November is National Adoption Awareness Month
by, Diana Beck
If I wish you a happy birthday, how would that make you feel? Think about your initial reaction to reading the words “happy birthday.” Chances are, you experienced an immediate emotional response that has been ingrained within you for many years. Joy? Guilt? Loss? Rejection? Happiness? A pervasive sense of hollowness, irritability, and dread? Birthdays are a distinctive experience for every one of us, especially if you are an adoptee.
We cannot choose our birth, the day we are born, our birth parents, or our birthplace. These are conditions entirely out of our control. Each one of us owes our existence to the connection between two individuals. This bonding moment produced your life: you are a product of profound attachment.
The organic bond that attaches mother and child is powerful. It defines how we interact with others and influences our establishment of identity. This instinctual bond, while unobservable, is felt to the core of our self. This feeling, experienced as a lifelong yearning for connection to the birth mother, will transcend our relationships throughout our lifetime. This is why the beginning is so crucial as it will impact our development of healthy relationships. Once an attachment becomes avoidant, anxious, or fearful, our ability to trust, express, and experience intimacy and relate to others often takes a significant time to repair.
Attachment is a fragile thing.
Our lives are fundamentally rooted in a betweenness – there is never just an I – there is always another person. In effect, attachment is at the very core of our survival. The absence of healthy attachments—meaningful connections to others, self, society – creates anxiety, despair, silence, identity dissolution, and death. The ramifications of damaged attachment are many, including issues related to identity, self-esteem, and self-worth. Uncertainty in relationships, feelings of abandonment, and rejection fears also stem from disruptions in our beginning of life attachment experiences.
It is incredibly challenging to navigate the world through the confusion and mistrust and construct a clear, secure sense of belongingness. While many of us may experience damage to our early attachment, an adopted child’s experience is magnified to a severe degree. Individuals who are adopted may experience adoption-related trauma, difficulty connecting with others, and express not feeling loved enough. Their situations can become even more complicated if they are a transracial adoptee.
We heal through relationships with others, through forming a meaningful sense of relatedness to another human being. I facilitate a group, “Attachment After Adoption,” at Mindfulpath. This group provides a safe place to grieve the loss of attachment, explore how we relate to others through damaged childhood attachment experiences, and create more room for choice in relationships with the self and others. If you have been adopted or have adopted a child, please reach out if you’re interested in joining our group.
Resources on adoptions: