to go through because it’s unbearable when we already feel so alone; we get our hopes up and put ourselves out there. Ancestry DNA has sales around major holidays, and the DNA kits are $59.00.

Not getting DNA testing FIRST can add a new level of trauma that you do not deserve. Please learn from my experience. Trust me; you do not want to risk it.

For those who might be wondering, this changed nothing with my birth father. I sent him confirmation I am his daughter, and he tossed it in the trash, and went on his merry way.

*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

Adoptees, Pseudonyms & Identities

The topic of identity can be a lifelong paradox and struggle for many adoptees. It’s much easier for adopted individuals to tap into their true identity when they have the truth to guide them along the way. However, for many of us, we experience secrecy, lies, and half-truths as soon as we’re born and passed over to strangers. It’s challenging for some and impossible for others to gain a true sense of identity when we have no idea who we are or where we come from. No one looks like us, and we don’t see anyone’s face looking back at us when we look in the mirror. We all experience different variations of complexities when it comes to identity. 

It’s widespread for adopted individuals to have many names and identities in person and on the internet in the adoptee community. In the 11 years I’ve been present in this community, I’ve had my own experiences with my legal name, changing my legal name, and having several different identities on the internet in those 11 years.

There are many layers as to why.  

It can be confusing to many and downright annoying and concerning to others. Therefore, I wanted to take a few minutes to share my experience with this topic to hopefully help others who might not relate be able to understand better. 

For many adoptees, we’re forced to split between two worlds when we are born, surrendered for adoption and adopted by strangers. We’re parts of two worlds, yet usually denied one of them. Our DNA will always be a part of our first families, even when adoption tries to erase that part of our life. We are very much our first families DNA, and even with adoption legally changing our names to our new families. Many of us feel divided between two worlds. For some of us it’s internal and subconscious. For some of us, it’s like critical pieces are always missing. We create a split to protect the people around us, and to protect ourselves.

For most of my life, my legal name was Pamela L e e p e r. That’s right, L E E P E R. What does this name symbolize to me? A legal tie to my previous life, one I didn’t sign up for. It’s a legally binding piece of my life I had no choice in, that I wanted to divorce. It’s a tie to my painful past, the one where I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork. It’s a reminder of my abusive adoptive homes and the people who abused me in those homes. It’s a tie and reminder to an awful and painful childhood, teen life, and history. And let’s be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever felt a connection to this name, well, really because it’s only my name on paper, not via DNA. The Leeper family tree is not my family tree.

It can be if I pretend as I did in kindergarten for that family tree project.  

No one on earth will ever know the depths of it all, but I know it, and this name L E E P E R was a constant reminder of it all. I hated how it sounded, and I hated writing it. I hated having the life sentence of being attached to it. No disrespect to the Leeper family; however, this isn’t about them. It’s about me, my name, and why I chose to change it legally as well as seasons in my life where I used pseudonym names to protect myself. 

What did that process look like for me? 

How many years did it take? 

Who supported me? 

Who was against me?

In 2010, I started writing under a pseudonym, “Adoptee in Recovery,” which was a way to share my journey and protect my real legal identity. Some people refer to this as a “Pen Name.” Writing under a pseudonym name for me was fear-based. First, I was afraid of people I was close to learning how I felt about adoption because if they knew how I felt, they might just leave me too. Just like my birth mother did. I was afraid of judgment and ridicule. I was fearful of being shamed because if I felt these ways, I must not be praying enough or spending enough time with God. But, I didn’t just “Let it go,” so I chose to hang onto the pain. It was clear I had to create two separate identities and keep things separate, and my life depended on it.  

The idea of bringing these identities together caused me great anguish far deeper than someone not adopted could imagine. I lived in constant fear of “What If” my adoptive parents found my writings and disowned me for feeling the way I do? What if my adopted siblings learned how I felt? What if my biological family finds me and reads my writings? Will they all leave me? Will they be angry with me? How will it make them feel, knowing adoption has wholly wrecked me? What would they say if I wasn’t grateful for being adopted and I hated it with every fiber in my being?

Adoptees are professionals at putting others first, before our wants and needs. But, unfortunately, so many of us are groomed from a very early age that our adoptive parent’s feelings are more important than ours, so we tend to be hypersensitive to how they would feel from childhood. After all, shouldn’t we be thankful someone took us in when our own biological families didn’t want us?  Would they send us back or abandon us if they knew how we felt? It hung over my head constantly, and I knew WHY I was creating a dual identity. Almost everyone else had no idea. Likewise, I have learned that many people have no idea of the complexities of WHY adoptees have dual identities. Sometimes fellow adoptees don’t even understand it. 

