Another WWYD – Face to Face

There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home.” – John Stuart Mill

Okay, another what would you do.

I cannot speak from experience here (you will understand why in a moment) and ask mothers (or adoptees) that have been in real, face to face, voice, same room, same sandwich eating environments to comment.

A friend (you know who you are and you are free to out yourself) wrote me today. She was reunited recently with her son and is in the midst of a three-day face to face visit. The first in many years.

She is a flurry of overwhelming emotions. She wrote me a lengthy email (really needed an outlet and someone safe to share her thoughts with) and I responded with what I could. But I feel as if I fell flat and was frustrated in my ability to really comfort or counsel her.

I havent had that luxury.  I don’t know what it is like, what it feels like, smells like, to be in the same room with your adult child (well, not really, because THIS isn’t really the same).  I have only dreamed about it, written about it, and cried about it. I have never done it.  My emotional street cred is highly limited.

If you have been in reunion and have had that first face to face, that flurry, that surreal feeling of being but not being, how did you handle it? How did you manage the tidal wave of often conflicting emotions that would roll over you at any moment?

My simplistic advice to my friend was that she should be kind to herself, keep her loved ones and support structure close at hand. I suggested that face to face meetings, while glorious, can be equally wretched, for they reopen wounds that may have scarred over years ago.  It can be tough to emotionally bleed in front of your child or mother while simultaneously wanting to be calm, cool and collected and oh yeah, LOVEABLE. But again, I don’t have personal experience. I just imagine that is what it would be like for me. I would be so terrified I would might breathe the wrong way and my daughter would stomp out the back door while she screamed that her adoptive mother breathed better than I did. While trying to breathe correctly, I would be internally tending to the hematoma that would be exploding in my heart and trying to parent my sons, and keep a job and be a loving partner and not totally screw up a chance to reconnect with my child.

So, what advice do you offer my friend?

38 Thoughts.

  1. Hi Suz,

    Congratulations to your friend on her reunion. I had my first f2f with my son on September 8, 2006. I had no idea what to expect, only stardust in my eyes and dreams of finally being reunited with my family after 26 years. I was determined never to give up in my quest to let my son know just how much he was missed and loved. On this past Friday, he ended our three and 1/2 year reunion by unceremoniously and cruely dumping me on my voice mail.

    My experience aside,if I could magically transport back in time. Here are a few of the things I would take with me:

    1. Let go of all expectations, stay in the moment and enjoy every scent, laugh, nuance of the time she spends with her son.

    2. Remember that most adoptees think of their first mothers as strangers, while we think of them as our long lost children. Keep your heart in reserve. I’m not saying to be cold, but it’s important to stay grounded in the fact that this probably means a lot more to her than it does to him. That may sound a bit harsh but when the blush of reunion wears thin, one may just save themself some heartache.

    3. Let him set the pace, and keep yourself in reserve until much time has passed and you really get a chance to see what kind of person he is, just as you would any other person in your life. Build your relationship slowly and stay true to yourself.

    4. Listen to that still, small voice inside even if it’s not telling you what you are longing to hear, take heed and honor yourself. To him, you are a stranger. Be open, but proceed with due caution.

  2. A couple things I did when meeting my son for the first time. My wife was with me, she gave me some space, but she was also able to keep things moving when needed. On the last day we both had some one-on-one time with my son.

    When I first saw my son all I could do was look at him, I was at a complete loss of words, I shook his hand and gave him a basic hug, my wife was able to step in and get us talking.

    We had two days time, we kept the specific plans to a minimum, we had some thoughts of a couple of things we could do but we gave my son the option of calling the shots. When my son didn’t have any specific plans or suggestions we had some options and that worked out good. It was nothing fancy, a couple of drives to show him some areas we knew within a hundred miles of where he lived, lunch, dinner and some shopping for a couple of things we needed to pick up. It helped having activities that gave us some distraction and gave us something to talk about in addition to asking each other questions. We would have froze up if we just sat in a room looking at each other.

    It was hard but we put limits on the time we spent together. We stayed in a motel room in town. This gave both my son and myself some time to collect our thoughts and let the emotions settle down. At the time he didn’t have a girlfriend or anyone to support him emotionally with our meeting.

