Healing from Years of Abandonment & Rejection

Healing from Years of Abandonment & Rejection

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When I was a little girl, I found out I was adopted about 5 years old. Although I am thankful for the truth, this moment would change my life forever.  I always had a deep natural desire to find out the simple questions so many take for granted; who am I and where did I come from?

If you were to ask me what it was like growing up adopted I would say it was like having an empty heart with a mind filled with sadness and despair. These feelings were hidden from the world because there was nowhere to share my pain.  I felt isolated and alone. There were never-ending missing pieces to my story and it was impossible to feel whole without having the answers my heart desired.  I was plagued with feelings of insecurities from being abandoned at birth.  I had no voice and no choice resulting in disenfranchised grief, loss and trauma.   At a young age all alone, I set out to find my birth parents searching for them everywhere I went. I was never going to give up in finding them.

At the age of 21, I was given some information that was kept hidden from me. This was a dream come true for me because soon I would come face to face with my biological parents.  I could make up for lost time, or so I thought. I had high hopes for the reunion I always dreamed of. When my birth mother loved me “So Much” why would I think otherwise?  I don’t believe an adoptee can fully prepare for rejection from their biological parents. Soon I was faced with double rejection from both birth parents.  I had nowhere to turn experiencing more grief, loss & sadness. I was in denial and I didn’t want to accept the truth.  I discovered I was the product of an affair with a married man. My existence was a secret from everyone around.  My biological father knew nothing about me. Every clue to my history was extremely valuable to me in my healing process.

Every Birthday, Holidays, Mother’s Day & Father’s Day are constant reminders of the loss of 2 entire familirs, which has left me deeply saddened for many years  No memories to remember, no good bye and no forever. The grief and loss were unbearable at times. The world didn’t understand this thing called “Adoption” that was glorified worldwide was the very source of my deepest pain.

I was completely heartbroken.

I started to research “Adoptee Support” and found nothing. This left me feeling hopeless, depressed and even suicidal at times.

I began drinking alcohol at a very early age to numb my pain. I was in and out of drug and alcohol rehab, juvenile jail and many group homes. This would lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits as well as anger and rage issues.  When I found both my birth parents they were both alcoholics. This scared me because of my history but finding this truth is what potentially saved my life. It prompted me to make the choice to make changes in my life. This is a choice only I could make, no one else could make it for me.  I started a ministry called Celebrate Recovery and threw in the towel on my drinking habit. I’ve been living a sober life since August 13, 2012. During this time I have worked on healing by discovering my root issues come from abandonment & rejection from my adoption experience.  Facing the pain head on is what I was focused on for the next 4 years. During this time I learned adoptees have no safe place to share their deep rooted feelings regarding being adopted. This is when How Does it Feel to be Adopted? was created for all the adoptees out there. I started sharing my journey at Adoptee in Recovery which turned into a great healing through writing tool not only for me, but for other adoptees as well. I’m a firm believer in order to heal it we must feel it. I started to grow in my relationship with God and this is when things started to change for me. I gave my life to Christ in 2009 and in time my heart became filled with His love. This is love I never experienced before. God shining His light on me and learning the truth about my history has been my way to healing and freedom.

A bible verse I hold close to my heart is “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” – John 8:32

I felt it was impossible to “give it to God” when I don’t have the truth to give. What am I giving? As I began to share my deepest hurts with God, he began to help me see things from another perspective. I grew in a way I never had before. I had a deep desire to reach out to other adoptees all over the world and hear their stories. I wanted to let them know they aren’t alone and the way the feel is normal for a not normal situation. I learned that adoptee attempt suicide at a rate that is 4xs more likely than non-adoptees, and prisons and treatment facilities are overflowing with adoptees.  I knew because of these statistics and my own experience with attempting suicide as a teenager, battling addictions and suffering from abandonment & rejection I needed to share my story. My hope is to make a difference among the adoptee community.  In sharing my journey I have adoptees from all over the world connecting with me and they begin to share their journey and feel validated.  Sharing untold feelings & having someone who understands is healing. I let them know God loves them so much and “You can’t heal a wound by denying it’s there!” – Jeremiah 6:14 is another favorite verse I stand on for adoptees all over the world. I encourage them to share their stories and their feelings. I’m extremely thankful God helped me find my truth and he’s pushed me to help other adoptees do the same.  It’s impossible to know where your headed if you don’t know where you come from.

