Seven years ago today my adoptive mother died. It’s not so much that I grieve over her being gone, but more like grieving over a loss for what we didn’t have; a healthy, loving, mother- daughter relationship. I was adopted to fill a void in her life, to bring her happiness, and I really tried the best that I could. I feel guilty honestly saying I actually felt lighter, free and relieved after she passed. She was physically, verbally and emotionally abusive and I was a parentified, hyper vigilant child.
After many years of brainwashing and living an uncomfortable existence in my adoptive’s parents unreality (what I call “The Land of Make Believe”), something happened that allowed me to finally see this charade and exposed this unhealthy parent-adult child relationship I was a participant in. The catalyst was my older adopted sister, diagnosed Bipolar and ADHD sadly spiraled into addiction and alcoholism, abandoning her young children eventually losing all her possessions, becoming homeless. She had always been the scapegoat for all the problems in our family. I was beginning to realize it was my parents that created the environment or what I like to describe as a “stage” where they were the great pretenders and we had to go along with the performance to make them happy and look good to the outside world, no matter the cost of losing ourselves in the process. Their happiness was more important than their children’s as was their pain. Trying to understand the dynamics of my dysfunctional adoptive family, I searched the internet…emotional blackmail, controlling parents, toxic parents, personality disorders. I purchased and read dozens of books and came to the conclusion that my mother had borderline personality disorder and my father was a sadistic narcissist (diagnosed ADHD). The big red velvet, weighty curtains on the stage had finally opened and I could clearly see the problems lit up like neon signs.
I chose to distance myself from them and focus on doing some healing work. They were demanding and enraged when I pulled away. My father demanded that I return every gift that they had ever given me. I left those items on my front porch and he seriously came and picked them up. I was removed from the will. I was blamed for all of their physical ailments. I had minimal contact with my adoptive parents for six years and those were some of the best years of my life, except for missing my extended family who sided with my parents. I was disinvited to all of the family celebrations. Some health issues came up for my daughter and, with pressure from family members, I reluctantly let my parents back into my life. We had been back in contact for about 9 months when my adoptive mother who was undergoing cancer treatment, died unexpectedly, 7 days before my 41st birthday. She was 67, the same age my birthmother is right now. My adoptive mother and my birthmother were both undergoing treatment for uterine cancer at the same exact time. I’ve always held this irrational belief that I was to blame for both of their diseased wombs.
My birthday is very close to Christmas, At two days old I was handed over to my adoptive parents in a stocking. December has always been a difficult month and my birthday has never been a happy celebratory event for me. As a child I would crawl under the table and cry, covering my ears when people would sing “Happy Birthday”. My birthday is a painful reminder of the separation from my first mother. I remember as a young adult sitting alone in the dark with candles lit, crying on my birthday. It wasn’t until I read The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier, that I realized these feelings were not uncommon for adoptees. This book is a very validating source of information.
The holidays bring up ideal visions of warm family gatherings, but I feel a deep loss, never having been completely accepted or welcomed into my family of origin. I’m treated differently. I see their pictures on Facebook, and they rarely acknowledge my existence. I thought that after the death of my adoptive mother, my birthmother would be more forthcoming and inclusive, but that wasn’t the case. She distanced herself even more from me.
Continuing a relationship with my widower, narcissitic, abusive tyrant adopted father has been very difficult for me. I put on a happy face and keep the charade going once again. I do it out of obligation, because there is no one else and the extended family has expectations of me. My brother, the golden child, lives far away and my sister is off the radar, homeless and ill somewhere out there. I’m in therapy to try to help me with my adoption issues and deal with my adoptive father, but I pray every day for complete emancipation that will only happen when he leaves this earth.
December is a month of tremendous loss for me; the death anniversary of my adoptive mother, my birthday and reminders of disconnection to my birthmother and family of origin… tis the season of grieving. I will acknowledge my grief and honor it, be gentle with myself and practice some self care. I’ll also be delighted when January 1st rolls around, as the days start getting longer and December becomes just another memory.
Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom. –Rumi