    My son was very apprehensive when it came time to meet up in the mornings and was at least an hour late in making contact each day. We just worked on a positive attitude, took the delay in stride and worked at not taking it personal.

    The first day his dress said “I don’t give a damn”, we just looked beyond his clothes. On the second day he was all cleaned up, shaved and looked sharp. We ended up having two of the greatest days.

    The emotions were overwhelming, much more than I imagined. Give yourself time, some space, try to keep expectations to a minimum and take it slow.

    You want it all, but there is no way you can make it work all at once. You want the other person to instantly bond with with you and be what you lost so long ago. It is hard to admit but when you meet you are basicly strangers with a connection and it takes time to build the bonds that we desire. Three years later we are still working at getting to know each other. It will always be a relationship that is different from the one that I have with the children I raised.

    Good luck and I wish all people in reunion the best. I thank everyone for asking questions, exposing their feelings and sharing their experiences. As hard as it is, sharing and talking is the only way we will be able to “normalize” our reunions, get some acceptance from society and let others learn.

  3. Liz and Bdad – Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. They both made me cry. I can only imagine not to mention the love and emotion in your words is staggering.

    Liz – I am aware of your situation and I am sending you massive hugs. We conversed on FB about this. I hope your son changes his mind. I hope his behavior is a reaction to recent events and he needs space.

  4. Suz, I will never allow my son to get close enough to me again to hurt me like this. Relationships must work for each party involved, once trust and respect go out the door, what is there left to build on?

    • Liz – I understand what you are saying and would love to dialogue further with you on this. Do you believe that you would turn your son away again if he came and apologized, said he wanted to reestablish contact? You dont have to answer if this is too personal.

      My hope would be (and I speak for myself too) that you could establish a safe boundary for yourself (let him know what behavior you will tolerate and what you will note) and yet establish contact (if he wishes and you can feel safe doing so).

      • Suz – I would absolutely let my son back in my life, if he came to me. I would forgive him. This is by no means an isolated incident. My relationship with him, however, will never be the same as it was before this incident. The damage is done. We could,however, start from this point and build our relationship over time. It is important to pay attention to what people teach you about themselves and how they choose to behave.

  5. From my experience:

    -If others are present, ie spouses, girlfriend, etc., keep them out of the initial meeting, if possible. Let the first meeting be just between mother and son. If that’s not possible, try to have some private time later on with just the two of you.
    -Go someplace together, i.e. a museum, park, festival, etc. This gives you a chance to do something together while slowly getting to know each other.
    -Have a physical outlet for your emotions; take a walk each day, use the fitness center in the hotel, take a swim, etc. This is incredibly useful for giving your mind a break and allowing your body to take over and burn off pent-up emotional energy.
    -Keep a normal sleep and waking schedule.
    -Have some “alone” time watching TV, reading, daydreaming, etc. The impulse is to want be together round the clock, but you really need time to decompress by yourself, especially at the end of the day.
    -Talk to your support network frequently so you can share your emotions.
    -Enjoy the magic!

  6. Ditto the advice of Liz, bdad and Maybe. To which I would add, don’t make it all serious. If the two of you are inclined toward humor, let it roll.

    The 14th anniversary of my first face-to-face with my son just passed. We have not communicated in well over a year. I feel like Liz: once bitten, twice shy. It would take a lot for my son and I to get the trust and respect back, if ever.

    But for now, just enjoy the experience. No matter what happens, nothing can take that away. It is indeed magic.

  7. I reunited with my son almost 7 years ago. Our reunion is still going strong.

    My advice is be as positive as you can.

    Here is what I recall from our first face-to-face.

    I let my son set the pace. I let him decide where we went and what we did
    – basically let him have control of the situation. He decided after a few months of e-mails and a few months of phone calls that he was ready to meet.

    He decided that we should meet at his place.

    I had my husband with me for moral support but he agreed to stay out of sight while I knocked on my son’s door. He said he would stay out of the way unless he was invited in.

    Now this might sound strange, but I couldn’t remember counting his toes when he was a baby and I had this weird thing that I had to know how many he had. I mentioned this in passing at some point to him before our meeting.

    My son opened the door and greeted me in his bare feet!
    He smiled at me.

    I didn’t know quite what to say, then I blurted out
    “My baby’s a man!” at which point my son gave me a big hug.

