Today’s story from adoptionland –
Tonight our 9 year old daughter (we adopted her this year from foster care, has been in foster care since she was 4) was preoccupied and withdrawn at bedtime and I asked her if she wanted to talk. She said that she was just so confused and trying to understand why her birth mom “didn’t care about her enough to keep her and why she didn’t want her or love her”…and by the end of that sentence she was sobbing.
I just held her, rubbed her back, and held space for her. I’m just asking for…idk…input about how to best help her process her feelings? I did assure her that her birth mom DID and DOES absolutely love her, want her, and care about her, but at the time she was struggling so much with drug use (she had already been told all about the drug use in previous foster homes and we don’t know if she’s currently using or not) that she wasn’t able to take care of her and her brother.
After four years the mother consented to our daughter and her biological brother being adopted (before they came to us) but her rights were going to be terminated by Department of Child Services, if she didn’t consent regardless. We have open communication and contact with biological grandparents but not with the birth mom at this point (per her own request and the recommendation of the grandparents) but my hope and prayer is that some day we are able to establish a relationship with her and facilitate communication between her and the kids.
She has been in therapy for years (albeit a new therapist with every new foster care placement/move) and has been seeing a great one for EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) for the past year. We see therapy as a healthy part of life and don’t really see an end date so to speak.
How do I help our daughter process the feelings of being unwanted, unloved, and abandoned by her birth mom?
One woman who responded wrote this sad perspective honestly – it never really helped me to hear that my birthmom loved me. I don’t think she knows how to love me as an adult and as a child it confused me more until I realized “oh yes, when people love you, they abandon you. That’s love”.
Another answered this with – I have zero adoption experiences to relate to, but when I left my very abusive ex-husband I remember the moment I realized he loved me as much as he could, and it just was not enough for me anymore because it hurt and it was unhealthy. I don’t know how that could be discussed with a child about a parent, but I just wanted to say I relate to what you are saying about having confusing feelings about loving someone who hurts you.
One insightful commenter wrote – If she isn’t with a adoption specialized therapist, now is the time to find one. It is good she feels safe to communicate with you.
I have also used this Nuggets video with my kids. At the end I will ask them- do you think the bird could focus on her baby chicks in her nest? What was she able to focus on? Do you think she wanted to stop feeling bad? Do you think she would have wished she could do it over again and make different choices?
That’s sometimes how people who have addictions feel. They can’t focus/take care of/on us because they are trying not to feel so rotten. But they often wish they could do it over again, and love on their chicks and tell them that. Drugs cloud your world. It is hard though to not feel angry or sad or jealous that mommy couldn’t see you. That is about her, how she feels about herself because of the drugs. Maybe we can write mommy a letter and tell her how you feel. Or here is a picture of mommy, I can leave you alone and you can talk to her and tell her how upset you are. And then I will be right here for you when you are done. Because this is hard.
I also have scheduled to do something fun the next day to ensure they had some sort of time of short mental relief. Even if it was to go to the playground. Get that out.
Then, there was this sad personal story – I was adopted at 3 but my mom is very much still a drug user. And I’m dealing with the same issue with my husband’s niece even though she was adopted within her family. She’s 14 today and because I’m adopted also she comes to me and asks me why her mom doesn’t want her but has other kids. My mom had 4 total and all 4 of us were taken away. My 3 brothers were able to stay together with their dad whom tried to adopt me but due to my health from her drug usage, I needed more attention than he could give me (being the oldest) and having 3 younger boys to care for. My adoptive parents had the funds and support to care for me.
Yet another suggested this perspective – trying to make sense that the bad parts are bad. And sometimes there are bits of good. And those moments are the parent too. However brief.
And I do agree that honesty is always best as this adoptive mother shared – It is really important to REALLY hold space, and NOT give in to the urge to try to make her feel better. In reality you don’t know if her mom loves and cares for her – you are not in contact, and the mother has never told you this. We WISH it is so, we hope, we assume… But it is not truthful to pose it as a factual reality. Also, as another response said, if someone “loves her and cares for her” then love and care means abandonment and no contact. Not a great association. I wish you all the best. Sitting and grieving with another’s pain is so hard. Try not to turn away, or deflect with untruths to try to make her feel better. It hurts, that sucks – and nothing you say can make it better. But she needs to feel it, and grieve it and process it.
And another adoptive mother shares this as well – My kids were older adoptees and for good or bad have many answers others do not. I refuse to fabricate and project to “fill in gaps” and “make them feel better.” Saying the “right” thing often comes off as bullshit. My best answers are “I don’t know.” “How can I help?” And sometimes, “Let’s punch something!” Negative feelings are valid and don’t need amelioration; they need to be expressed. It’s our natural impulse to want to make people feel better, but sometimes, it’s only through feeling bad, that we can begin to work through and heal. This is their journey; I’m on the sidelines supporting not dictating plays.