Empty Cereal Box

Views From Inside an Adoptee

May 11, 2006

Grief

I want, no I need to talk about grief right now. Yeah, that's right. So if you needed something cheerful to read, I apologize. Please click out and I wish you a pleasant day (or evening).

Who doesn't know about the suffocating gray blanket that settles over us when we lose people, pets, even trees to death? (I cried my heart for a whole day out when they cut down an ancient cedar tree on my street earlier this year.) Grief is the heavy blanket that settles over you when someone or something you love dies or leaves. There is a specific event: death or the break-up of a relationship where you realize you're never going to see that being again. That nothing on earth can replace her/his/its unique presence and belovedness. The grief engulfs you with a near unbearable weight. You can't eat, sleep, function. You just want to crawl into a deep, dark womb and pull it in after you. You don't want to deal with daily life or ordinary circumstance. You remain in an echo chamber of loss for some time--sometimes years. You want to die without your beloved's presence. Everything is diminished. Everything loses its colors, even bright spring days fade to shades of cold gray. You think nothing can ever be set right again.

You are allowed to go through a period of time that society calls "mourning." Your reclusive, emotional, erratic, unconsolable behavior is accepted and you are bestowed sympathy and understanding, at least superficially. But you know that you are the one going through this agony and that no one can reach in and console you, no matter how good their intentions. Around others you find yourself trying to "buck up" for their sake. You go through motions, prop up your smile, show gratitude for their concern and sympathy.

But no matter how traumatized you are, time has a way of healing the grief from death. The sharpness begins to soften, the memories begin to fade. You begin to come out of yourself. It's as if a deep wound has begun to scab over. You can begin to laugh a little again. You feel the heavy gray burden begin to lighten and gradually, imperceptibly, life continues as it did before. The snow melts and the river begins to flow again. You discover you no longer need to act as if you're healing. You actually are healing, thanks to loved ones, friends, spirituality, therapy, drugs, whatever was there for you. Now your loved one lives on as a faded memory. Their photos and belongings don't fill you with such an agonized sense of loss any more. You realize that love hasn't disappeared, it has only transformed. You realize life and you have both moved on and you can face new beginnings. You have moved through your grief.

Now, I know from first-hand experience that adoptees, despite brief periods of respite, live in a state of low-level, permanent grief. Everything I described above, only without relief. At birth or at a young age, the adoptee's entire universe, her identity, her sense of self dies. There is no respite. No consolation. No recourse to heal unless she breaks laws or bends spoons with her mind. Her frozen grief will never melt; the dark and empty room will never light up with people to whom she belongs. Often she has no memories or keepsakes to hold. Her entire existence is propped up, manufactured for other people's convenience. Her grief exists far beyond the relationship level. It exists at the cellular, even genetic level. You can't touch that, even if you're a scientist. Her entire existence is defined by and saturated with grief from birth to death. Even if her nfamily was simply awful, it was still her nfamily. Hers. Her anchor, in spite of everything.

People mean well when they speak of healing. "You have to stop wallowing in your misery. You can begin to heal if you really want to," they suggest. To me, that's like telling a gay person they can begin to be straight if they really want to. I write this blog and read and listen to spiritual teachers because I want to heal. I really, really do. My last few posts prove that I have days when it's a joy to be alive. Wish I could write uplifting, spiritual posts every day.
But days like today I want to vanish. Days like today I wish my mother had had an abortion because I feel as if I'm just taking up space. What I feel is beyond self-pity. It's cellular exhaustion and death. It's like a Monsanto death seed. Today is one of those days I can't help being so grim. It's the way I feel.

Every adoptee deals with her own grief and trauma in her own way. Yesterday I read about Masha Allen for the first time on The Daily Bastardette. Masha makes my grief and trauma look like a dish of vanilla pudding. But I too am living in permanent grieving in my own way, in the shadows of a life that died--my own.

Tomorrow we leave for San Francisco for a week, but if I can access wi-fi, I'll try to write more cheeful posts from there.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You don't know grief until you know what a child of mine would have gone through if I kept her.

I was 18. When I gave her up, it was only after I witnessed my boyfriend attempt to give her to a prostitute to raise.

You want grief? That would have been grief, child.

I thank God every day that, as a lost 18-year-old, I at least had enough sense to know THAT wasn't right.

If I found my daughter today, I would be very disappointed to find her grieving when she should be thanking God I didn't raise her.

But if she found me today, she would find a competent adult and it is partly because 34 years ago I did the hard thing but the RIGHT thing too.

12.5.06  
Blogger HeatherRainbow said...

I can also tell you, that mothers also have an eternal grief that we go through because of the loss of our child. And, we are not allowed to express grief, because we didn't something happy for someone else.

