To be honest, when I read this post a few weeks back – “Don’t get even … heal” – surprisingly it didn’t create the same visceral response that it did even just a year ago. My heart didn’t race, tears didn’t pool. Evil accusations and rejectors didn’t hijack my thoughts. A year ago, I was still at the heartbroken crossroads of betrayal and rejection from parental people. I’m not proud of my thoughts but a normal response to an avalanche of lies, sabotage and rejection.
Only a short year ago, my processing hadn’t advanced too far beyond “I want to get even – given the same circumstances, who wouldn’t? I’ve not encountered anyone who knows my story who hasn’t validated my unwanted feelings. I want them to hurt like they’ve hurt me. All of them.”
It seems reasonable to believe that there are unwritten, universally accepted laws in parental relationships. Just as we accept gravity to be a real force that keeps us connected to the earth. An unbreakable force – even though we never lay eyes on it nor touch it, it’s as real as the laugh lines on my face.
This “universal parental law” guides general beliefs about behavior of parents toward their children. Parents are held to a higher level of trust and responsible caretakers of the hearts of their children. We like to believe that our families are the LAST place where we should expect to find rejection, deception, lies – the absolute last place we would expect to find parents placing their own agendas above their children. The last place parents won’t fight for their own kids. The universal law says that parents should put the needs of their children above their own agendas – always.
Even during reunion.
And especially when openly embraced and accepted.
Those of us with children know that there’s no perfect parent. But, the thing that separates is the “effort” given to not fail our kids. We get up every day and give it our best. We keep trying – we keep showing up.
We don’t bail on our kids – ever.
Over my 24 yrs. of parenting our 7 kids, I’ve realized that our effort margin depends on many things including our emotional bandwidth. We don’t raise our kids in a vacuum. Life doesn’t stop for us to plan and execute this parental thing perfectly.
No. Life happens. We lose jobs, friends, family, spouses. We fret and worry how we will pay the bills let alone college. We plan weddings and funerals. We walk through hard stuff with family and friends that we never saw coming. Long-term battles with cancer, depression, a difficult child or spouse. All of this depletes us. It takes a toll on our emotional/mental health that most of us don’t even realize.
When we enter into a search situation trying to find biological family, it’s easy to dismiss all of the above mentioned realities. Unfortunately, they could be going through one or all of them. It’s easy to assume that they’ve been waiting for the moment to be found as much as we have. It’s easy to assume that the biological family will be just as over the moon about being found as we are to find them. We want to believe that more than anything yet we also know that rejection is just one phone call, email or text message away. We know what’s on the line for us….but often, we don’t consider what’s on it for them.
We have no clue what their present emotional landscape is like. Have they recently experienced loss? Are they in a difficult marriage, job or personal health crisis? Are they grieving a lost parent or spouse? Going through a divorce? Maneuvering grown children issues? Do they even know you exist – if not, what issues will that trigger for them? If so, they’ve already been dealing with a lifetime of grief, shame and guilt and most likely, lack of support of any kind – ever.
Is any of this fair? No. I like to try to make it fair though. I like to think that surely I’ll be rewarded now for missing out on so much – spending a lifetime apart. Surely half a century is enough of a sacrifice. Surely everyone in the lives of my family will be as excited as we are that we’ve found each other. Surely I should be able to spend the remaining years we have left on earth in good relationships with my biological families.
But this simply isn’t my reality. Honestly, from the hundreds of other adoptee reunion stories I’ve encountered, I’m not alone. And it’s heartbreaking.
It’s taken me awhile to get to a place where I can examine my reunion shortcomings in light of this reality. In my perfect world I like for the “universal law” to be upheld – parents don’t bail on kids. But while I’ll never ever condone parents’ lies or deception in regard to the truth of my own existence or their intentions in reunion, I have to put myself in their shoes. In light of their own present circumstances – experiences, relationships, health, etc. – am I expecting too much? Am I expecting something they don’t even have the emotional bandwidth to give?
In both of my reunions, I’ve had much to forgive and still in process of getting to that place in some areas. The “universal law” of parenting was not in force – lies, deception, disregard, rejection, secrets, disrespect, sabotage. However, I know that for my own health – as well as for my husband and kids – I. must. heal.
which requires me to forgive.
Yes. The dreaded “F” word.
As much as I’d like to be the judge and declare that the “universal law of parenting” was not upheld and broken numerous times during reunion with my parents, what good comes from it? Nobody’s going to jail for it. Is it true? Absolutely. Is there anything I can change about it? Absolutely not.
I can’t change the historical events – the decisions of others that impacted the trajectory of my life’s path. However, there is another undeniable force – more powerful than gravity itself. Without it, I can never completely heal.
I must forgive.
I don’t think I’m very good at this because God keeps giving me more opportunities to practice 🙂
We’ve all heard that “hurt people, hurt people.” I believe with my whole heart that this is true. I’ve seen it. Those who’ve hurt me didn’t single me out. I’m not the bad guy. I’m only one of a long line of others they’ve hurt. They respond to others from the place of their own festering wounds they refuse to heal. I’ve had a front-row seat for decades to watch how this cycle perpetuates itself.
But I refuse to be that person.
I refuse to get even – to return hurt for hurt.
I will choose to pursue forgiveness …. and just as it’s true that hurting people hurt people, my hope is that I will choose to be different…While I absolutely will always live with wounds and scars and I’ll never handle all of this mess perfectly, I can choose healing rather than hurting another.
Forgiven people, forgive people.