“I am responsible. Although I may not be able to prevent the worst from happening, I am responsible for my attitude toward the inevitable misfortunes that darken life. Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.” – Walter Anderson
I was recently asked how I live with the loss of my daughter. I was also asked if it could ever be repaired and would the loss go away following reunion.
As always, I can only speak for myself.
I can answer the second question a bit more succinctly. Will it go away? Personally, I don’t think so. Will it lessen or change or morph into something else? For me, yes. Will I learn to live with it? Yes.
A few months ago I created a firestorm but suggesting healing from adoption trauma was not possible – FOR ME. I still believe this and still hold firm that it will be changed or morphed or hurt less but it will never be okay, will never go away, will never be a good thing. It just is. I have to work on integrating it just like my daughter must integrate her two mothers, two families, two names and more.
Best thing I can do FOR ME is to integrate and find ways to minimize the pain and loss. I find fillers for the void in that I help others, work to educate others, work for reform, go to therapy, focus on my other children. Is this a good thing? I suppose it depends on your perspective. For now, it works for me.
I recently read the book by Elizabeth Gilbert titled “Eat Pray Love”. The middle section of the book takes place while Liz is living in an ashram in India. Richard from Texas suggests to Liz that she can control her thoughts. That she can choose to be sad and angry or grieving or she can choose to let something go.
I view the pain of my loss of my daughter in a similar fashion. I choose how to feel and think about this. Others don’t do it for me. I can choose to sit in my house, not get out of bed and be all weepy or I can choose to do what I can, focus on the good and try to let go of what hurts.
Again, for now it works for me.
The reason I say FOR ME it will never go away is that I believe some cell of my being, some part of my mother body, will always want my little girl back. I will always be reminded of what I lost. In every holiday, birthday, word, image, and expression. But where my choice comes is I can choose how to react to those reminders. I can be emotionally electrocuted and destroyed or I can welcome in the thoughts, give them a seat next to me and tell them they cannot hurt me today.
Case in point.
I once had a discussion with my daughter’s father wherein I asked him if in his mind he refers to her as her birth name or her amended name. He stated he referred to her as her amended name. I was pleased with this as I thought it showed some acceptance and growth on his part. (My mother still calls her by her birth name and this irritates me beyond words). I told first dad that I agree with him. In my view, her birth name is the daughter she was supposed to be had we raised her versus the daughter she is. We didn’t raise her. Someone else did. That’s reality. She has told me she prefers to be referred to as her amended name and does not recognize her original. Out of respect for her, I believe I must follow suit.
I believe that my mother insists on calling her by her birth name because my mother has not been able to accept reality (or her part in creating that reality). My mother has not been able to welcome in the painful reality, allow it to take a seat next to her and go on with her days. My mother is still focusing on the loss and what should have been versus what is.
But to the first question, how do I live with the loss? Uh, I just do. How does anyone live with any loss? We go on (hopefully). Some mothers I know lived with the loss by having more children, lots of children immediately. Others I know had their tubes tied to prevent further pregnancies. Some I know became alcoholics and drug addicts. Other moms even committed suicide.
And still others, like me, just went on. One day at a time. One night at a time.
I can tell you that for many years I lived with the loss via a double life. I kept all my pain and agony inside me. I led an online adoption life and I led my IRL life. I withheld my adoption pains and stories from my husband and family and friends. I did not want to “taint”my IRL life with the ugliness of my adoption life. Or so I thought. What I was doing was alienating myself further by allegedly protecting others around me from well – me. After all, society and the brokers that sold my daughter said she deserved better than me. Wouldn’t that logic apply to all others in my life as well?
The question these days is not really how do I live with the loss but how do I live with knowing where she is and not being able to talk, share, be with her. I have lived with the loss for over 20 years. That I have survived. Now I work on surviving reunion. Again, one day at a time.
Some may argue that death is the greatest loss in life. I don’t agree but I suppose that depends also on your religion and belief system. For me, the adoption of my daughter is the greatest loss in my life. However, if I don’t find a way to accept it, a greater loss will be what dies inside of me while I live.