I’m a proud mom of  3 amazing kids and I strive to be a happy healthy mom because this is something I never had. I adore my career in private home health working with elderly. I attend  Bethel Harvest Church in Lexington, KY and consider my church family to be the family I never had. I’m on a healing journey and live my life in recovery. This will last a lifetime. I rally for truth and for all adoptees to be able to access their original birth certificates which are only accessible in a few states.  I assist with search and reunification for my fellow adoptees because everyone deserves to know where they come from. I’m working on starting an all adoptee support group in Lexington, KY.

We all deserve that safe place to share our deepest hurts.

The best part is God heals.

For any non-adoptees who are reading, please know that one of the main things you can do to help us is have the willingness to listen and learn.  This is when our healing begins.  Have the willingness to read adoptee stories and learn from us. No matter what the therapist say, no one knows how it feels to be adopted like we do. Our voices and views are the most valuable in the equation, yet the most ignored.

I would like to share a word of encouragement for my fellow adoptees. God knows your hearts desires and he knows all your tears and pain. Never give up hope in finding your family and seeking your truth. I have some Adoptee Healing Tools I would like to share with you all.  No matter what the truth is, it’s the way to healing, acceptance and freedom. It’s important to network with your fellow adoptees who understand what this journey is like. Please reach out to me. I would love to share your story at How Does it Feel to be Adopted? Please know you are not alone. You matter and your story matters.

Pamela A. Karanova

Lexington, KY

Adoptee Limelight Presenting Haley Radke

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Haley Radke is an adult adoptee experiencing a healthy reunion relationship with her biological father as well as secondary rejection from her biological mother. She desires to connect with fellow adoptees and share their stories. Haley believes that having deep and meaningful conversations with adoptees will help to spread the truth about the adoption experience.

I was born in 1983 and relinquished immediately. I was placed with my adoptive parents ten days after birth and grew up as an only child. My adoptive parents were elementary school teachers, and struggled with infertility. They adopted me at a later age in life and I became their sole focus. Everyone did their best, but my adoption wasn’t talked about frequently and I often fantasized about my birth mother coming back for me.

I struggled with many of the classic adoptee issues: rejection, abandonment, fear of intimacy, trust issues, struggling to understand my identity, becoming a chameleon as a way of being accepted, low self-esteem, compliance and people pleasing, depression, suicidal thoughts. Growing up, I never related these to being adopted, I just assumed I was broken and thought many times, “no wonder she didn’t want me”.

My desire to know where I came from was overwhelming all through my teen years, and once I turned 18 I applied for my non-identifying information. Not long after, the Alberta government opened up adoption records, allowing me to at last have the adoption documents and paperwork that revealed my given name at birth as Ashley Amber. I finally came to know who my mother and father were.

I found my birthmother when I was 22; we had a brief reunion that lasted about four months. She cut off contact with me. Our reunion brought up many painful memories for her and I’ve always thought it became overwhelming for her and that’s why she decided to end our relationship. I’ve had the full range of emotions with regards to this secondary rejection. Denial, anger, sorrow, and now I’ve come to a place of compassion for her, yet I still have an intense reluctance to let the possibility of this relationship go. I desperately want a connection with her, even after the pain of losing her a second time. We have so many similarities, I would love to get to know her deeply. I’ve reached out multiple times, sending flowers, letters, cards…I don’t know if she will ever allow me into her life again. I hold out hope for that day of reconnection.

I was 27 when on a whim I searched for my biological father on facebook. Reunion with my Dad has been one of the most rewarding and absolutely hardest things I’ve ever done. We have hit the highs and had some equally low points, including a time when I considered ending the relationship. There was quite a lot of pain to deal with and it was difficult. With the help of a skilled therapist (who had a great deal of experience with adoption), we worked hard to build a healthy relationship, which we still enjoy today.

My Dad’s wife is exceptional, and she has been an absolute treasure for me to build a relationship with. We share a deep faith in Jesus and that has helped solidify our unique relationship. She’s become a close friend and also holds a place in my heart as another mother figure. In reunion with my Dad, I also gained three siblings. A brother and two sisters. My (half-)siblings have gone from a place of complete shock, in discovering my existence, to a place of including me as their full sister. It’s been a beautiful gift, and though I cherish the time with them, I certainly mourn the loss of their first years-when I didn’t know they existed.

Reunion has been excruciating. Painful and healing and ugly and restorative. There’s no way to describe it to someone who hasn’t experienced it. Now knowing the fragility of even a biological bond, I treasure it all the more.

