When Your Biggest Blessing Invalidates My Greatest Trauma

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When your biggest blessing invalidates my greatest trauma it sets me up for a lifetime of pain, suffering and isolation. It facilitates a lifetime of suicidal ideation, because the pain is just too great to process. It makes me feel more isolated and alone than non-adopted individuals can ever imagine. It makes me wish I was aborted and feeling like I want to die for most of my life, because my pain is greater than my desire to want to live. It drives me to attempt to take my life as a teenager, because you fail to admit I have lost anything. It drives me to a place of addiction, because at the end of every day the only way to manage every day life is to numb the pain. When you use bible scriptures to defend your blessing, it makes me question the bible and the God you are speaking of. When your biggest blessing outshines my reality, it makes me feel unimportant and insignificant. When you refer to me as a blessing, it hurts because you are invalidating my adoptee and relinquishee reality.

My story went something like this:

Me: Mommy, did I come out of your tummy?

Adoptive Mom: No, you were adopted. Your birth mother’s choice to surrender you for adoption was my biggest blessing and a dream come true.

Me: What do you mean?

Adoptive Mom: She loved you so much she gave you to me to raise, and I will always love her and be thankful for her decision.

Me: Who is she? Where is she?

Adoptive Mom: We don’t know, honey.

Me: Experienced the most significant mental mind fu*k of my entire lifetime.

I was approximately five years old when this conversation took place, and it’s clear to me that my life was never the same. Every day, I was haunted every hour and every minute wondering, wishing, and dreaming about finding HER.

No matter what questions I had or what mental torment I experienced from this moment forward, my adoptive mom’s joy and happiness trumped everything. My feelings didn’t matter when I was her biggest blessing in life, and her joy  of being a mother trumped my feelings of sadness every damn day.

If I’m transparent, my adoptive mom likely didn’t know the pain and heartache I was experiencing but if she did, her happiness was highlighted over my pain. I was adopted in August of 1974, and my adoptive parents were told to sweep the entire idea of adoption and what it meant under the rug. They were also told the less we talked about it; the better things would be. This is how many adoptions were back in those days, but today is a new day and a new year. It’s 2020, and when you know better, you do better.

However, I ask myself if my adoptive parents knew this, would it have changed anything for my five-year-old self, who was desperately searching for my REAL MOTHER?

I genuinely believe as a 46-year-old woman, if I were able to process my trauma at as early of an age as possible, my healing journey wouldn’t have started at 36+ years old. I wouldn’t have been addicted to substances for 27 years of my life. I recently celebrated 8 years sobriety, however I feel like I’ve spent my entire life not only suffering from the trauma of relinquishment and adoption but healing from the lifelong aftermath of these experiences.

I have barely started living my life yet, and if I’m lucky, it’s over half over. That’s a hard pill to swallow, but I try to remain grateful that I’m here and I’m alive because I know so many of my fellow adoptees are not. This is why I keep sharing and writing. Adoptees are dying!

Adoptions continue to happen all over the world. We cannot continue to fail to acknowledge that before the blessing of an adopted child is brought into a family, it is equally intertwined into the very beginnings of our life, which is a traumatic experience. We must also recognize that relinquishment is trauma, and so is adoption. These are two very different dynamics to the adoptee experience. The sooner society steps out of denial about these truths; the sooner adoptees will start to heal.

Better yet, if our adoptive parents knew these truths from the beginning, would they still choose to adopt anyway? In my experience spending the last ten years networking in the adoption community, most all adoptive parents I have talked to have expressed they TRULY had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they adopted. The adoption agencies and attorneys never shared the truth with them. When they learned what they were up against, it was too late, and they were stuck with this child who has come with deep-rooted relinquishment trauma, or they rehome them and send them back.

Let me be clear, we can have wonderful and loving adoptive homes and love our adoptive families greatly, but the original trauma of relinquishment still remains the same. Networking with adoptees for over 10+ years and hearing their stories, building relationships with them, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt most of us don’t get happy and loving adoptive homes! If you are that one adoptee or know that one adoptee who’s “Just fine” with being adopted, spend more time getting to know more adoptees. That one adoptee story doesn’t compare to the hundreds of thousands of adoptees who have nightmare adoption stories and adoptive homes. Remember, adoption trauma always compacts the original relinquishment trauma.

