Adoption Loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.
The Reverend Keith C. Griffith, MBE
I am gifted with an opportunity to meet and spend time with another cousin and his spouse, Ken and Valerie—he, the youngest brother in the family of cousins I’ve been abundantly blessed to come to know as my family this summer.
I enjoy getting to know this couple (and am surprised, as I’ve been earlier this summer, by the ease with which I feel connection). By now there’s been enough connection that I am able to understand and participate in conversation about family to some extent— just like non-adopted people can. It’s a blessing I’ll never take for granted.
The growing catalog of information about who my people are and, in turn, who I am, takes on even more substance. I’m amused by, and find kinship in, my cousin’s self admitted “not very social” personality. I love his wife’s (cousin-in-law, is that a thing?) gregarious and generous manner.
Conversation eventually turns to Mary, my birth mom. As always, I’m hungry for information about who she was and what she was like. Ken describes my birth mom’s quiet non-talkative way. For some reason, though I know from others, that she was a quiet woman who, perhaps, struggled with low self-esteem, there is something about the way he speaks of her that turns a light on for me.
That’s me! I think when he says that Mary didn’t talk when she was in a room full of people, and as he describes a quiet occasion when he visited her at her home. It is as if I am suddenly not so odd after all as the root of this, often difficult to deal with, quietness in me is given light.
Here’s the thing about growing up without any biologically related family to in your life: you feel like the odd man out. Despite a loving adoptive family, you still feel like the song of your life is sung slightly off-key. Without the presence of genetic mirroring—the gift of having other people in your life who share similar physical, personality, and psychological traits—we struggle to believe that who we are is okay.
Fear of being abandoned again is overwhelming. We are willing to try anything to prevent it from happening. We become chameleons: altering ourselves, and doing the best we can to fit in wherever we are and with whoever we are with. We lose something of ourselves in the process.
The first time I met someone I was genetically related to (other than my two children) I was delighted to see cheekbones the same as mine on my aunt’s face. Every time since then, on those rare and precious times when I’ve been blessed to spend time with biological family members, I have surreptitiously looked for similarities in appearance, gestures, personality traits, and mentally cataloged them. Every one I see has been an affirmation that who I am is okay.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more comfortable with who I am, and less apt to slip back into losing myself in favour of fitting in. Perhaps it sounds selfish to one who doesn’t understand an adoptee perspective; in reality, it’s healthy.
Genetic mirroring, whenever I’m blessed to experience it, helps to solidify my self. Best of all, it gives me family: a sweet and priceless gift at long last.
# # #
Here are links to a couple of articles that speak to the concept of genetic mirroring, and how the absence of it can impact an adoptee. The first, from adoption educator Nancy Verrier, is called Identity and Relationships (http://nancyverrier.com/identity-and-relationships/), and second, from Adoption and Birth Mothers, is called Costs of Adoption: Genetic Mirroring (http://www.adoptionbirthmothers.com/costs-of-adoption-genetic-mirroring/) Both are well worth taking time to read.
# # #