Adoptee issues are real, and they stem from a deep wound of rejection. Having my birthmother reject me from the moment she found out she was pregnant impacted my spirit with a deep wound. I believed I was unwanted, and therefore unworthy of love or acceptance. All of this deep-rooted self-hatred could not be made up for with love, attention, money, opportunities…any of the promises that the adoption machine has made.

I have been suicidal twice in my life, once when I was 12 and again when I was 19. I literally believed I was unlovable, and not worthy of living. If you believe those things about yourself, they are lies. Lies that have taken hold in a deep place, and that are extremely hard to break. I have had four or five different counselors, therapists and psychologists over the last dozen years of my life. However, I only discovered my deep woundedness (from adoption) in the last few years. There are many different healing tools offered to me, here are my most helpful suggestions for you.

 

  • Reading – You’re already doing this! Adoptee memoirs, books, and blogs alike have so much wisdom available to you. Read what others’ have gone through, are going through, and what they’ve found helpful. You’ll always be able to pick up tips and advice from these sources.

 

  1. Writing – Journalling has never been a good fit for me, but I have found much relief in writing letters to those in my adoption triad with my feelings of rejection (to my birthparents), or lack of understanding (to my adoptive parents) and admitting self-hatred (to myself). Write letters where you pour out your heart, and every deep feeling that you could never ever say out loud, all the ugliness and darkness that you’ve kept inside. Write it, get it out of yourself… and then shred or burn or destroy those letters. These are not meant to share, so don’t hold back.
  2. Sharing – Sharing our stories is immensely powerful. Find another adoptee to share your story with. Someone who understands the things you’re going through. I have had many deep conversations with friends over the years about my adoptee issues and no one can understand you quite like a fellow adoptee.
  3. Listening – Hearing other adoptees on this journey has helped me to say, “me too!”. Nothing can be more validating than knowing you aren’t alone. Do share your own story, but also listen for others’ stories. You will find great healing in listening. Don’t know any adoptees? (Insert shameless plug here!) Listen to my podcast, Adoptees On. You will hear some amazing stories and find some insight, I promise. Get online, get onto facebook, on twitter, and find an adoptee community and listen. It is imperative!
  4. Do. The. Work.  Make yourself a priority, and get into therapy. Find someone who understands adoptee issues (and if there’s no one in your area that does, you can be the first to educate them!) and get to work. You’ve got wounds and along with those come some bad habits. Nasty self-talk, self-sabotage, people-pleasing, perfectionism… you know what they are. Do the work to talk about these issues and deal with them. We may be wounded, but do not stay stuck! We’re adults now, and it’s time to do the hard things.
  5. Healing Prayer – (If you are a not a Christian, this may not be your cup of tea, just skip ahead!) I’ve done multiple sessions of healing prayer which has involved forgiving my biological parents for rejecting me, and having Jesus speak into particularly painful moments. I will never forget the vision I received during one of these sessions. I was asked, “where was Jesus when you were alone in the hospital, waiting to be adopted?”. I closed my eyes and began to weep. I saw myself as an infant in a cold, sterile bassinet. I’m tiny, helpless and I have no voice. But Jesus. Jesus is there, beside me. He’s standing beside me, with one hand on mine, gentle and loving. And He is calling the nurses, summoning them to me whenever He knows that I’m in need of their attention. At last, I knew that though I was unplanned, unwanted and subsequently rejected by my biological mother and father, I wasn’t alone. If you’d like more information about Healing Prayer, send me a message and I’d be pleased to direct you to where you can find this ministry.

I’ll admit I am completely in love with podcasts and have been an avid listener for many years. Earlier this year I was inspired to create my own podcast, featuring fellow adoptees. Podcasts are such an amazing platform to share our stories, because it’s such an intimate medium. As you listen, you can feel included in the discussion. Our adoptee voices are most often left out of the adoption conversation. Listening to another adoptee share their story, including their innermost pains, ups and downs in their search, reunion and sometimes secondary rejection…it’s an amazing opportunity to feel both understood and connected. I encourage you to listen and it’s also a great non-threatening way to share with the people in your life who may not understand your perspective as an adoptee.

As adoptees, we may be wounded, but we’re resilient. Stay strong, do the hard work, and find someone who understands your situation. You’re not alone, we’re in this together.

Find Haley Radke on twitter @haleyradke or listen to the Adoptees On podcast www.adopteeson.com or connect on twitter @adopteeson or instagram @adopteeson

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Grief & Loss & Adoptees

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This picture kinda sums up my mood at this point in my life.