I get it! 

The pseudonym name did a great job at protecting my legal identity. However, it was one more veil of deception because I hid behind a pseudonym; people didn’t know who I was or the real me. Nevertheless, the pseudonym name served an excellent purpose for that time in my life because I wanted to be protected from others who might look at my feelings as an insult or attack on them. 

I did what I had to do to protect myself. 

However, things change.  

It was clear when I made this decision that I was still hiding from many things, and if I’m entirely transparent, I did not have the inner strength or courage to share my true identity, not for many years to come. However, my courage and strength were building behind the veil using the pseudonym name little by little.

In 2012, I decided I wanted to be identified online as Pamela Jones. 

One more step towards genuine authenticity.

Pamela Jones was one step closer to me identifying the real true me. Jones was my biological father’s surname, and I had the chance to see his face in person in 2010. So I created a Facebook identity under this name and disguised behind it for about two years. I made many friends online under this pseudo name. I knew why I was using this pseudonym name, but reality hit me that I still wasn’t being true to myself.

Another dynamic to Pamela Jones was claiming this piece of my history and DNA, but that part didn’t claim me back. My biological father rejected a relationship with me because I have bi-racial children. His loss, I know, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less. This puzzle piece made me want to divorce from the Jones name because I didn’t truly fit in with that family, although we share DNA. We have no shared history or memories together. It was a paradox non adopted individuals can’t even comprehend. I wanted so badly to be wanted by my birth father, but the reality was even after finding him and meeting him, he doesn’t want anything to do with me. 

It was time I let go of Pamela Jones

*Disclosure Statement: I support the idea of adoptees or anyone using a pseudonym name, however I do not support anyone using a pseudonym name to hide behind an account that bullies, torments, stalks, starts cyber mobbing attacks, or is vile and cruel on the internet. They are flat out cowards!

In 2014, two years after I stopped drinking alcohol, I decided I had gained enough strength that I was going to get my last name changed. I had started coming out of the fog in 2009-2010, and in that time, I became empowered by connecting with other adoptees online and sharing my story. As a result, I had a new level of strength I had never had when sharing my Adoptee in Recovery journey. 

First, I decided to ask my adoptive dad if he would mind if I changed it. He expressed his thoughts and let me choose for myself. The next step was to find a new last name. I live in America, and it’s relatively easy and cheap to change your name legally.  I wrote an entire article called Pamela Karanova: Welcoming The Real True Me!. You guessed it, K A R A N O V A was the new name I legally chose to get changed on my 40th birthday. At this time in my life, I was consumed with the church, religion, and Christianity. 

KARA was another word for PURE. 

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is PURE, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

NOVA was another word for NEW. 

2 Corinthians 5:17, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the NEW creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!”

It was one of the most unique gifts I gave myself, a new name for a fresh start in my life. Part of me felt like it was divorcing the painful past that hung so tight by carrying the last name L E E P E R. This piece of me was dead and gone on to a new page and a new chapter.  The other part felt like I was finally controlling something in my life when other people controlled most of it. It was liberating, freeing, and exhilarating. Although I am no longer a believer, this new name was and is very special to me. 

I can honestly say that changing my last name legally was one of the most healing things I’ve ever done for myself. It was stepping into a new freedom of making a choice for myself that no one else had any say in. I wear this name so proud, and I love everything about it. It fits me. It is the new me. Today the “what if’s” that used to torment me have vanished into nothingness. I personally care more about being true to myself, than I do about offending others. I made a promise to myself several years ago, to always be true to myself and I will honor that until the day I die.

K A R A N O V A

I received 100% support from everyone in my life with whom I have relationships when I legally changed my last name to Karanova. The only person I heard disapproved of is name change is an aunt by adoption, who gave her baby away by adoption, and she talked down about my decision to get rid of her surname, L E E P E R. I do not have a relationship with her, nor do I care about her opinion. 

It’s currently 2021, and my only regret is not changing my first and middle name when I legally changed my last name. However, I know that in 2014 I didn’t have the strength to change my full name. My kids were still in school at that time, and I didn’t want to put them through the process of their mom changing her first name. 

