Navigating through life as an adoptee has been an incredibly challenging experience, to say the least. There are definitely a handful of things I wish my younger-self knew to help get me through some of the more difficult times. However, I truly believe everything unfolds just as it's meant to. Some of life's most beautiful lessons and wisdom are a result of our deepest pain.
Here are a few of mine, that I enjoy sharing with fellow adoptees and adoptee youth.
1. Evaluate the friendships/relationships in your life and decide who is safe, and who is unsafe. Surround yourself with those who are compassionate and loyal.
When I re-branded as an artist this year, I began posting a lot about adoption and my experience, which also meant that I was also talking a lot more about it. It became very clear to me, pretty quickly, which friends truly cared about my well-being, happiness, and healing, versus the ones who just enjoyed conversations on the surface, hanging out over drinks.
Adoptees need a strong, emotional support system, and I realized that I was at a point on my healing journey where it wasn't only healthy for me to begin exercising boundaries with certain people, it was necessary. It's incredible what happens when we no longer tolerate toxic friendships/relationships and when we start saying "no." We make more room for those who are healthier for us in our life. We make more room for ourselves.
2. Adoption-competent therapy.
I just made a post on this recently. I have been in therapy since I was 14. I had talked about being adopted with my therapists, but no one ever connected any dots for me until I was introduced to adoption-competent therapy in 2014. It was then that everything was clarified, re-defined. This means having a therapist who is well-informed on adoption trauma and all the ways it can manifest on not just a psychological level, but a physiological, biological, and neurological level. Get referrals, seek recommendations from other adoptees in the community. Do yourself (and your bank account) a favor and look into adoption-informed therapy.
Don't be afraid to ask for help.
I am in therapy with my husband (who was adopted by his dad) every week, and we look forward to it every week. Adoption is trauma, and it is vital to get the appropriate kind of help so that we can fully recognize what we're struggling with. Relinquishment trauma affects every area of our life, especially our relationships - and relationships are everything.
3. Meditate. Do yoga. Go to the gym. Take care of your body.
Lots of people like yoga. I still need to try it! Going to the gym is part of my regular routine during the week. I have ailments related to my PTSD, and I've found that meditation and taking care of my body physically correlates with how often these ailments show up. Make it a point to eat a healthy meal daily, and have a balanced diet. Limit the alcohol if you can. We didn't have control over being taken from our mothers, but we can control how we treat our body. It makes a huge difference.
4. Tap into your creativity.
You don't have to have a talent or hobby to tap into your creativity! Creativity is such a healing outlet. Sometimes I'll just sit at my piano and play, but creativity for me also means cooking something new or even just organizing around the house (one time I organized two entire boxes of tools, and it was so therapeutic) - it means whatever it means to you. Being able to explore this side of us allows us to dig deep into our grief, pain - all the emotions - and express them however we want. Find whatever that looks like for you, create, and release your heart into the Universe.
5. Meet other adoptees and build friendships.
I went to a conference recently where I was in a huge room filled with other adoptees. It's truly amazing to know other people who get it, and aren't afraid to talk about it! In a world where adoptees feel isolated and alone, it really helps to know others who share the same primal wound of relinquishment. Sure, we may have different stories, but having validation for what we experience is so important for the healing process. It's difficult enough already to attempt having a conversation about adoption, and not having someone look at you like you have six eyes is awesome.
I was removed from my mother at birth and placed with strangers before I was placed a second time with more strangers a handful of months later, who then became my adoptive family.
Yes, this has had a significant traumatic impact on me — my mental & emotional development, body, health, psyche, and life — all of which I was unaware of until a handful of years ago.
Healing is a journey that one chooses to be on; not one everyone is willing to explore.
When it comes to the complex experience of adoption (and reunion), too many assumptions are made where questions should be asked, but I’ve learned not everyone is genuinely curious; judgment is easier for some.
That’s okay though — this is my journey, and they’ve got stuff to figure out on theirs.
There plenty more, of course, but I wanted to highlight a small handful of these from my personal adoptee experience:
I never knew my birth mom or family so I “don’t remember” the events.
Research shows that bonding occurs before birth for an infant, and the separation from its natural mother - relinquishment trauma - is the worst thing a human being can experience; the affects of this primal wound remain with the adoptee throughout their lifetime, regardless of their “adoption experience.”
I am ungrateful for the life I’ve been blessed with because I choose to look deeper into my adoption, origin, history, trauma, and subsequent challenges.
Grief & trauma have never been about gratitude. I can love my family and grieve my birth family at the same time.
I can hold both, and still embrace my journey.
Babies don’t remember their mothers.
Yes, they do. My body not only remembered instantly, but had an overwhelming reaction to mine the moment we hugged.
I’m a victim of my circumstances surrounding adoption.
Finding your voice takes courage, and learning to use it takes vulnerability.
I am no victim, but a warrior.
This isn’t just about adoptee stories, but everyone’s story — we all have one, and every story matters.
The dismissal of another person’s pain is the denial of our own.
’Primal Wound’ by Nancy Verrier
‘Adoption Healing, A Path To Recovery’ by Joe Soll
Artist | Singer-Songwriter | Composer