My Views on Adoptee vs. Relinquishee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

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