One day, I desire to legally change my first and middle name, but I’m not sure yet what it will be, but I have a few ideas. Maybe for my 50th birthday? Maybe next week? I’m not sure yet, but I worry more about how other people will respond to this change and don’t want to inconvenience people to try to remember a new name for another chapter of a new me. Finally, one day I will get up enough strength to “Just Do It,” and at that moment, I will have reached another milestone of stepping into genuine authenticity.

I think it’s important to remember that all adopted people are transitioning to a new person every step of the way. Every time we get a piece of the puzzle, it changes us in some way. Although most people have the truth handed to them when they are born, they can’t comprehend what it’s like to fight for your truth your entire life and be spoon-fed pieces of the puzzle over a lifespan. It’s a different kind of life, and one only other adoptees will understand. 

I have learned from my journey of discovery that all of my names have been very symbolic to me and my healing journey. They have each served a great purpose to help me feel safe, depending on whatever space I was in at that time. I can’t speak for all adoptees, but when I see adoptees change names, and hide behind a pseudonym name, I can say from the bottom of my heart, “I GET IT AND I UNDERSTAND.” Sometimes these extremes go with the territory of being an adoptee and finding ourselves when our truth has been kept captive for so long. I’ve seen adoptees attach four and five last names to their names as a way to honor their birth mother, birth father, adoptive mother, and adoptive father. I’ve seen them change their names more times than I can count.

Being adopted is complex! 

As you can see, identity plays such an essential part in the dynamics of the adoptee experience, and this is directly reflected in how we represent ourselves in the names we are assigned at birth, changed by adoption and the ones we choose for ourselves. 

If you are a non-adopted individual, hopefully, this article sheds a little light on why names and identity go hand in hand with the adoptee experience. Hopefully, you understand a little better. Be easy on the adoptees in your life, and accept whatever places they are in regarding names and identity. We weren’t offered the privilege non-adoptees are given. Many of us have to fight the world for our truth, and every clue we get to who we are and where we came from opens a new door of self-discovery. Change is going to happen—identity matters. 

If you are an adoptee who’s considering changing your name, legally or online, I am cheering you on. With every fiber of my being, I understand how we can spend our entire lives getting to the point of finding strength from within ourselves and the courage to push forth with an outward expression of legally changing our names or even creating pseudonym names for ourselves. 

Every step of the way, healing is happening. 

For any adoptees who have changed their names legally or created pseudonym identities online, I would love to hear your stories on how you navigated this piece of your journey? Why did you pick the name you chose? Have you wanted to change your name but haven’t done it yet? Why or why not? 

Whatever you do, be true to yourself and follow your heart. 

Put yourself first. 

You deserve it. 

Love, Love

*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

Do not assume when an adoptee finds their biological family, all their problems will be solved, and the case will be closed.

 

They say to prepare, but there is no real way to prepare for what some adoptees find when they make the choice to search for biological family.

Searching for and finding biological family as an adoptee is opening up Pandora’s box repeatedly. It is the beginning of a new era of uncovering the secrets that so many think they have protected us from. Even under the best of reunion stories, it is still the beginning of a new painful path that adoptees experience.

If we’re lucky, one door closes, and another door opens. And that’s just it if we’re lucky. Society says at least you have found your truth when so many other adoptees would die to find theirs. Even when the truth has been excruciatingly painful, society thinks we should still feel LUCKY. Even our fellow adoptees suggest this at times, and I understand why they feel this way, mainly when they haven’t found their biological families yet.

I think our friends, families and loved ones sense us in agony before we search and find and in all honestly they hope we will feel “better” after we find out truth. However, when they still see us in agony after we reunite, it hurts them to see us hurt. They want to take our pain away, and they have high hopes reunion will do that. Truth and reality is, it usually doesn’t. It brings on a new set of heartbreak, pain, grief and loss.

Searching and finding biological family, I like to describe it as trading one type of pain for another. Both types of pain are different but equally painful. The pain of the unknown for adopted individuals is like the feelings a parent might have who has a missing child somewhere out in the world. Imagine your 10-year-old child was abducted on the street, and they vanished with no trace ever to be found. The agony that parents must feel every waking moment of every day having their child missing.

Adoptees think similar to this, but it is not just one family member. It’s their very own mother, father, grandparents on both sides, siblings on both sides, and cousins on both sides. We’re on an island all alone, searching in our minds from the moment we find out we are adopted for our biological connections. This is painful from the very beginning. If you don’t think so, I would like to ask you how many adopted individuals you have gotten to know and listened to their stories over the years? I have gotten to know hundreds, if not over a thousand, and not one of them has said adoption has been 100% wonderful. It’s complex, emotional, and painful at best.

