I’ve had so many fundamental moments that have played key factors in my healing journey that I wanted to write an article about them in hopes to support my fellow adoptees on their healing journeys. Without these steps, I was stuck in agony and heartbreak. Most of these areas I had to figure out on my own, and reflecting back I WISH someone would have shared them with me. It might not have taken me 10+ years to get to this point of arrival into the next chapter of my life. That’s 10 years I can never get back. I can only hope these things might help my fellow adoptees in some way.
One aspect to keep in mind is that healing looks different for everyone. There is no cookie cutter design that is one size fits all. What works for me, might not work for you. What worked for you, might not work for me. I’ve made it this far by setting specific boundaries for myself and walking them out has allowed me the space I need to continue healing from the lifelong impacts of relinquishment and adoption trauma.
Let me get straight to it because time lost, is time we can never get back!
- Acceptance – Coming to a place of acceptance that these were the cards I were dealt has been one of the main key aspects to my adoptee healing journey but it was really hard to accept something, when I didn’t have my truth to accept! We can’t accept a question mark hanging over our head. This is why ALL ADOPTIONS SHOULD be TRUTHFUL. The truth means NOTHING HIDDEN. Once I received my truth, I realized there is nothing I can do to change the fact that I’m adopted. I can’t roll the dice at another shot at parents in the adoptive or biological area. I get no “do-overs” even when I wish I did. I sat for most of my life in so much pain, hating the fact that I was adopted. My feelings were 100% legit, because I still hate the fact that I’m adopted. However, I’m no longer using my sacred energy being rage filled and mad at the world regarding something I have no control over. Yes, I still get angry and mad because adoption is rooted in relinquishment trauma and the system needs abolished but it’s not controlling my life like it once did. I used to sit in it, and wallow and I was stuck. Now, when it comes I sit in it, process it and move forward. Acceptance brought me to a new space of elevation because as soon as I reached this point, new doors opened up and a new attitude followed suit. I’ve accepted it, now what?
- Accepting the Pain is Here to Stay – This was a HUGE key in my healing. I’ve written about it several times but for those who haven’t read those articles please check out Saying “Hello” to Adoptee Grief & Loss & Adoptee Pain. Our world is set up instilling in us that there are ways we can avoid dealing with painful situations by avoiding the pain all together. Check out Spiritual Bypassing and learn as much as you can about it. We’re told that anything that isn’t “positive” is “negative” and negativity has no place in our positive culture world. One of the main aspects in the last 10 years of my healing is learning to welcome the pain, and accepting that no matter what anyone says, the pain is here to stay. OUCH. That’s painful to accept. Running the rat race of trying to “BE HEALED” only prolonged my healing. The truth is, every single adoption is rooted in relinquishment trauma and until we treat that trauma like we treat all the other traumas, healing can’t happen. The sooner we accept that this pain is here to stay, the sooner we learn to sit with this pain and begin processing this pain instead of avoiding it and running from it. We must remember, our feelings are perfectly normal for a not normal situation. Nothing is normal about being separated from our biological families at the beginning of life. Saving space for the pain, when it comes is KEY. Understanding that NOTHING IS WRONG WITH YOU is also KEY. You didn’t ask for this, nor did you deserve it. Your feelings are VALID and your experiences are LEGIT.
- Accept Non-Adoptees Will Never Understand You – This was so hard for me in the beginning and caused me so much anger and rage! I was so upset at the stupidity of non-adoptees and their lack of understanding regarding the adoptee experience! I mean pure anger and rage! My anger and rage was completely legit however, I learned as soon as another person felt my anger and rage it completely turned them off and the possibility of a teachable moment was thrown in the trash! I also learned that unless someone was an adoptee themselves, they truly can’t understand how it feels to be adopted, and all the dynamics that go along with it. I had to allow them GRACE in advance and this is the only way I was able to get through these relationships and experiences. If someone isn’t adopted, they have no idea what we go through. They can be adoptive parents, birth parents or friends and family members. The sooner I accepted this the sooner my relationships with them became easier. Those that love you, will listen, learn and TRY to understand you but unless someone is adopted they will never truly know! Expecting this from non-adoptees is a unrealistic expectation.
