While it's common wisdom that you don't know what you've got til it's gone, for me, as an adoptee, I didn't know what I'd lost until I was found.
Growing up adopted, my family was my adopted family. There was no other family. What I hadn't understood was that I was really, truly, from another family. While I knew I was born from someone else, that there was a man and a woman who were my birthparents, it hadn't sunk in that they were my first family. Their families were my families. With relinquishment, I thought about being severed from my birthparents, but hadn't thought about how the disconnection rippled farther.
So, I was put into a different family, a family foreign to me. Placed into an unknown world. Growing up there, I believed that was where I was from.
When I decided to search for my birthparents, it wasn't because I thought something was missing. I had a family, had parents who loved me, a brother, a normal, imperfect, but loving life. I thought searching would be interesting. A story, an adventure.
Instead, finding my birthmother rocked the foundations of the world I came from. Suddenly, brutally, everything that I took to be MY world was revealed as an impostor. While I never felt that I truly fit in to the world I was in, it was the only world I had.
I knew the ways I was similar to my adoptive parents, but I didn't know if the ways I was different were uniquely mine or if they were traits that came from my birthfamilies. When I first met Kate, I thought the similarities would jump out at me, but instead I was left wondering if we had much in common at all. It was in getting to know not only Kate, but also my half-sister and my aunts and uncles and grandparents that the similarities started to appear. Small, seemingly insignificant things that weren't obvious but were shocking - I never had these genetic similarities to anyone before. Ten years later I my birthfather and then went through the same things again - what was the connection? What part of me came from him?
Finding out where I came from challenged everything I had known. It took years to sort it all out. Like the Tower card in a Tarot deck, everything had to be destroyed before I could build it up again. And now all the missing parts, even the parts I hadn't realized were missing, are filled in and I have new parts (like my birth-step-grandmother) too. It makes for a much more solid foundation so that when I do go through a loss, even one as significant as losing my dad, that I can remember my life was started with loss, and although it will take time, I can build it back up again.