Can you imagine what it feels like to not know what your mother looks like?

Or her name?

I know you can’t because it’s unimaginable.

The big difference is, parents of missing children are expected to feel the feelings they feel having a missing child. Society saves space for them, their grief and loss. They have some memories to hang onto, and they have their child’s names and they know who they are. My heart goes out to these parents, because I know it’s a nightmare on every level but I wanted to describe the difference in what adopted individuals experience.

At all costs, we are just supposed to be grateful. If we aren’t, we are labeled as ungrateful, angry, and many other hurtful words.

This is not helpful to the adoptee experience.

To feel whole, complete, and like I was an actual living human being, I had to find this woman that gave birth to me. I had to see her face and know who she was. I fought the closed adoption laws in Iowa like HELL to find her. If I didn’t, I would be dead right now. In my mind, this would solve all the pain I experienced and the heartache I lived with my whole life all the way back to coming home from the hospital with strangers at a few days old.

Living in the unknown is a different type of pain. It was for me anyway. I describe it as agony. Every waking moment of every day for me was painful. I was sad, filled with anxiety, and as I grew into my pre-teen self, it turned into self-sabotage and self-hate. All I needed was HER.

During this time, I had anticipation and high hopes that one day I would be reunited with the woman who gave me away, but things would be different this time. If she “loved me so much,” she had to want to know me and have me back in her life, right?

WRONG

She never wanted to be found, she never wanted to meet me, and she was nothing like what I dreamed about finding my whole life. She was quite the opposite. She was a disappointment on every level and I am still 20+ years later, upset by this disappointment. She considered herself doing me a favor meeting me one time, and we had a 2-hour visit together. After this visit, she shut me out and never spoke to me again. During the visit, she asked me about my life and how my childhood was. I have always been an honest person, even when it hurts. I expressed to her I never bonded with my adoptive mom, and my adoptive parents divorced when I was a year old. I was raised on welfare, food stamps and experienced significant emotional, mental, and even sexual abuse in my adoptive home.

It crushed her, and it was too much for her to handle. Twenty years passed, and she shut me out, not being able to face HER DECISION. She assumed I would have the better life promised to her. I received a message she had passed away, and I traveled to Iowa to her funeral.

I was told by some of her closest friends at her funeral that she was distraught that my adoptive parents divorced, and if she had known that was going to happen, she would have kept me. They said this REALLY BOTHERED HER.

Knowing this truly helped me understand why she shut me out, but it didn’t take away the pain or lessen it. The pain of being rejected by a biological parent is indescribable. The pain of being rejected by your mother, the woman who brought you into the world, is a pain that never goes away. Check out The Primal Wound to learn more.

I’m trying to relay that we should never assume that just because an adoptee finds their biological family that it’s going to be the key that turns the page for them. Or imagine that their life will finally be complete and that they can eventually MOVE ON. Sometimes what we find is so devastating, moving on isn’t an option for many of us. For those of us who can, somewhere along the lines we’ve come to a place of acceptance.

Telling adoptees to MOVE ON or GET OVER IT is never helpful.

It’s actually quite the opposite. High hopes are shattered to the ground, and the disappointment of what was found sets in and rips our hearts to shreds. The grief and loss process continues and will remain a significant component of our lives for the rest of our lives. Adoptees are the kings and queens of adaption, and we do our best to put on a smile for the world to see. It takes everything in our power to pretend that everything is okay deep inside. But it’s usually far from it.

We also must remember that this adaption behavior and pretending is instilled into many of us from a very early age. When we learn that our greatest heartbreak is our adoptive parents’ greatest blessing, we discover our feelings aren’t important. This makes us feel like we aren’t important. We must keep them hidden for fear of upsetting our adoptive parents. Our heartache and heartbreak for the mystery woman we fantasize and dream about are insignificant compared to our adoptive parents’ feelings of finally becoming parents.

The mental mind paradox that any adopted individual has to endure is enough to take us out of this world. It’s way too much for one person to bear. Non-adopted individuals can’t comprehend what the big fuss is all about. Accepting they never will understand because they don’t have the experience has been a critical component to my healing journey. Even when non-adoptees TRY to understand, they simply can’t. We do appreciate those who TRY.