    My son then noticed my husband lurking in the stairwell of the apartment building and invited him to come inside as well.

    I brought some things that I thought he would like (he likes these biscuits called Jammy Dodgers which he thoroughly enjoyed).

    I gave him some pictures of myself and his siblings.

    I couldn’t take my eyes off him – it is really hard to explain.
    It is like I couldn’t believe it was real and that I might suddenly wake up and it all would disappear.

    I was just so happy to see him – happiness, with a little bit of the fear that it wasn’t real all at the same time.

    I simply enjoyed the fact that here my son was in front of me and I could talk to him – I was being part of his life.

    After chatting for quite some time, my son asked if I was ready to meet his girlfriend (they were already living together – she had done the same thing as my husband by stepping out for awhile). We had a meal together and then we went out together to a lovely park with a museum in the middle of it. We had a really great time. The park was a good idea as everyone could have space to speak. My husband walked with my son’s girlfriend so that I could talk to my son. I was just so happy that I was walking on air. I made sure that we had our picture taken together.

    Strangely enough, it wasn’t until the second time I saw my son that the heavy emotional stuff started coming out. I saw my son alone and my son’s girlfriend went to her parents place so that we would be alone and we could be as emotional as we wanted and needed to be. We both cried buckets and we were rather glad not to have an audience for this. It was very cathartic.

    It does take time to build a relationship. I still remember at the beginning that my son was reluctant to even e-mail me once a month. Now he calls me once a month and we e-mail each other at least once a week.

    Some more advice if you want it;

    Be good company and explore things together.
    He isn’t going to want to be with you if you are miserable all of the time.

    Find out what he likes to do – and do those things with him if you can.
    My son loves tall ships (which I also love) and we visited some together.

    Find out what food he likes – we both like Chinese food. My son took me to one of his favourite places and we had a wonderful time. You can always talk about food if the conversation starts flagging.

    Don’t dwell on the past – it won’t change anything and it won’t help the relationship. However, be prepared to answer questions, no matter how difficult they may be.

    Don’t say anything negative about the adoptive parents, even if you feel that way.
    It will push your son away from you.

    Remember that your son will not see the world with the same perspective as yourself. You must respect that, no matter how much it can hurt.

    The same can be said in the reverse – your son will not understand the social context of many years ago and it doesn’t hurt to correct wrong assumptions should they arise. My son can’t get over the fact that Ontario STILL will not let me or his father put his father’s name on his original birth certificate, even though his father has given his consent and continues to do so. I am still trying some more ways of doing so (such as going to the Ombudsman) but at least he knows we tried but we were denied. Ironically, my son was told that I didn’t know who his father was because his name was not on the original birth certificate – apparently the Ontario government has admitted that 90 percent of father’s names are missing.
    The Ontario government has finally admitted that the information was simply deleted (out of malice towards unwed mothers).

    Finally – treasure every moment – it is literally priceless.
    (and take loads of pictures LOL!!)

    I hope that is useful.

  8. Wow. All these responses are making me cry. I find myself so envious and at the same time so inspired and awed by the wonder and love of these parents for their sons. Thank you all for sharing.

  9. “Suz, I will never allow my son to get close enough to me again to hurt me like this. Relationships must work for each party involved, once trust and respect go out the door, what is there left to build on?”

    I am sorry your son broke it off with you, but what you say about him, was more than likely his very reason for breaking it off in the first place.

    • Joy,

      The fact that you are speaking out of both sides of your mouth in your comment, speaks volumes about you.

      • Oh dear, I see I completely did not explain myself well.

        I am sorry for that. I did not want to hurt you Liz in what I can only imagine is a very hard, scratch that, excruciating time. I see that I expressed myself very badly and am truly sorry.

        What I was trying to illustrate, was that it is more than likely, that your son was coming from a place of not understanding how to trust you, not through a fault of your own, but because that is what adoption does to most of us. There are some adoptees who seem to have a supernatural ability to see through the infant emotions that resurface in reunion.

        Most of us don’t.

        I could write a hundred posts on this, so I am trying to make it short. I understand that in giving him up, you did what you saw was the only alternative. For us as babies, we see our mother’s as all powerful. Those emotions live inside of us, and it is very hard to deal with.

