Like the cogs on the wheel of a bike, my lifelong struggle with abandonment issues seems to spin out of control whenever I hit a bump in the road.
Today was one of those days.
However, this time instead of going it alone, I decided to share my feelings with everyone. I am hoping that you may gain some insight into who I really am and why I am compelled to share my daily struggles with the world.
Somewhere out there is an adopted child who will read this and I want them to know that he or she is not alone.
As an adopted child I had intense feelings of grief, anger, and resentment that I couldn’t explain, control or share with anyone because I was terrified of being ridiculed, rejected or left behind.
Keeping these emotions bottled up inside slowly ate away any self confidence that I had. By the time I was a teenager, there simply wasn’t any left. My teenage years were awkward at best and this gave me cause for even more resentment.
I was angry at the world because I carried so much guilt.
Guilt for being a burden on another family whose children had to share their parents with me, the guilt of leaving my own siblings behind and the guilt of wanting to know where I came from.
It simply became too much for me to handle and began to manifest itself in ugly, negative ways.
I had a new family who loved me and cared for me, how dare I question where I came from?
- Why do I want to know the people who gave me away? Wasn’t I grateful to be part of this family that cared for me?
- Why does everyone keep blaming me? Don’t they understand that I am who I am because of my biological family, not in spite of them?
- If everyone thinks my family is so terrible, and I am one of them, what does everyone think of me?
Imagine asking yourself these questions everyday and you will begin to see the world through the eyes of an adopted child – me. I felt like I had to justify myself all the time, that I wasn’t worthy of being loved by anyone and that I didn’t deserve to be happy and somehow I was broken.
Sidenote: If I can share something important with all adopted families, it would be this:
Everytime an adoptive parent or sibling tells a child that they are better off without their family, or defines the child’s biological family in a negative way (this happens because they are afraid to lose the child), they are sending a message to that child, that they are somehow damaged.
No adopted child imagines his or her biological parents as being terrible people who sent them away. If they did, they would have to also accept the fact that they were abandoned. I do not believe that any child can understand that concept, nature has a funny way of protecting us from these kinds of things. The truth is, an adopted child is more likely to imagine their parents as warm and loving people who simply left them for a short period. Most fantasize that their parents will return someday.
Telling them otherwise hurts and makes them begin to distrust the world around them.
Remember, an adopted child will love and appreciate you unconditionally, it is only your own fear that you are expressing when you try to discredit their family. They view this comparison as a reflection of themselves and these feelings are passed on to their own children, whether they are aware of it or not, albeit not always in the same capacity.
Adopted children need to be part of their own family because it is a human emotion that cannot be denied or controlled. It isn’t their fault, it is a biological need. Trying to control it will only push the child to gravitate towards the biological family because they fear being rejected again and in their mind, having one family is better than none.
It isn’t easy to be a foster, adopted or step parent, but then again having a child never is. Something I am just beginning to understand and to accept.
I love the family that adopted me, each and every one of them despite our differences. They are my family and I would never deny them of that. My biological family would never try to take me away from them.
How do I know? Because, I am one of them. They would never put the adopted family through the pain they went through or allow the child to feel another family loss.
This is an unrealistic fear that many adopted families face and can have devastating effects when an adopted child meets a sibling. If the family rejects that sibling, they have inadvertently also rejected the child.
I would give my life for any member of the “Foster” family. This is who I am and it will not change based on where I live or because I have a few new people in my life.
As I have learned through this entire experience, some things are simply in your nature. My nature is to be a kind and loving person (who likes to have crazy fun and is a bit rough around the edges) like the rest of my siblings.
My adopted family taught me the important things that I needed to know so that I can be the person that I am today. The person who is able to share this very painful part of my life. I am strong because of them, not in spite of them, although they may disagree. I haven’t forgotten that, nor am I ungrateful, that is also who I am. I have two families that I love and that I am proud to be a part of – one that I grew up with – and one that I was born into.
To deny me of that, denies me of my very existence.
What is so wrong with having two families anyway? It allows me to love and be loved by more people. Those who know me well, know that this is the perfect scenario for me because it allows me to be surrounded with tons of children.
Being adopted wasn’t my fault and it certainly wasn’t the fault of my brothers and sisters. They were kids, they were abandoned, abused and neglected beyond what anyone can ever imagine (this is a story for another day) and, as a result, they have abandonment issues just like me.
I am a little bit bent, but I am certainly not broken.
These were the very words of my brother Brian spoken at his funeral. Like him, I realized we are all survivors. Strong, successful and proud of what we have been able to accomplish in our own lives in spite of the hand that we were dealt.
The only people that deserve blame are our parents. Shame on them! There were adults, they had a responsibility to do what they had to in order to love and protect us and they failed miserably at it.
I can sit here and choose to spend the rest of my life being angry and resentful because they took my brothers and sisters away from me or I can choose to move beyond it.
Today, I choose to move forward and with that comes a realization that I will no longer allow anyone take another member of my family away from me, physically or emotionally.
My siblings weren’t as bad as my family was led to believe, they simply acted badly because they were hurt, sad and traumatized. Who wouldn’t? Their brothers and sisters were ripped away from them, sometimes over and over again. Picture yourself as the eldest sibling watching people slowly take your brothers and sisters away until you are alone.
Wouldn’t you be broken?
They did what they had to in-order to survive the pain and get to the place they are now. Surviving in a world that rejected, abused and discarded them when it should have protected them.
They just didn’t have the resources or guidance to cope like most people have and deserve. I did, and look at me, I was an emotional mess because I was missing a part of my life.
They are no longer broken children, they are adults on the way to healing because they are now able to. They needed to go through what they did in order to get to this point.
I am proud of all of them and I swear on this very day that I will spend the rest of my life making sure we become the family that we were meant to be. Bobby, Jimmy and Brian, this is my promise to you all. This will be your legacy.
We are not alone, we have each other, and we have an extended family that graciously took care of our family members for us when our parents failed to.
Side note: The fear of abandonment is very common among children who were adopted, fostered or have gone through emotional trauma. These emotions continue into adulthood and often resurface at the most inappropriate times such as during funerals and other uncomfortable or stressful situations where loss or the fear of potential loss is significant.
I know, because I have lived with it my entire life. Today, was one of those days.
My brother died. During his funeral I began to feel like he was being ripped right out of my arms and “taken” from me. I felt the same terrifying feelings of being rejected, left alone and isolated. The overwhelming fear of abandonment set me on an emotional roller coaster ride that I almost couldn’t control.
I was angry at my parents for not giving me the chance to get to know him and angry at the world for not understanding that we do have a family and its an amazingly loving one that should be celebrated, not rejected.
I am tired of being the one on the outside looking in at my own life.
It was extremely stressful, emotionally draining and absolutely terrifying. Today, the ugly part of the fear of abandonment began to manifest itself, but thankfully, I had my family by my side and I was able to get through it because they understand it.
For the first time in a very long time, I realize that I was not alone and that I will never be alone again. I have finally arrived at my destination. I am part of a family that is still a little bent, but no longer broken.
Today we stood united.
Side note: Before you can begin to understand what adoption is like, you must begin to understand when a child is displaced or adopted, they lose their identity. They no longer have a sense of belonging to anything and they will spend a lifetime searching for things to belong to, both good and bad. They begin to question everything about themselves which eventually leads to isolated feelings that they are “not good enough,” this coupled with hurt feelings over being “rejected and left alone,” and the adopted families overburdening fear of losing them, they become vulnerable and re-victimized.
Exactly, how would you cope?
This is the family that I belong to and I wouldn’t have it any other way.