Monday, November 11, 2013

Lifecycle of Loss

I feel like there's been a lot of loss in my life lately. A year ago, my dad died - my adoptive dad. It was the most profound loss I've had. Then, a few month's ago Annie died - my birthmother's husband's mother. She had become part of my life when Kate married Steve. We both considered each other family, even though the lineage was complicated.

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.

My child self didn't know that the world outside didn't match the one I had grown in for nine months. My rational, developed mind doesn't remember. They say a child's memory develops at three or four. I'm not sure if that's true of emotional memory.

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.


to view my birthmother's blog on the same topic, go to mothertone


Thoughts? Reflections? Opinions?

Please comment!


  1. i like your line - I didn't know what I'd lost until I was found - i think this is true for all of us. the real me the lives inside of this bulk called uncle steve had things happen that were covered up (by me) to help me survive. this a good thing to do in the moment long term they caused me problems. the more i would try to hold them in, the more they wanted out. and they didn't come out easily or lovingly. they had to be worked, dug up and exposed to the light. shuffled around in my mind and then vocalized to another person. there it is out and in the open. when that was accomplished the healing was able to begin. the healing is a slow process, like bailing a boat with a tea cup. keep at it the boat will float high in the water without the fear of sinking. it takes keeping at it, a cup, another cup, another cup... one day at a time, little by little, the hiding, the secrets, the thoughts not talked about, revealed and let go. and out of the mist emerges me. the me i have always know was in there but was covered up by layers of things i didn't want to talk about. i can say from my own experience letting go of this bag of shit i carried around with me most of my life was extremely freeing. i have feelings, you have feelings, we all have feelings, and they are our interpretations of our past experiences. feelings help us survive. some of these feelings are based in false ideas understood as reality although false non-the-less. it is so freeing to let go of the duffel of past experiences, and look at today as an opportunity to look at life anew, today is not yesterday, and what happened yesterday probably won't happen again today, especially if my attitude is not holding on tightly to what happened to me before. love you cathy, uncle steve

  2. I'm 23, and am in the process of sorting my life out and finding where my birth family belong. Finding your blog has given me so much hope. Thank you.

  3. K,
    Thanks for your comment. It's a lot to deal with and there's not a lot of roadmaps out there to help with the figuring out, so it's good to get it all out there.

  4. Cathy, really love this post and your blog. I was reunited with my first family in my early 20's in 1990 and enjoy your blog because I can so relate. It also took me many, many years to "unthaw" and be able to integrate. But so worth it, even though it seems almost impossible to survive.