        I relate to it with my own mother because at times she says even kind things and I don’t react well, because of what adoption did to me. That is a very important distinction, it isn’t what my mother did, it is what adoption did to all of us.

        What I was feeling when I wrote that, is he is coming from that place, that adoption place and more than likely it has nothing to do with what you said or didin’t say, did or didn’t do. It is ADOPTION that can make our nerves jangle with imagined lack of caring from our mothers, importance to them and whatnot.

        What I was asking, in my mind, obviously not clear in my comment is that you take a step back from thinking it is about what he did to you, and how you can’t trust him, and rather think of it as what trauma has done to him.

        Idk, maybe it is impossible for me to articulate it correctly. I feel it so strongly inside, but sometimes it is hard to get what is inside into a coherent message.

        I disagree with the relationships must work for each party involved once respect goes out the door comment specifically, because in my life that is not how relationships have worked. My son that I raised, well if I had those conditions on him, I would have booted him out the house at age six.

        Very meaningful relationships go through very hard times, at least in my life. I mean that sounds like a friend relationship. Our relatives are not friends.

        Personally, I think the notion of trust is highly over-rated, because even those with the best of intentions let us down at times and well you can’t trust someone else to do what you want.

        I don’t think trust is even necessary in a good relationship, I think if you trust yourself to endure and overcome that is enough.

        I think what your son needs from you is what my son needs from me, unconditional love. Of course, I am saying that from the luxury of someone whose son wasn’t separated from her.

        I think you can love him just as much, but love him for who he appears to be, someone traumatized. Someone struggling, and hopefully you cannot take it personally, although I am sure it feels personal.

        I am saying loving with with a tit for tat is not going to work.

        My heart really and truly goes out to you Liz. I would be adopted 100 times over if I had to, to still get to raise my child. It is really awful what adoption does to people who are caring and sensitive.

        I was just trying to say, consider loving in a different way, one that doesn’t make you more vulnerable, but the holding on to what adoption does to us, hurts all of us.

        I think that is what your son did, he is holding on to the lie, maybe you can hold on to him in an open way that hurts neither you or hiim, and keeps the door open for real help. I can’t say healing, because I have been at this a long time and well, it still hurts me.

        Knowing my mom is there, despite her mistakes, despite my huge hurt, and my own mistakes means more to me than words can express.

        I really was not talking out of both sides of my mouth, I really wanted to help, but can totally see how it came off that way. I am sorry.

        I will end this seemingly intermable comment with something I read somewhere else that I loved.

        I didn’t write it, but it is amazing and challenging. I am really sorry for the hurt you are experiencing, Liz, the hurt Suz lives with, the hurt I live with, that my mom lives with and all the rest of us too.

        It is v. hard, but we can do something different, we can, it is awkward and difficult. Still, I have faith.

  10. Joy, REALLY? So protecting one’s heart even from a family member/loved one is wrong and that’s somehow the justification for her son’s actions is what you imply??
    Excuse me while I go vomit, gimme a effing break…
    That’s BS with all due respect…I can’t begin to imagine what any of these ladies/gentlemen has/is going through, but HELL YES if a loved one hurt me as Liz mentions, YES I’d eventually forgive but forget?
    NEVER…and as Liz 100% correctly states, relationships exist mainly from a trust/respect perspective…
    From having tons of therapy I’ve learned you have to TRULY open your heart fully to make any kind of relationship work, I’ve also learned at times you HAVE to wall off that part of your heart when it’s been hurt/wronged…
    I applaud Liz for her insights/smarts…

    • Right, Rich, but say it was one of your kids. Say it was one of your kids that was dealing with a very difficult developmental stage that not only was difficult but there was no societal support for.

      Like I happen to know you are divorced. Imagine your children were told their entire lives that they were lucky to be from a divorced family. That they would probably be dead if you hadn’t divorced their mother. That you would have likely killed them if you hadn’t divorced. I know that sounds insane and extreme, but that is what we adoptees live.

      I think it is a huge mistake to treat the reunited adoptee as some kind of equal. We aren’t equals to our mothers, we lose all kinds of developmental, important steps with the woman whose body we were made from.

