I dreamed about my son a few nights back. I dreamed we were meeting for the first time and I reached out to touch his face. He was right in front of me, smiling. I was happy. Then I woke up.
I had an interesting facebook tit for tat the other day with an adoptive father about grief. I was reminded of a developmental psych class I took where we discussed the 5 stages of grief, penned by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. Although adoption loss is different than losing a loved one to death, I wondered which stage was I in now?
The first stage of grief is denial. Ah yes, denial. Denial and I are well acquainted. I was numb to the pain I felt for years. I would not allow myself to experience the pain of losing my son. My post adoption counselor actually encouraged the denial. She would tell me that when negative thoughts or emotions popped up, to say out loud, “Cancel, Clear”. She was essentially telling me to deny the emotion and not to think about it. Not exactly the most psychologically healthy advice in my opinion. For years, whenever I would think of my son I would repeat that mantra, “Cancel, clear.” What I was really doing was pushing my emotions down inside, never dealing with them, or allowing myself to feel them. I was an expert at denial. I suppose in the beginning, it was a survival technique. There is no way a human being can be productive while letting themselves feel the loss of a child. But the denial should not have lasted as long as it did. The denial lasted for approximately 10 years.
The next stage is anger. And boy, is it ever. Anger at my parents. Anger at the adoptive parents. Anger at the agency. Anger at myself. But mostly anger at the entire concept of adoption.
The anger stage, for me, goes hand in hand with the depression stage. I vascillate between the two these days on an hourly basis. I have allowed myself to feel the emotions I denied for so long and this is what I’m left with. I did not deal or work through the emotions when I should have, and now they well up inside me and explode like a geyser. Adoption is always on my mind. My son is always on my mind. The terrible thing is that the people around me do not understand why this is on my mind NOW. My husband most emphatically does not want to discuss it. To him, it is something that happened in his wife’s past. It makes him uncomfortable and when the subject comes up, he veers the conversation elsewhere. He does not want a reminder that I had another man’s baby. Adoption is an embarassment to him. People will judge me based on my decision, and this hurts him. He would love nothing more than to have me still be in denial, but I can not go back.
I don’t think I ever experienced the bargaining stage of grief. I don’t pray. I have never thought that if I do THIS now, then THAT never happened. I have had the what ifs and the if onlys. If only I had done the research. If only I had known I could raise my son. What if my son’s father had stepped up to the plate. Those types of thoughts are like cancer, but I can’t help thinking them.
This brings me to the ever-illusive acceptance stage. There are some days I think I have accepted the loss. I have gone on with my life. I have 3 children I am raising and I am a pretty good mother. I accept that I can not change the past. I accept that my son is gone. There are some days that I only think of adoption for a few minutes. I can not imagine a time when I will not have anger and depression. Those two emotions have become a part of me, seemingly forever. I hope one day to be able to let go of them.
Grief as it pertains to adoption loss, is difficult. I have never lost a child to death, so I will not pretend to know what that feels like. I know that there is seemingly no closure with adoption loss. My son is not dead. He is walking around out there in the world but I have no connection to him. I can not offer a helping hand to him. I can not tell him I love him. I can not hold him and tell him everything will be alright. I do not know how to get to a place of closure or acceptance while he is somewhere out there, living his life. Perhaps someday, when he is an adult, we will be able to reconnect and I can find some kind of acceptance. Only time will tell.