Have fun on your trip to San Francisco. And, it's always ok to feel sad, grief, and other feelings. Always.

12.5.06  
Blogger Marie Jarrell said...

My heart aches for both of you. I didn't mean to imply that nmothers don't also go through unbearble grief. I was only speaking my own reality, getting it out onto the page.

14.5.06  
Blogger Kippa Herring said...

Just saying hi to you in San Francisco, and to let you know that I'm off to the library to find something by Anne Lamott, on your recommendation.

16.5.06  
Blogger HeatherRainbow said...

((Marie Jarrell))

16.5.06  
Blogger AMYADOPTEE said...

I can understand what you feel. I too am not taking away from bmothers or natural mothers. I think what Marie is talking about is her loss of not being able to know her mother. Mine refuses me altogether. I know that I hurt badly this weekend. All I could do is cry. My thoughts were this "how can she refuse me who broke the chains that bound her all of her life?"

16.5.06  
Blogger Rhonda said...

You want grief? That would have been grief, child.

Marie, thank you for having the courage to write about feelings so many keep to themselves.

And, please, do not take to heart words said by people who don't understand that adoptee grief is born of the very human desire to connect with their history; with themselves, and that the "circumstances" of relinquishment do not remove that desire.

16.5.06  
Blogger 34quinn said...

I identify with your grief. I respect it. I would not tell you that you shouldn't feel what you feel. You are feeling it for a reason and so it is real.

Annonymous...I just want to respond to your comment where you said ..."If I found my daughter today, I would be very disappointed to find her grieving when she should be thanking God I didn't raise her"

..I understand your point of view it makes alot of sence. However, until an adoptee has knowledge of the real reasons for their reliquishment just saying it must have been for all the right reasons does not help them with their feelings.

I beieved my birthmom must have been young, I believed that she gave me up to have a better life. As you obviously did for your daughter and in that you have comfort in believing that was so. Unfortuanately it isn't always the case and although you saved your child from a certain horrible fate. It did not guarantee that she would not have troubles where ever she was to go.

For me I lived through tremendous horrors in my adoptive ( perfect looking on the outside) family. My birth mother was in fact young and at the time alone and that was the main reason for my reliquishment. Had she ever thought she was sending me to a place far worse of course she would not have done it. Yes you did what was right for your daughter absolutly and how giving of you to realize that and act on it. However, if you do find your birth daughter and she is grieving just please remember ....... the grass may not have been greener on the other side.

Best wishes to you both

18.5.06  
Blogger warriorwoman said...

Empty Cereal Box,

I love your blog and your willingness to be open about your grieving. I think we (adopted people and family members who lost babies to adoption) would all "process" our grieving better if people didn't try to make it out that there's nothing to cry about.

With dog adoptions, the buyer has to wait until the puppies are mature enough to handle separation from mom prior to taking them home.

With human adoptions, people say it's OK to separate the mother and newborn baby immediately after birth because a child is "resilient". Well, what if child molesters used the same excuse - It's OK to molest because the kid will get over it? Ha! What a rationalization.

19.5.06  
Blogger warriorwoman said...

Empty Cereal Box,

I love your blog and your willingness to be open about your grieving. I think we (adopted people and family members who lost babies to adoption) would all "process" our grieving better if people didn't try to make it out that there's nothing to cry about.

With dog adoptions, the buyer has to wait until the puppies are mature enough to handle separation from mom prior to taking them home.

With human adoptions, people say it's OK to separate the mother and newborn baby immediately after birth because a child is "resilient". Well, what if child molesters used the same excuse - It's OK to molest because the kid will get over it? Ha! What a rationalization.

19.5.06  
Blogger Marie Jarrell said...

Kippa-Try Lamott's Plan B. It touched my heart and my funny bone at the same time.

Adopteeamy-You're twice abandoned. Me too. My blood family could care less about me. I don't think I could have handled it if my nmom had rejected me again. Because she's dead, I'll never know. It's almost unbearable to be twice rejected...

Rhonda and 34quinn-you are both very wise and I wish everyone could read what you wrote here.

Warriorwoman-Yeah, and they even make you get a license to drive your car, and renew it every four years, but you can adopt a baby without a revocable license.

21.5.06  
Blogger Lisa said...

two and a half years later I read this. Anonymous' comment really pisses me off. You would be disappointed that your daughter was having certain feelings and not others? You got to be a "competent adult" because you gave her up? Bully for you.

And your daughter can have whatever feelings she has whether you approve or not.

I'm an adoptee and I completely resonate with Empty Cereal Box's post. And I don't say "Yipee! An excuse to be sad!" I say, "Finally, someone who understands." And Anonymous, I'd love not to be part of this club.

13.10.08  

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