      Our mothers do too. It is sad all around. I will never forget my mother staring at my face, the way no one else has ever done, staring at my face like I was an infant, when I was an adult. Into my thirties.

      The physical bond is very real despite what the adoption industry says. It is traumatic in a way that is hard to explain. The social reaction of it is all good is equally truamatic. I just had to put my dog down, and I am telling you being able to talk about that trauma was hugely relieving.

      I can’t do that with adoption or abortion.

      We need to be able to look at adoption for what it is, a huge trauma, and trauma makes people do shitty things. We need to look beyond what we have known and try something else.

      If Suz’s daughter was allowed to feel the pain of separation, instead of focusing on her amom’s desperation, there is no question in my mind she would be dealing with a different story.

      No, I don’t agree with manipulation, but you have to take into consideration of what we adoptees have lived through. What we have been told. It for sure is the toughest thing I have lived through, and I have lived through some pretty tough things.

      Love loves. Just like writers write, without conditions.

      Would I turn my back on the kid I raised? Never. Would I tell him that he had to meet me half-way? Never.

      He is my son. I love him regardless.

      It is too bad that adoptees, who are traumatized, are held to a higher standard. We need the love most.

      • Joy – What you say is a lot of what I see in the relationship with my son. Luckily we have been able to override some of the outside influences that could derail our reunion, including his adoptive family.

        I think perhaps it is because he is older and we have decided to take this from the first day of our reunion forward. None of this is easy. Thank you for expressing your viewpoint so well.

    • Hey Rich,
      Joy’s momma here. I know you love to protect your sweet Suz and I feel the same about my beloved DD. What triggered your reactivity and lack of respect here? Don’t be too quick to judge your experience. What you see as an irritation may be an opportunity to learn and grow. Joy didn’t say anything about forgetting. I expect us to use our experiences to stand on and to expand from, not to forget.

      Hearts don’t need protection. My ego seeks protection, not my heart.

      Maintaining integrity within myself and with my loved ones may not always evoke happiness at the moment. But it builds trust in myself which is what I really need to nurture my relationships. The foundation for my relationships is the love, trust and respect I have for myself in Spirit. I am strengthened each time I tear down walls within myself and encompass the hurt part with loving.

      Take care,

      • Liz that was one hell of a reply concerning ‘victim pain’ and ‘authentic pain’…WOW fantastically, insightful thoughts…
        Jmomma, WHERE was I protecting Suz specifically?
        Suz is quite the able bodied strong woman, she doesn’t need me for protection…will I defend her and back her, hell to the YES!!!
        As the song says, “I’ll Stand By You”…

      • Hi again Rich,
        I’m sorry. I didn’t mean anything in your above comment was protecting Suz. I agree she is very capable of protecting herself, no question. I respect her in that too. I was referring to an overall impression that you feel protective of her, just like you state below. I mentioned it because my feelings toward my daughter reminded me of my impression of your feelings toward Suz. I felt uncomfortable, as though you were attacking Joy,
        ( who is also more than able to handle minor skirmishes like this). But your tone did bring out protective feelings in me.

  11. Liz :

    It is important to pay attention to what people teach you about themselves and how they choose to behave.

    I agree. Hence my suggestion of setting boundaries. I believe (based on my own expeience) many mothers struggle with doing so. Having had our boundaries so horribly violated by society, church, parents when we had our children, we maintain loose or nonexistent boundaries with others (including our children) and allow them to hurt us over and over. Perhaps we feel we deserve it, perhaps we dont know any better. Takes time, therapy and good love from others to realize that certain hurtful behavior does not have to be tolerated. Takes strength to stand up for oneself.

    I also often wonder if some are so convinced that mothers (who give their children up for that mythical better life) have no feelings and as such can abuse us and not expect any repercussions. They are shocked when we turn out to be human after all.

  12. It has definitely been a learning process knowing how to balance all of the complicated emotions that come up surrounding boundaries. There are no traditional role models for how to set boundaries with the child,now adult you placed for adopition who found you after 26 years. It is difficult to walk that line of understanding that there are issues surrounding the relationship and trying to be gentle and understanding, while not losing your sense of yourself and your own boundaries in the process.

    “I also often wonder if some are so convinced that mothers (who give their children up for that mythical better life) have no feelings and as such can abuse us and not expect any repercussions. They are shocked when we turn out to be human after all.”