I was up late last night researching “Grief & Loss” and all the stages of this process.

It was amazing to me that if I inserted the word “ADOPTEES” into all of the areas that take you through the grief & loss process it describes how I have felt all of my life regarding my adoption experience.

Putting in some work and research I have identified that this process is the grief and loss process, vs. depression. I’ve compared the 2, and from what I’ve read and learned, the grief & loss process is like an emotional roller coaster, up and down. It’s said that you can still see the beauty in areas of your life, and the thankful for certain areas, but in this particular area (ADOPTION) I (and hundreds of thousands of other adoptees) are stuck in this grieving and loss process.

Why are so many of us stuck?

My opinion is based on living my life being an adoptee. I believe I am stuck at this point in my life because my grief & loss was never acknowledged growing up, ever. I’ve been 100% alone on this entire journey, until now. I know I have people who support me, especially my fellow adoptees. Growing up, no one ever told me it was okay to be sad about the biggest loss of my life, let alone cry about wanting to know who my birth mother was. Emotions, and sad feelings were tucked deep inside, with no way to come out.

I remember my adoptive mom telling me I was adopted, and how my birth mother loved me so much she “gave me away” to have a “better life”. She followed this by saying, how HAPPY she was, that her dreams finally came true to be a mother. She said she couldn’t have her own babies, so when she adopted me, God gave her the gift of being a mother, so I was so special to her.

Let me ask… I wonder how my feelings of sadness would fit into this equation? I remember being a little girl, thinking, “Wow.. She sure is happy I’m here, to be her daughter” and I knew at that moment, for her to keep her happiness I can’t share my sadness. Did anyone else experience this? In a way I feel like it was a form of gas lighting. But she was also someone who always made us feel like we were responsible for the way she felt, which is not true. I grew up with the mindset (because of her upbringing) her happiness and sadness depended on me. She would always say things like, “You made me feel this way, or you made me feel that way”… I always remember counselors always telling us, “You aren’t responsible for her feelings”. When we would say that to her, she insisted we made her “feel” a certain way.

It’s interesting to me to finally figure this all out and my attempts to do this research are to work towards healing, because truthfully although I’m on the other side of my healing journey, I still have a long way to go.

Let me share some of the top areas that society might consider areas we might grieve our losses over in our life:

  • Divorce/Relationship Breakup
  • Loss of health
  • Losing a job
  • Loss of financial stability
  • A miscarriage
  • Retirement
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of a cherished dream
  • A loved one’s serious illness
  • Loss of a friendship
  • Loss of safety after a trauma
  • Selling the family home

Of course we can add to that list. It amazes me that losing ones mother at the beginning of life is no where on this list. Nor is losing an entire family in adoption.

What if, just what if the WORLD started opening their eyes to the adoptees side of view, and they stepped out of denial and we started to grieve our very VERY real loss at a very early age?  What if the world started treating adoption loss like they do other losses? What if the WORLD got educated on the grief & loss process, and adopees started sharing their feelings at a much earlier age? What if we saw adoptee therapists who specialized in complicated grief and loss at a early age?

The more significant the loss, the more intense the grief we experience.

Adoptee loss is complicated!

In adoption, our loss is so extremely great, yet it’s almost always ignored. We’re told the be thankful, to be grateful and to be happy we were given life when we could have been aborted. We’re told we were a GIFT FROM GOD and God knitted us in our mothers womb and we were planned before we were ever born. Scriptures are thrown at us to back it up.

How do these comments help us grieve our loss? To me, they have always been silencer statements as a way for someone to try to make me “FEEL” better. How about as a society we come to a place where we just can’t make adoptees feel better, we let them grieve their losses by acknowledging them and we listen to their feelings when they share them?

What if those close to us were to say, “It’s okay to be sad” or “It’s okay to want to know where/who your first mommy is. She’s your mommy and you have every right to love her and ask questions about her”. What if the world said “I’m so sorry for the pain adoption has caused you, and acknowledged our feelings of loss” instead of “Oh your adopted?! How wonderful!”.

There is nothing wonderful about losing our mothers and an entire family. I’m so sorry, but there just isn’t anything wonderful about that.

I’ve written a few blog posts earlier about God healing my broken heart regarding my birth mother. Amazing, yes this did happen! What I’m continuing to experience is processing grief & loss regarding my adoptee experience. I have accepted that it is here to stay, and the more I feel it the more God will heal it. So this is my safe place to write about what I’m FEELING regarding my adoptee experience, and each time I write I’m healing.