- Stop Trying To Teach Others How It Feels To Be Adopted, When They Don’t Want To Learn – This is so big. I spent the first 1-2 years in coming out of the fog regarding my adoptee journey trying to do my best to EDUCATE THE WORLD on how adoption and relinquishment trauma impacted me. Not that there is anything wrong with this, but what was wrong was that I inserted my experiences into conversations with others who had no desire to want to learn or listen. I can’t even begin to tell you how much time I wasted, ESPECIALLY ON THE INTERNET with idiotic fools who have no willingness to LEARN. I learned early on that I made the choice to save my energy and my message for those who wanted to learn. Pouring out into pointless conversations with people who don’t seek out the knowledge and understanding I have and who don’t want to learn only hurt me in the long run. It took away from my emotional and mental health, and it also took away my valuable time that I can never get back. I decided moving forward many years ago, I’m no longer inserting my views, experiences and comments where they won’t be received. I’m no longer wasting my time on pointless encounters with random strangers on the internet that mean nothing to me who only want to discredit and devalue my experiences. I truly encourage you to do the same.
- Accept Healing is a Lifelong Process – The world is going to tell you to “get over it” and “move on” and most non adoptee competent therapists won’t understand the layers of the adoptee experience. The truth is, every single adoption is rooted and grounded in TRAUMA and this constitutes as a very bad experience regarding ALL ADOPTIONS TODAY because for all adoptions to happen, the adoptee experiences TRAUMA FIRST. For many of us, our adoptive homes were NOT SAFE OR LOVING. Understanding that the damage relinquishment and adoption has done is undoubtedly what could possibly be the biggest heartbreak and most painful experience an adoptee will have in their entire lifetimes. There is no quick fix or magic pill to make it all better and go away. Getting over it and moving on isn’t so simple for many of us and if we had that choice, don’t you think we would flip that switch? The truth is, we can run but we can’t hide from the lifelong implications that come about due to our adoption experiences. Allowing ourselves the rest of our lives to save the space for our pain is really important. I spent so many years wishing I would wake up and it would all be gone, because that’s what I was told would happen in the christian belief system I was a part of. I was led to believe if my pain didn’t “go away” then I wasn’t praying enough, or fasting enough, or even that I was being punished that this PAIN wasn’t going away for not being good enough. I was even led to believe that I was choosing to hang onto the pain. Being told these things and believing this way are some of the most damaging to my personal journey I have yet to experience. It’s extremely critical to the adoptee experience that we STOP putting any stipulations on our healing times. How about we say to ourselves, “Adoption has hurt me deeply, and this pain is here to stay. I will allow myself the space to process and heal from this damage for the rest of my life because there is no time frame on healing.” Grief & loss are two of the main components to the adoptee experience. The more we research and understand the grief and loss process, the more we should apply it to our adoptee journeys. When someone dies in a car wreck or unexpectedly for any reason, we don’t put stipulations on how long the loved ones can grieve these losses. We need to stop putting this on ourselves as adoptees and letting others put them on us. There is no time frame on healing and the sooner we can accept that the damage relinquishment does could very well take a lifetime to heal from, the sooner we save space to start the healing. Most people don’t want to hear this, but what if some of us have areas we will never heal from? What if relinquishment trauma is so deep, it will carry its implications with us forever? Accept it. Stop running from it. Share it. Tell the world the damage adoption relinquishment has done and never stop!
- Walk Away from Those Who Won’t Save Space for Your Pain – You’re not going to heal with those people in your life and their mindset inflicted on you will stall your healing! We live in a world that’s got positive pumpers on every corner, everywhere we turn! Motivational Speakers & Life Coaches are everywhere and the culture we’re exposed too a lot of times doesn’t save space for life’s painful experiences. Adopted or not, when people won’t sit with you in your pain, they aren’t your people. Some people don’t know how to do this, but if we express to them that we just need them to listen and try to learn the Adoptee perspective and they still don’t listen, just walk. Find your people who will listen. You deserve more and you deserve to be heard and validated!