    I have definitely experienced this ideology. It is some socially preconceived notion, that when we placed our children for adoption, that effectively cut off our right to have any feelings about how they treat us. It is as if we gave up the right to be human, we have been reduced to “walking uterus” who is being allowed to hang around as a favor; unless we object to any behavior that is hurtful and inappropriate

  13. These reunion stories are amazing! I also am envious & at the same time hopeful that someday I may have a reunion story of my own to tell.


  14. Liz :

    who is being allowed to hang around as a favor; unless we object to any behavior that is hurtful and inappropriate

    Ugh. Yes. Exactly. I know what is feels like to be granted that “favor”.

    : (

  15. I was too shocked and terrified to feel much of anything at first. Once I got past that initial stage of awkwardness and fear, it wasn’t so bad – but I was still glad I had some sort of writing outlet.

    I think having a way to express oneself – either by typing or by manual writing – really helps.

  16. joy :

    I think it is a huge mistake to treat the reunited adoptee as some kind of equal

    Equal to whom or what Joy? I may or may not disagree.

    I treat my children – including my daughter – equally when it comes to how I expect to be treated. I do not tolerate being abused, mistreated, disrespected. I care for their feelings I expect the same in return. You seem tos uggest adoptees are held to a higher standard yet at the same time you suggest they are handicapped and therefore should be held to a lower one? Which is the case?

    Two examples from my own life.

    Sometime ago my daughter made a very hurtful statement to me about my stay in a maternity home. She minimzed it, insinuated I was making a bigger deal of it than it was, that I was some sort of martyr. I let her know that her comments were hurtful and that she is not allowed to speak to me in that manner. She doesnt know (becuase she chooses not to) what it was like for me to be sent away and live in that “home” and she is not allowed to minimize it. Did I cut her off? No.. But I set a boundary that this is one topic she is not allowed to be disrespect. Ask me about it, discuss it with me, but you are not permitted to minimize or mock it.

    (Many mothers I know would have tolerated it in fear that objecting to it, demanding respect would cause their child to “leave” them. I can only speak for myself but I require a relationship of mutual respect – from friends, partners, AND children.

    A week or so ago, my oldest son was disrepsectful and hurtful to me related to his parents divorce. I let him know. I understood where he was coming from. While he had a “right” to be angry and upset at what he was, he was not entitled to take that anger out on me and be abusive. We talked about appopriate ways to channel that anger, and talked at length. Doing so strengthened our relationship and set a boundary.

    • Again, I am not sure what I said was clear. In the comment you quoted Suz, I meant that I often observe nmoms expecting their reunited children to react to them on a peer level.

      I am sure some adoptees would disagree with me, but in my experience and in the experiences of others that I have witnessed in long-term reunion, there is a whole lot of emotional undercurrents that take one by surprise. Especially given that the culture most adoptees grow-up in is very adoptive parent centered.

      I wouldn’t use the term “handi-capped” to describe adoptes, although in some ways I think it fits, or perhaps “developmentally-delayed” although not in the way that term is often used.

      I never had the experience you describe with your child, with my child. Idk, I just didn’t. I mean it is not like he never said things with the intent to hurt me, my personal favorite was when he was 14 and I told him to pick up his room ASAP and he told me that not only does he hate me but all his friends hate me and I have no idea how many friends he has.

      I just said, “Welp, you still have to pick this mess up” because I recognized it as a ploy to get me to react. He hated that I had power over him and how he spent his time. Personally, I think that is key, to respond to the motivation and not the symptom, or at least that has been a very effective method for me.

      As I said, in my experience my bond with my mother was very physical. Some very mysterious and hard to explain exchanges have taken place between us. I couldn’t help but notice it mirrored a lot of developmental milestones that would have occured naturally, had nature been able to take its course.

      I imagine, and I don’t think unfairly, that your daughter heard one narrative growing up, and the information you gave her was very new. People often reject new information.

  17. Joy,

    You’ve jumped to some pretty big conclusions and made a lot of assumptions about me and my relationship with my son. Could this be you projecting your own issues and pain?

    Our feelings and expressions of pain come from two very different sources and two very different intentions.

