When You're Not Happy and Your Adoptive Family Members Say You Need to Be

This may be the strangest thing you've ever heard. Or it may be a key to a breakthrough for you as it was for me.

As recently as three years ago, no one in my adoptive family had ever seemed to care about my feelings about adoption let alone validate them. Heck, I would have settled for someone just listening -- really listening, minus the validation. But up to three years ago that hadn't happened. Now, I do believe I need to give some credit here to a few individuals who would have listened and validated. But I never started a conversation. Neither did they so I guess we are even.

My validators in my adoptive family are:

My sister, Kim. We are both adopted and have an understanding between us of all that it is to grow up, adopted.

Then there is my cousin Hank who I see or hear very little from - however - whenever I have - he has been supportive.

Then there is my cousin Grace who is a huge support. We have always had a great relationship and when she heard my feelings about adoption I was met with immediate understanding.

Then there is Grace's daughter Amy -- my second cousin, who is also extremely supportive.

 And then, there is my Dad.

Prior to me writing my story, Worthy To be Found, my father and I didn't have an understanding about this. When I got brave enough to share a few things, (usually on my blog) he would say something like, "I don't know what in the world you would be so upset about," or something of that nature. 

Hearing something like that right out of the gate gave me the message that going any further was a moot point. But then, I wrote my story for better or for worse. And some of both came. With some people in my world things became incredibly better and for others it turned worse and has never recovered. Am I sorry for that? No. If people are mad at me for telling the truth, so be it.

I wrote my story. And my Dad read it. And he didn't comment until the 14 day story was almost over. And when he did, it shocked me. He got it. He really, really got it. He put himself in my shoes for a moment and saw just a glimpse  of what it was like to grow up as me. And everything changed. Maybe he didn't really have the attitude prior to this that I just needed to put all my feelings of grief aside and be happy, but that's what I felt - that's what I perceived from him. But after I wrote my story, he no longer exuded whatever that was that I used to feel. Instead what I felt from him was, "It's okay to not be happy about this."

And you know the strangest thing that took place? Ready for this? This is crazy. But when my Dad validated my unhappiness and grief over so much of what happened, and had the attitude, "it's okay to not be happy about any of this..." I became happy!

Yes, you read that right. I became happy. 

(This doesn't mean I became happy with everything that had happened to me, or that I felt that everything within the institution of adoption was suddenly okay. What I refer to is personal happiness.)
That's the power of what just one parent or relative validating your pain can do for you.

Now keeping it real, I still have a lot of family who don't recognize, listen or validate a darn thing when it comes to loss, grief and challenges with adoption. And they probably won't ever. And that's okay.

Somebody did. A few somebodies did. And it made the world of difference.

My friend Laura Dennis say that so many times in the adoptee community we are like a big echo chamber. We just sit around validating each other and embracing each other's pain because few others are out there doing it. And we long for that to change. And it seems to come so slow. And when it does so often it's one step forward, two steps back.  Sometimes it seems like we sit around validating each other and cheering one another on but no one else in the world is joining in. And it hurts. 

The thing is that our adoptive family's validation carries weight. They are the ones who raised us, the ones we grew up with, the ones whose culture we understand better than any other because we lived it all those years. And we long to hear, "We understand, and it's okay to not be happy about everything that happened to you." If they only understood how relationships improve when we just hear and feel that validation.

I enjoy talking to and being with my dad. I like hearing from him. I feel like I can be me with him and don't have to pretty everything up all the time if something makes me feel sad.

I truly wish all adoptive family members out there of adoptees would grasp this reality that their relationships would so change as they seek to understand and as they validate instead of shame, correct or minimize.

I was given a precious gift as my Dad sought to understand. My prayer is that more and more adoptees receive the gift of understanding from adoptive family members. Even just one makes a huge difference.