I would like to encourage all adoptive parents to reach out for help on assisting your adoptive child in starting the grief and loss process as early as possible. I had to figure all this out on my own. I still have people that are close to me who think I should have “just gotten over it” by now. Don’t you think if I could I would? Who really wants to go through the grief and loss process their entire life? Sad thing is, sometimes it takes us an entire life to process this grief and loss especially when we aren’t starting until our 20’s-30’s-40’s & 50’s. If society would step out of denial, and begin to understand how great our loss truly is, by reading adoptee blogs, reading The Primal Wound-Understanding The Adopted Child and take off their rainbow colored glasses regarding adoption, we wouldn’t spend such a long time grieving our losses.

Let me say there is no write or wrong way to grieve, or a time we are limited to ID-100265464grieve. Some of us grieve pretty quickly, some of us are perfectly fine and don’t need to grieve at all. Some of us experience loss so great, we will be grieving for the rest of our lives. Each adoptee is different and unique in that aspect. The point I’m trying to make is that once the WORLD steps out  of denial and starts to acknowledge our loss as a real and valid reason to grieve adoptees will begin to heal. We need non-adoptees to TRY to understand this, especially those impacted by adoption. What if we start doing this at as young of an age as possible the adoptee suicide rate will begin to go down? The prisons, and treatment facilities filled with adoptees will be less and less. The crime rate for adoptees will be less and less.

Study the grief and loss process, and add ADOPTEE LOSS everywhere you can. You will learn that “ANGER” is one of the stages of grief, and as an adoptee who has lived being adopted we have much reason to be angry. The question is, what are we doing with our anger? Are we using it to hurt ourselves, and other people or are we using it in a positive way? Are we helping others with it?

So many adoptees don’t know what to do with the feelings they are having. Talk about a mixed up bag of emotions. Every day continues to be a struggle, but because of my kids, God and my close family and friends, and because of my fellow adoptees I’m still here.   Many days I don’t want to be here, the pain is just too great and at 41 years old it continues on. I know my fellow adoptees get it!

Could it be I will experience this pain from grief and loss for the rest of my life? 

I will never know the answer to that, until I reach the end of my life but I have experienced it for 41 years now. Each and every day there are always reminders and each day is a struggle. I don’t believe I’ve ever truly lived LIFE because so much has always been weighed down. I’ve spent my entire life trying to survive and make it through the realities of what adoption really is.  Today, I can get comfort in knowing I have a purpose on this earth to share my story so other adoptees know they aren’t alone. I have hope in Jesus my pain will get easier. I have hope that future generations of adoptees will have things easier, because adoptive parents are reading and listening.

I’ve learned that most people just don’t want to read or hear what adoptees have to say because the truth in how we feel is pretty uncomfortable. It’s not usually a happy topic and I can understand this might be the case for any “hot topics”. Yet society is failing to “tune in” to a very flawed system of sealed records, and adoptees hurting all over the world because no one will validate our grief and loss. Society can do something about this. They can chose to tune in and try to understand from an adult adoptees perspective. They can stop pretending that our loss isn’t real or we aren’t impacted by loosing our entire first family. They can face the truth, because the truth is the only way we will be set free. I challenge you, to start tuning in today.

I know the adult adoptees sharing their stories is causing a ripple effect in the adoption communities, so all the future generations of adoptees will be able to be heard and not silenced. They will understand their loss is real, and it’s okay to grieve it. Hopefully it will start as early as possible. I pray adoptive parents out there are equipped on how to handle these very sensitive subjects, so they can better help their adoptive children. ( search for an adoptee therapist who specializes in complicated grief & loss) No matter what our biological parents were, or they weren’t we all deserve to know our truth, so we can grieve that truth and move forward with healing.

John 8:32 “We shall know the truth, and the TRUTH shall set us free” 

For my fellow adoptees, what has helped you with grieving your losses during your journey? Do you have any suggestions for your fellow adoptees or those reading? What has your process been like? Has it gotten easier for you?

Pamela A. Karanova PamelaLee

Reunited Adult Adoptee

http://www.facebook.com/howdoesitfeeltobeadopted

http://www.facebook.com/askanadoptee1

Twitter: @freesimplyme & @adopteereality

Instagram: @pwishes & @howdoesitfeeltobeadopted

Add me to your Facebook & leave me a comment so I know you were here! ❤

Photo Credits By Witthaya Phonsawat  & Theeradech Sanin’s

http://www.freedigitalphotos.net