“Celebration cannot come without grief.”
“There cannot be a high without a low.”
“Mountains are created and leave valleys.”
“In order for there to be a top there must be a bottom.”
“What goes up, must come down.”
Yesterday I was honored to witness and celebrate with a family as they closed their foster care case and the children were officially adopted. After a long journey for the parent, the children, their adoptive family, the court and DHS staff (who have been in this longer than any of us), it was a beautiful day. There was so much laughter. So many happy tears. My Mom friend was able to say, “They aren’t going anywhere.” (A statement I think only Foster Parents can really understand within it’s context.)
But their story is not mine to tell.
My story goes back 36 years ago.
Tomorrow, December 7th, is my “Coming Home Day.”
The day my own adoptive parents got the call to drive to a hospital 5 hours away to pick up a three day old, chunky cheeked baby who needed a family.
And they had been chosen to be that family.
And I was that chunky cheeked baby with carrot red hair.
That’s my story.
While I was not officially adopted until over a year later, we have always celebrated December 7th as the day I became part of the family. The day I came home.
There is a group of adoptees who, while they speak many truths, has a very bitter stance on adoption. Each reasoning for their stance is a reflection of their own stories and their own truths. There are some truths that I agree with wholeheartedly and some points that are just unavoidable with adoption. I believe that bitterness is a stopping point in a journey to healing, but it’s not where we should stay. It’s toxic.
My friend who adopted yesterday and I are very lucky to be in the adoption process during a time where more adoptees, foster children and orphans are speaking out their truths and shedding light on difficult subjects that the adoptive world hid, ignored, were unaware of, or simply the scientific knowledge had not been discovered. We are adopting during a time where we have been gifted by science “The Decade of the Brain” which yielded life-changing knowledge and information on Truama and how the brain functions. We now know HOW adoption, (yes, even us infant adoptees) have been neurologically affected by this process. Our generation of adoptees and adoptive families has access to, if they choose, more information and the ability to have a realistic view on adoption.
But even with all this new knowledge, insight, and wisdom, you cannot celebrate days like yesterday without acknowledging that yesterday could not have happened without the destruction of a biological family, for whatever reason, necessary or not.
That in NO WAY should take away the JOY and elation of children finding their adoptive families. But Joy and Grief are on a sliding scale. When people ask me what it is like living as an adoptee, I tell them we adoptees live in the “in-between.” (Similar to the Upside-Down metaphor I use for living with mental illness).
We live in-between families. We live in-between belonging, and feeling accepted. We live in-between reality and fantasy. We live in-between finding home and being lost. We live in-between identities. We live in-between finding ourselves and loosing who we are.
We live in-between joy and grief at ALL times. It’s scientifically called Hyperventilate or functioning in Fight, Flight or Freeze mode.
Because of this concept of living in the in-between and this wonderful thing called, “a Trauma Day,” I surprisingly woke up yesterday entirely raw. My underbelly was exposed. I was honored, delighted, ecstatic, and joyous to watch these children run into home plate as the judge called out their new names and signed a paper that declared them SAFE. But in between the celebrating I found my own story come cascading in. I felt very childlike and vulnerable. Afterwards I even came home, grabbed my dog and took a 20 minute nap because after all that processing and revisiting of my own story, I was tired.
There are very few times in my life where I can recall being at rest. I live in a world dictated by my hyperventilate Trauma Brain. But yesterday as I wrapped my body around my dog and laid my head on the pillow, I felt at rest. At ease. I could exhale and feel my body collapse with no tension.
Yesterday was a gift in my own journey. The gift of being able to accept living on a spectrum of in-between. Yes. There will ALWAYS be grief. The what ifs. The feeling of being in the middle. The constant search for identity and worth. Always feeling like I am reaching for a hand rail that isn’t there. Wondering where I belong.
But that’s O.K.
Somethings in life are unavoidable. Parents not being able to raise children they truly love and care for due to their own trauma and life circumstances is one of them. It’s hard. It’s not easy. It’s uncomfortable. It’s heartbreaking. It creates trauma.
One of the hardest things an adoptee with ever have to do is accept the dichotomy they’ve been handed. I’ve always felt guilty for simply just being grateful for my adoptive parents… or being grateful/loyal to my biological parents. If I side with grief or joy than I’m cheating the other. But that’s a lie society and my Trauma Brain feed me. It’s both. It’s acceptance of living both.
And it’s not just adoptees. It’s children and adults from broken homes, sick parents, single parents, no parents, abusive parents, addicted parents, dead parents, parents who left,Grandparents, parents around, but absent…
And that turns out to be pretty much most of us.
So, while this post is simply me telling you my story and how one day I found rest, the message is for all of you.
It’s O.K. to live in the in-between. It’s O.K. to constantly be sliding back and forth on a scale of grief and joy. And it’s O.K. to feel grief alone. And it’s O.K. to feel Joy alone.
That’s it. The acceptance of the high and the low living in a symbiotic relationship and giving yourself permission to feel both.
My heart goes out to all of you who are like me and walking through a healing journey.
May you find rest today.
– Your Mental Health Trauma Momma