In what ways does relinquishment and adoption trauma surface in an adopted individual? It can be acting out at an early age or teen/adult years with anger, rage, self-harm, substance abuse, breaking the law, running away, testing the waters in every way possible. Depression, anxiety, abandonment, mental health issues, self love, self hate, rejection, and Complex – PTSD. Let’s not forget grief and loss. Grief and loss show up in more ways than non-adoptees can even imagine and it lasts a lifetime! We struggle with these things for our entire lifetimes and many adoptees never get the help they deserve, taking this pain to their graves. We don’t wake up one day and it’s gone. It follows us, like ball and chain. For many of us, it feels like we’re doing a life sentence for a crime we didn’t commit.

While our adoptive parents, their friends, and family are celebrating adoption blessings, the truth is that adoptees will continue to attempt suicide at 4x the rate of non-adopted individuals. We will continue to grieve our grief and process our loss alone for a lifetime. We will continue to feel helpless in a world that celebrates our relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma. We will continue to live a life riddled with anxiety, depression, and sadness. We will continue to feel isolated and alone. Many and most of us take these things to our graves, because there has never been any help for us.

Instead, you celebrate our trauma and normalize the separation of a mother and her baby. Nothing about relinquishment and adoption is normal, and all the feelings adoptees feel and how we respond to relinquishment and adoption trauma is normal considering the circumstances. What’s not normal is relinquishment and adoption trauma!

Back in 1974, adoptees weren’t baring their souls to share their stories in hopes of shining a light on the truth about adoption and how it’s made them feel. If they were, there might have been very few of them. Today they are, and it’s making a difference. One of the biggest things I have experienced that’s been a significant hurdle to overcome is that our world celebrates adoption the way they do. Can you imagine our world celebrating rape or child abuse? Can you imagine our world celebrating someone being held hostage at gunpoint? Can you imagine our world celebrating a mother and child dying in childbirth?

Only in adoption is our most tremendous trauma of relinquishment not acknowledged, but it’s celebrated. The mental mind fu*k this causes for relinquished and adopted individuals can’t even be explained. Let me be frank; it’s a big giant clusterfu*k.

While our adoptive parents and society are celebrating, they don’t equally acknowledge that we are being is severed from our roots before any adoption occurs. This is the most significant loss of our lifetimes. We lose genetic mirrors, biological connections, medical history, siblings, grandparents, ethnicity, homeland, and so much more on top of YOU CELEBRATING IT. Stop celebrating mothers and babies being separated!

If you’ve made it this far, I will encourage you to challenge yourself in stepping out of denial about the FACTS that what you were told and what you learned about adoption might not be accurate information. I ask you to open your eyes, ears, and hearts to the truth that relinquished and adopted individuals need you to equally acknowledge all we have lost before you consider celebrating it.

We’re not your blessing. Until you can do this vital step to help aid us in our healing process you have no business celebrating us or calling us a blessing. When our adoptive parents are our elders, we follow suit in what they acknowledge as we are children. If you recognize this, we will realize this. Conversations about grief, loss, relinquishment, abandonment, rejection, culture, genetic mirroring, searching, and reunion need to happen. As children, we will NOT be able or equipped to open these conversations on our own. Without the support of our adoptive parents, we will suffer, and we will suffer greatly.

I hate to shatter the fantasy that your adoption is a blessing, but the truth is before every adoption takes place, relinquishment trauma happens first. Adoptees are dying. Please stop celebrating our relinquishment trauma and adoption trauma, and if even after learning all this, you still choose to celebrate, at least equally share the truth by sharing the painful pieces as well. If you don’t, you will regret it, and please know you are assisting in the stalling of your adopted child’s healing. A lifetime of pain will follow no matter what, but if you choose to assist by opening these difficult conversations, it will help!

If you are the adoptive parent of an adult adoptee, you can still apply this information to your journey, life, and relationship with the adopted individual in your life. I don’t know your story, nor do I need to know it. Start talking about the TRUTH in adoption. Start talking about uncomfortable topics. It could save your relinquishee/adoptees life.

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

Dead Man Walking

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I began searching for my birth family as soon as I found out I was adopted around 5 years old. Everywhere I went, I was searching for HER, my birth mother. As I reached my early 20’s I had already found my birth mother.  

But what about HIM? 