- Continue to Search for Your Truth – There is no healing from secrets, lies and half truths. Every little clue brings healing and anything less than 100% TRUTH is stalling our healing. I’ve heard a MILLION stories from my fellow adoptees over the last 10 years and you would not believe how many have been lied to, told BS stories about who they are and where they came from that were LIES. LIES. LIES. LIES. I encourage everyone reading this to not give up, and keep pressing for your answers. Just because someone has said your biological parents are dead, don’t believe it! If it’s possible, do DNA testing to make sure they are your biological parents FIRST (yes you can do this without their DNA) and then if they are, insist you be allowed to see their grave before you accept they are dead. DO NOT BELIEVE WHAT YOU ARE TOLD until you do significant investigating on your own! There are so many lies and secrets told to adoptees, we have to SEE FOR OURSELVES. Never give up and follow that aching desire to LEARN YOUR TRUTH. You deserve it, and all of it. Your siblings deserve to know you, and you deserve to know them. You are NOT A SECRET AND YOU DIDN’T SIGN ANY ADOPTION PAPERWORK. My friend & fellow adoptee Lynn Grubb created Genetic Genealogy for Adoptees. Join her group. There are a lot of adoptees on standby to assist you in finding your TRUTH.
- Trauma Work – RELINQUISHMENT TRAUMA IS REAL! ADOPTION TRAUMA IS REAL! If you have yet to accept and understand that all adoptions are rooted and grounded in relinquishment trauma I suggest you do some digging to discover the truth. This reality compacted with adoption trauma is a real significant setback for the adoptee population. Most of the time we’re conditioned to believe all things adoption related are beautiful but the TRUTH IS, our beginnings are painful. Without the acceptance of this truth, healing isn’t possible! I suggest you research pre & perinatal trauma and maternal bonding, as well as what happens when this bonding is interrupted and relinquishment separation happens. We experience preverbal trauma that is stored in our subconscious memories, which comes out and surfaces at different stages of our lives. It has a psychological, mental and emotional impact on us that can radiate our entire lives. These areas are triggered by various reasons. Some can be by the minute, some by the hour, some by the week, month or year. Holidays are big triggers as well as turning on the television. Maybe when we have children, or we need our medical history? It might surface in our relationships with our children, friends, family and significant others in our lives? It can even surface in our careers and personal lives. RESEARCH IS KEY. The Mother Wound is another significant area that needs work. I can promise you, as adoptees we deal with a significant dynamic to this wound because it’s a double wound for many of us. This wound will impact every area of our lives, unless we work on it. How do I work on the mother wound? I’ve recently found a resource that I want to share with you all in finding a beautiful lady named Michelle Dowell – Vest AKA Rev. Chelle who understands the different dynamics of the mother wound, and is very aware how complex this is for adoptees. Her bio is, “I help women heal their Mother Wound, breaking generational cycles of pain between moms & daughters.” I’m sure men can also apply this to their wounds, and they can even research and do their own work on the mother wound. EMDR therapy has been another HUGE hit in the adoptee community for trauma work. I have heard countless positive stories from adoptees. Finding an adoptee competent therapist is really important, and you can start that process by visiting Adoptee Therapist Directory – Beyond Words. Art therapy and Nature Therapy are also huge. My main source of recovery and healing from my adoption experience has been MOTHER NATURE. Wilderness Wellness is what I call it, and I’ve been able to find healing in Mother Nature like nothing else. What works for some might not work for others. This is why we must explore all avenues, and apply what works for us. Drop the labels our society tries to attach to us. You are more than a label, and you don’t have to be confined to them to heal.
- Legally Change Your Name – Yes I said it. LEGALLY CHANGE YOUR NAME! This was one of the most liberating and freeing experiences of my adoptee journey yet to date. I share this experience here – Pamela Karanova, Welcoming the Real True Me! The coolest part for my USA followers is that we live in America and we can! For me this symbolized so much, you can read it in the article but it was also taking some power back. I didn’t sign any adoption paperwork and I never felt like I fit in with either family. It was taking some of the control back, of what others choose for me. It was liberating but my only regret is wishing I would have changed my first and middle name as well. As adoptees, we create our own path that is like no one elses! We’re already dancing to the beat of our own drums, why not create a name that is significant to our journeys that we feel in our hearts fits us? Do it! You won’t regret that you did!