    Victim Pain

    Victim pain comes from the abandoned wounded self. The pain is real, but it is self-caused. It is the result of abandoning yourself through self-judgments or from ignoring your own feelings and needs. It comes from a very needy abandoned child place within, and is always a pull on others to take over as the compassionate loving Adult.

    When you are in victim pain, you are deeply suffering. You might wonder why others are not more compassionate toward you when you are suffering so much. The problem is that others see that you are the one causing your suffering. Your suffering feels manipulative to those around you and they just want to get away from you. Your needy energy feels “yucky” to them.

    Even if people are compassionate toward you when you are in victim pain, it doesn’t do much good. It may feel good to you for the moment, but because the pain is being caused by your own self-abandonment, others can’t “fix” this for you. They eventually feel frustrated due to your refusal to take loving care of yourself.

    When someone you care about is in victim pain, you might have felt badly for not feeling like comforting him or her. Your lack of desire to hold and comfort them is accurate and you need to listen to it. You cannot help them by becoming the Adult for their wounded inner child. You will be much more help to them by telling them that you love them and would be happy to help them, but you cannot fix them. You can let them know that you are available to support them in helping themselves when they are ready to do so.

    The way out of victim pain is to open to learning about how you are causing your pain. Imagine your pain as a child drowning in a river. Instead of jumping in and drowning with him or her, you reach out as a loving a Adult with an intent to learn and pull your child out. As an adult, you do not indulge yourself in wallowing in your pain. Instead, you comfort your child while learning about what you are thinking, believing and doing that is causing your pain. Victim pain is caused by false beliefs and unloving actions such as self-judgment and self-abandonment – ignoring your feelings and needs. It is caused by making others responsible for your feelings and needs instead of taking personal responsibility for yourself.

    Authentic Pain

    Authentic emotional pain is sadness, sorrow and grief expressed in response to:

    Present loss and heartbreak

    Working on memories of past abuse with an intent to learn and heal

    Being moved by others’ authentic pain
    When someone close to you is in authentic pain, you generally feel a desire to comfort him or her. It is easy for most people to feel compassion for someone who is genuinely hurting from life experiences of abuse, loss and heartbreak, and is willing to self-nurture.

    When you are in authentic pain, it is important to comfort yourself and reach out for comfort. Authentic pain is like the tide – it comes and goes. When we acknowledge it, accept it and comfort it, it moves through us. Instead of suffering, as in victim pain, we are experiencing the pain in order to learn from it and allow it to move through us.

    Stuck emotions cause the body much stress and eventually illness. Staying stuck in victim pain is often a cause of illness. It is vitally important for health and wellbeing to acknowledge, learn from and comfort your feelings so that they can move through your body and be released.

    Next time you are in pain, if you find others withdrawing from you, consider that you may be in victim pain. Instead of staying stuck in suffering, open to learning about how you are causing your own pain.

    • Hmmm, I don’t relate to this victim pain, vs. authentic pain model at all. I mean who is the judge? I imagine if you are in what is described as “victim” pain it feels very authentic, and who is to say it isn’t?

      People have their own experiences, they deal with it to their best ability, and that changes.

      I don’t believe I jumped to any conclusions about your relationship with your son. I saw that you were hurt, very understandably so, and was just trying to offer a different way of looking at it in the hopes it could be helpful to you. I really think that the trauma adoptees face is overlooked, minimized by natural families, adoptive families and society at large. It is very difficult to navigate to me what feels like a split identity. Hence the name of my blog, and why I think a lot of adoptees simply can’t and excommunicate one family or the other.

      Again, I think a certain amount of what happens is developmental. When my son was three, he said “I hate you” whenever I would ask him to pick-up his toys, a theme that would repeat 10 years later. I recognized that he hated my power over him and didn’t think much of it. Obviously, it is much easier to respond to that kind of behavior from a person in a three year old body vs. a 23 year old body or however old your son is.

      I think quite often it comes from the same place. Although, as an adult adoptee who experienced regression with my mother myself, I found my behavior bewildering and childish and therefore humiliating, creating a cycle of shame. Now I don’t, I can recognize it easier, although not always, I still get caught up esp. if I am stressed and hormonal.