Aside from the failed reunion with my biological mother and rejection from her, I experienced the same failed reunion and rejection from my biological father. Even after DNA confirmation that I am his daughter, he has no desire to know me or have a relationship with me. He said that he would have kept me if he would have known about me, but I was adopted without his consent, so he had no say so. In his eyes, it’s too late now. Double rejection and double heartbreak is a hard pill to swallow. It’s heavy to carry, and the pain surfaces in the grief and loss process for me, which I’ve accepted it will last a lifetime.

Aside from being rejected by my biological parents, I found a long-lost brother who was the best part of my search and reunion. We spent five years catching up for lost time, making new memories together, and being elated that we finally found one another after all these years apart. This reality turned into a shattered nightmare when DNA testing showed we shared no DNA. I can’t even put into words how this experience has made me feel. The heartbreak is accurate, and I have no words to describe it. Pain on top of pain.

After a lifetime of dreaming, I get to meet my biological grandmother at least one time, I succeeded. I can’t express how thankful I am that I had enough courage to drive across the country (even after being told by my biological father that I could not meet her) to meet her for one hour as she lived in a nursing home in Iowa. I stayed one hour, and was a dream come true. It opened the connection to my first cousin, who thought she was the only granddaughter. I was honored to be invited back to Iowa for a second visit to meet her and her family and see my biological grandmother a second time. She took me to the land where my grandparents lived, which she described her childhood memories as being like “heaven.” Even with this being a dream come true, when I returned home and the dust settled, this “reunion” became so emotional for me that it set me up for intense grieving I wasn’t prepared to experience. I became sad, depressed, and things spiraled out of control. My grief and sorrow for what was lost and what I missed out on being robbed of these relationships were all I could bear to handle. I was so sad. I just wanted my life to end because of all the pain, the grief, the loss I was feeling. Death seemed like the only way to escape the pain.

Learning to live with a broken heart has been a key component to my healing journey.

Even ten years post reunions with biological parents and all the pain I have experienced in that time from other dynamics to my adoption journey, I still wouldn’t change the fact that I chose to search and find my people. Even when they haven’t accepted me, knowing my truth has been healing in its own way. I don’t regret it, but handling the aftermath is something I will be navigating for the rest of my life.

Even when our loved ones might expect reunions and finding our TRUTH might be the answer for our healing and freedom, in some regards, it can be. Still, the other side is that we suffer in silence carrying the tremendous pain and sorrow of what should have been, what could have been, and all that was lost because of adoption. The difference for adoptees is that our world doesn’t acknowledge we should even be feeling this way; they do not leave space for us and don’t understand why.

Reunion is still just as messy as adoption, and it looks different for each of us. Even being embraced by one or both biological parents carries pain. It brings grief, and it brings loss. Instead of the outlook that when adopted individuals find their biological family, it will be the CURE ALL for the adoptee, let’s reframe things to help them embrace what they are about to experience. It could be happiness; it could be sadness; it could be a combination of both. It could be feelings that are so complex, they don’t even understand them themselves. It could be emotions so difficult that they withdraw; they use coping mechanisms to get through and become shut off.

There is no limits to what an adoptee might find when they search for their biological family. I think many of us are set up for the greatest disappointment of our lives when we assume our birth mother “loved us so much” but her actions of rejection show quite the opposite. Many of us find addicts, graves, happy homes without us, that our biological parents married and had more kids after us, or single women who never married or had more kids. Sometimes we find parents who are happy to be found, and others who want to slam us in jail for pursuing them. Sometimes we are received but only if we agree to remain a secret. Sometimes siblings embrace us, and sometimes they reject us. Some of us are told our biological parents are dead, but we later find that was a lie to discourage us for searching. This happened to me! (never believe what you have been told, until you prove it) I’ve heard it ALL over the years!

No matter how the adoptee responds, non-adopted individuals must meet them right where they are, and they should accept this is a lifelong journey for the adoptee. They should also accept that nothing they say or do, can take our pain away. Being adopted never goes away, so our feelings won’t go away either. The sooner non-adoptees can get this, the easier it will be on the adoptee.

We must remember that no matter how the adoptee feels, it’s normal for a not normal situation. There is nothing ordinary about being severed from your roots, abandoned by your biological mother, and fighting the world for your truth. To my fellow adoptees, I love you, I see you, I hear you. XOXO PK.

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