- Finding Purpose in the Pain- When we experience very painful things in life, no matter what they are they all deserve our undivided attention until we’re able to come to a place of finding purpose. In order to get to that point the previous 3 steps deserve attention. I was stuck in a dark black hole until I made it to this point of finding purpose in the painful experience of being adopted. What that looked like for me is creating Adoptees Connect, Inc. which was a resource that I needed that was nonexistent. I knew in my heart ALL ADOPTEES would benefit from this resource, because so many of us have spent our entire lives suffering in silence. It was life or death for me, because the alternative of finding purpose was being stuck which I truly believe would have killed me eventually. Taking the most painful experience of my life, double rejection from both birth parents and abusive estranged relationships with 99.9% of my adoptive family has left me alone in this world. Although I’m thankful for my 3 beautiful children, my family beyond them is nonexistent besides 3 amazing cousins I have relationships with. Finding purpose in creating Adoptees Connect, Inc. for the adoptee community has changed everything for me. It’s added purpose beyond existing for my children. It’s added value to my life that was nonexistent before. I’m not sure what your “thing is” regarding areas you are passionate about but I suggest you do some soul searching, get by yourself and ask yourself what area you are passionate about. What do you wish was there, that’s not there for you or the adoptee community? What areas do you want to get involved in that help the adoptee community? It might be planting an Adoptees Connect group in your area or it might be getting involved in another way. Follow your heart in this process but whatever you do, finding a KEY PURPOSE is a HUGE STEP in the adoptee healing process.
- Connect with Other Adoptees in Person- This is another huge dynamic step to the healing process for adoptees. I wish I could recommend online adoptee groups and spaces but sadly they have been taken over by paid trolls and cyber bullies that are only making the adoptee experience more traumatic than what it already is. Because of this I don’t recommend them. I recommend finding other adoptees in your community and meeting with them in person. One adoptee as a lifeline can change your life forever. To sit and talk for hours in person about your lives, and experiences is a connection that is one of the most valuable you will ever have. Look to see if we have an Adoptees Connect Group Locations – USA or Adoptees Connect Group Locations – International. If we don’t consider Starting an Affiliate. Connecting with adoptees in person will change your life!
- Find Your Voice – As we connect with other adoptees in person, we collectively find our voices. What starts as a little whisper becomes louder and louder. Connecting with other adoptees in person is KEY! There are a lot of ways you can share your voice and experiences and I encourage you to find your area, and never stop sharing! Maybe start your own blog, or website or Adoptees Connect group. Maybe write a memoir, or share your story on a podcast. Maybe it’s getting involved with Adoptee Rights or Genealogy. You will be up against the world, because they still see us as little babies that never grow up but the more you start sharing your voice, the bigger your tribe will grow! Never stop!
- Find YOURSELF, Trust YOURSELF & Love YOURSELF – This is so hard being an adoptee, because our entire sense of self is shattered the minute we lose our birth mothers and the truth of our adoption can be rooted in secrecy and lies. We’re searching from the beginning. We might be searching for home, for our mothers, fathers, families, ethnicity, lost time, family history, and the list could go on. We spend so much time SEARCHING, that the entire process non-adoptees experience with discovering self, takes us 10x longer and many times adoptees never get there. They go to their graves never finding their truth. Screw everyone and everything standing in the way of us finding our truths! For those that are lucky enough to find our truth, once we find our truth, it’s so easy to spend an entire lifetime outsourcing our time and energy into other things. Might be belief systems, volunteering, advocating, and the list could go on. We put a heightened focus on everyone and everything outside of ourselves which can be beneficial at times, but it can also be depleting. I encourage you to get alone with yourself and learn what you like and love outside of adoption. Pull away from so many commitments and focus on YOU. Put yourself first for a change, and once you do this you will slowly learn to like and even love your own company. Adoption is such a HUGE dynamic to our lives, and something we have no control over. The root is based on trauma and loss, and our basic instincts to TRUST others, and ourselves is lost. Others choose for us, but it’s time we take our power back and start living the life we deserved all along. Working through the pain (especially trauma work) is a key aspect to get to this point, so the other steps I have shared here are critical to this step. Understand that the person looking back at you in the mirror is a badass, and you are the one who survived this thing. You are the one who wakes up and makes the choice to not just survive daily, but to find joy in this lifetime. Look yourself in the mirror, and learn to like and love YOU. Only you can do this in this way, because you are the only person who knows you inside and out. Be true to you, follow your heart and don’t apologize when it’s not something others understand. They don’t need to understand because they aren’ in your shoes.