Where was my birth father…

When I asked my birth mother who my birth father was she said, “He didn’t know anything about you, and he wouldn’t want to!” She refused to give me any information, and that was that. I learned quickly if I wanted her in my life, I better never ask about him again. 

Soon after our very first meeting, she shut me out and I never heard from her again. I was heartbroken. I didn’t give up and I still very much wanted to learn who my birth father was. Occasionally I would call her home, to see if she would answer but she never did. Her husband answered on one occasion and we had a brief conversation. What did I have to lose?

I was never giving up in finding my truth. 

He expressed knowing who my birth father was, but that he was sorry to tell me he had passed away, and he heard that he had been shot many years ago. I asked him his name, but he said he couldn’t remember. He said there was no reason I needed it because he didn’t exist in this world, he was gone, forever. 

This was in 1996 when we didn’t have the internet, social media or DNA testing. Believing my birth father was dead never set well with my spirit. Deep down in my heart, I said to myself, “If he’s dead I still want to know his name, and I still want to see his grave.” I was never giving up on finding him, until I found my truth. 

No one would help me.

No one supported me. 

 I was up against the world and the legal closed adoption system. Born in the state of Iowa, these laws have been sealed since July 4, 1941. That was 79 years ago. This is 79 years of adult adoptees fighting against the grain for their truth.  It’s 79 years of living lies. It’s 79 years of secrecy and shame with adoptees plagued by the stigma attached to unplanned pregnancies, paying the price of this life sentence and even when we find our truth, the magnitude of the loss impacts every area’s of our lives. 

And we’ll find our truth If we’re lucky that is. 

Over 20 years had passed of no contact and I received a Facebook message my birth mother had passed away. I made the choice to go to her funeral, after I was invited by my birth sister. In 2011 I buried the woman I met once, who I dreamed of knowing my entire life. This was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was introduced as “The daughter she gave up for adoption” and invisible from her obituary as if I didn’t even exist. It was beyond hard. 

Being surrounded by her friends & family, I started asking questions. I was able to get confirmation of who my birth father was, who his family was and how he was tied in to my birth mother. I was told he was a friend of the family, and he was about 10 years older than my birth mother. He lived off the land, with his brothers and parents all living in Leon, Iowa close to the Missouri border. I was told he was married at the time of my conception, and he knew nothing about my existence. But the real question was, IS HE STILL ALIVE?

“Yes, yes he’s very much still alive.” said a friend of my birth mother. 

So you mean to tell me I was told he had passed away, but that was a lie? That’s very much the way the story goes in my journey. It happens to adoptees all the time! The same trip to Iowa for my birth mother’s funeral was the same trip I drove to Leon, Iowa and showed up at my birth father’s doorstep.  

I will never forget November 11, 2011 arriving at his door and seeing his face for the first time in my life. It was a surreal experience. The man I had been told was dead, was very much alive, walking and talking. The internal nagging and turmoil of the unknown had come to an end, and I was looking at his face. Our visit lasted about an hour. He expressed he knew nothing about me, but if he knew about me he would have kept me. He wasn’t accepting of me, and over the last 9+ years I’ve given up hope on us having a relationship. 

I now have my truth. 

I know my truth. 

I have seen my truth for MYSELF.

I had to fight like hell to get it.

I would like to encourage my fellow adoptees to keep searching even when you’ve been told they have passed away.  Don’t give up! I encourage you to get DNA testing to make sure the person you’ve been told is your biological family FIRST. And if you’ve been told they have passed, I wouldn’t believe it until you know by DNA that’s your people, and then you are standing over their grave. 

I’ve seen countless adoptees be given falsified information by the adoption agencies, time and time again. I’ve seen outlandish stories written in identifying and non-identifying information that’s turned out to be completely false in attempts to throw the adoptee off from finding their people. I’ve seen this same paperwork say the biological father has died in a tragic accident yet they are found very much alive. 

I’ve seen it all.

Many adoptions are rooted and grounded in secrecy and lies. 

Please don’t believe what you are told. Verify with DNA your father is who they say he is. If you’ve been told he’s passed away, never give up until you are standing over his grave, but ONLY if this is the person who your DNA says your father is. This goes the same for biological mothers but it seems with many of them relinquishing without our fathers consent, it’s usually our fathers we’re told are dead, vs. our mothers. 