      I was just trying to be helpful and suggest recognizing where the behavior stems from, and responding to that part. Like saying something to the effect of , “I am sorry you are feeling this way, nevertheless I am here for you and will be thinking of you”

      I was just trying to offer some insight into why these things happen. Obviously, I over-stepped my boundaries of what was welcome.

      Well, it isn’t my first mistake and won’t be my last. 🙂

      • Thank you Joy. I found this reply very helpful. I’ve experienced the behaviors you are speaking of from my son, and yes, it is certainly hard to deal with coming from an adult. I have done much research, talked to many members of the triad, read various books, but in the end, it comes down to how he and I set up and navigate our relationship. Hopefully we will be able to pick it back up at some point but for now, he has requested no contact and I will honor that for many reasons. Our relationship is complicated, as are most. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight and experience. Hugs.

  18. Happy as I am to have a discussion about “behaviour” in reunion, I keep thinking about Suz’s friend who prompted the post. She must be thinking Holy Cow what did I get myself into. I think a lot of the suggestions about how to handle a reunion were very good. I think meeting your child is a wonderful, wonderful experience, even though I have had an experience similar to Liz’s and, I hate to tell you this Liz, more than once.

    I meet all kinds of people every day and I expect them to treat me with respect and I think they should expect the same of me. A few years ago when my daughter was a teenager and she would get a little nasty with me, I would always say to her. Is that the way we are going to treat each other in this family now, because if you that’s what you want, it can be arranged. She usually got the message. I also say, or used to say, as not to much call for it these days, even though I’m mad at you, I still love you. She would beam when I said that because she knew really everything is OK.

    I think people think that they can dump on “birth” mothers not because they think we are unfeeling but because they are accustomed to think of us as weak and pitiful. I haven’t met a weak and pitiful one of us yet-in person or on-line. (Particularly Suz as Rich points out.)

    Most of us would say we don’t know who the hell that girl was back then who made that decision. We were trapped, broken-hearted, beaten down, had zero support and were told we were not best for our kids by everybody around us. (For many of us one of the biggest pain factors for us is finding out just how untrue that last one was.)

    But you know, I get extremely tired of the who is hurtin’ the most debate. We are all hurting or if I may dare to put it in the past tense, hurt, because that is where I would like to see all this hurt reside in the past.

    To me, having successful reunions, to heal some of the hurt, is the way to not let the terrorists win. And believe me the terrorists are out there in many guises.

    But both sides have to want it – no matter what baggage they bring to the table. So Suz’s friend, I hope it is going well. Reflect on some of the advice you were given here because I think it is right. It is a wild ride. But you know I still smile about being where you are right now even with all of its ups and down and my not-so-perfect present situation. No guts – no glory!



  19. Hi Suz, I have been reading all of these wonderful and sad stories. Taking every bit of advice and comparing it to what I have done in this past week with my son. I will tell you that speaking to him on the phone, he was very “a matter of fact” with everything, but when it came right down to it he was just as scared as I was. He arrived in the city as planned but put me off until four hours later. This was very understandable, yet upsetting to me. Nevertheless, he was here. I was never so happy to have a week drag by. We had a wonderful family gathering, food, drink, and stories that filled his head and heart. Stories that he needed to fill the empty space in his heart. The one person I knew he needed to see and talk to ( B father) has passed away. This was hard on all of us. Bringing the memories back, good and bad. His big heart taking it all in and the comfort I could see in his eyes that he IS truly loved and welcomed into our family. I dont know whats going to happen now. He knows he is welcome here always. He left today to return to his life, and he can return to this life any time. Only time will tell how this reunion will continue. I am here, we all are here. Regardless of the outcome, I had the best time of my life!! Thanks Suz and everyone else for your advice, comments and love I feel from all of you. <3

    • Cathy – Wonderful. Made me cry. Baby steps. Good to hear from you. Lots of love and hope and good things to you, your son and your entire family.

  20. Hey Suz, I found this quote and I just wanted to share it with everyone. I hope it’s ok….Thanks

    “My baby was my gift to the world to show everyone strength in innocence and purity, and one day I pray my baby will come home to me to tell me of his journey that I can take with him”.

    • Cathy, Your reunion story brings back memories of my own. I sincerely hope that you and your son will have many years to know each other. Take good care of yourself on your journey. The quote you shared is certainly my prayer.

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