- Understand All Adoptees Are At Different Spaces – Nothing has been more disturbing in the adoptee community than adoptees not saving space for their fellow adoptees because they are at different spaces than them. Recently one adoptee said to me about another adoptee, “I can’t stand how ______ Shares in the group, because I feel it’s attention seeking!” How is anyone supposed to heal from our experiences when this is the mindset of so many? Another thing I have experienced a lot is adoptees who had wonderful experiences, who can see past their pain that are labeling their fellow adoptees as just angry, mad at the world and pointing out “Not all adoptees had that experiences, some of us are wonderfully adjusted adoptees and we’re thankful we’re adopted!” When did that help anyone? Kudos to you for being able to see past your pain, but know that not everyone has your story! Not everyone can see past their pain and not everyone has had the TOOLS to work on their pain! PLEASE STOP saying these things to adoptees! We all deserve to be in the space we are, without others telling us we’re wrong or bad for feeling the way we do. I expect more from adoptees! We’re the only ones who understand one another. We are killing one another, which leads me to the topic of tone policing and the abuse of this “excuse” in Adoptionland. I see continuously adoptees saying others are tone policing them, yet they are being ABUSIVE and have failed to realize that NO ONE HAS TO PUT UP WITH THEIR ABUSE! Almost all the adoptees in Adoptionland who are paid internet trolls and cyberbullies use this as their #1 defense to inflict abuse onto others and it’s not acceptable and will never be okay. Yes, anger and rage are NATURAL pieces to the adoptee experience, but when you take that anger and rage and hurt others with it, it’s not going to be tolerated. Just because I’m adopted and I have anger and rage, doesn’t mean I get to treat others like shit. We need to stop making excuses for this abuse! One adoptee has NO CLUE what another adoptee goes through and what it costs to be them. For some of us, it costs us EVERYTHING.
- Balance is KEY- I’ve noticed over the last 10 years that it’s so easy to get sucked into a million areas in the adoption arena that can consume our lives. For many adoptees, this would involve becoming active in Adoptionland in various areas, and our adoptee advocacy whatever that looks like to us. 10 years of my life has passed repairing the damage adoption relinquishment trauma has done and over the last 3 years I’ve been pulling away from a FULL TIME COMMITMENT and trying to set boundaries that work for me. Our mental health should come first, but so many times we’re in over our heads in commitments that it takes a toll on us, emotionally, mentally and then physically. I also notice as adoptees, we start things and a lot of the time we don’t finish them and we move along to the next project. I’m 100% guilty of this. I attribute it to an entire process of finding ME. What I’m good at, what areas I like and love and what areas aren’t going to work for me. I think it’s a natural process especially as we grow in our journeys. However, being so consumed that we aren’t seeing beyond adoption relinquishment and trauma is not healthy. Finding balance is KEY because even when adoption has been the most painful experience of our lives for many of us, we still deserve to find happiness in this lifetime. Hasn’t adoption taken enough? Wherever you are in your adoption journey right this minute, I would love to challenge you to step outside of this “hat” and explore other areas of your life that you enjoy. It’s up to each of us to find our own happiness. Yes, being adopted is a piece of who we are, but it isn’t all of who we are. We have to go find ourselves, and that process can and will be a magical yet painful experience. Our eyes will open up to things that no longer work for us, and we will walk away from a lot of people. Finding internal happiness only comes from within and we all deserve that happiness.
Thank you for reading 15 Significant Steps I’ve found that have helped me heal, and I hope they help you too!
Adoptees, Have you used any of these areas to help you on your healing journey? Are there things that have been a significant piece of your healing journey that you are willing to share? We can all learn from one another. Please share if you are up for it.
Sending you Sunshine, Love & Light.