 We know DNA is changing the game for adoptees. If you are still searching, I truly hope you find the answers you are looking for. Everyone on earth deserves to know where they come from. Don’t give up! 

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Mirror, Mirror – Mi Amor

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Something about a MIRROR has always been extraordinarily symbolic to me. From the beginning of my life, the mirror brought me great sadness and pain, as I looked at myself I had no idea who or what was looking back at me. I would look at my face, and watch tears drop to the bathroom countertops, wondering if anyone on this entire planet cared about the pain I was carrying not knowing who I was or where I came from? 

The little girl, robbed of her ancestry and culture, I grew up clueless of who I was and where I came from, the basic human right most people take for granted. I remember seeing myself, feeling hollow inside. Not knowing my truth kept me in bondage, dying inside. 

As I grew up, looking in the mirror grew exceptionally painful and in my early teenage years I started to develop a deep rooted hate for the girl that was looking back at me. She was ugly, unwanted, abandoned and rejected by the two people that should love her the most, her biological parents. This self hate manifested in many ways, and self love was non-existent. 

I couldn’t love myself and hate myself at the same time. Self hate, lead to harmful and reckless choices, and my life is filled with them. I don’t believe in “No regrets, just lessons learned.” That’s what the world wants me to believe, but I don’t feel that way at all. I have so many regrets, and yes, many lessons learned. 

As I grew into a young woman and had kids of my own, I was able to step outside of the way I feel about myself, and love my children to the best of my ability but self love has still been nonexistent for most of my life. 

When did things change for me? 

When I found my truth. 

The hard core raw, heartbreaking truth is what allowed me to begin the process of looking in the mirror from a different lense. In order for my spirit to be at peace, I needed to see the faces of both of my birth parents, so I can see the reflection of myself I had never seen in my entire life. In this process, I learned about them. I heard stories, I learned similarities we shared, and things we didn’t share. I learned that in many ways, I was so much like them, but other ways I was nothing like them. 

This process allowed me to see things FOR MYSELF, instead of adoption trying to PROTECT ME FROM MYSELF. This was life or death for me, and it’s life or death for most adoptees. It’s a NATURAL desire to want to see who we look like, so we can get a better understanding of who’s looking at us when we see the hollow person looking in the mirror. 

The mirror has brought me great pain most of my life, but because I’ve fought like hell to get my truth, I can now look in the mirror and I know who I am. Slowly, over the last 15 years or so, the sadness I once felt has turned into sorrow, and then grief, loss and processing. The self hate, from the unknown has slowly turned into self love. It didn’t happen overnight. It’s taken years of recovery, therapy, self reflecting, self work, self help, and lots of tears, grief, loss, anger, rage, and WORK! 

I truly know that the KEY for me, and been the TRUTH. While so many others are celebrating valentine’s day, I’m celebrating the fact that I no longer hate what I see when I look in the mirror. I’m celebrating the fact that now that I can see myself as a reflection of my biological parents, I no longer feel the hate for myself that I always did. I’m celebrating that now that I can see myself, in the MIRROR and love what I see, that allows me to be able to love others the way they need to be loved. I’m celebrating the fact that when I look in the mirror today, I see a strong, independent woman who’s gone through a lot in life, who fought every step of the way. I see a woman who is alive, even when adoption tried to kill me with secrecy and lies. 

Mirror, Mirror – Mi Amor. 

Today I look in the mirror and I see MY LOVE looking back at me. The one who’s always been there, the one who I should have been searching for all along, MYSELF. I see the one who’s never left me, the one who’s been 110% dependable, the one who keeps me company in the dark moments. I see the one who I love to be alone with, and the one who’s pretty. I see a woman who’s a mom, who loves her kids. I see a woman who wants to be happy and healthy so her kids and future grand-kids will never experience what she did in the mom area. I see imperfections, maybe even a dirty mirror and messy hair? But most importantly I see the imperfect truth.  I’m no longer looking in the mirror at secrecy and lies, looking at an adoptee internally dying. 

Mirror, Mirror – Mi Amor come and see. 

The truth is what I needed to see I’m not like any of them & I learned to love me. 

Happy Valentines Day to YOU and to ME!

EVERY ADOPTEE DESERVES TO KNOW THEIR TRUTH, EVERYONE DESERVES TO KNOW WHERE THEY COME FROM! 

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