Grieving Many Times Over

Today, I share a piece by LINK>David B Bohl, who is an author, speaker and addiction & relinquishment consultant. It is titled On Grieving Many Times, And Many Times Over. I was attracted to this because yesterday was my deceased, adoptee mother’s birthday. I don’t suppose we ever get over the grief. I don’t think she ever got over the grief of never being able to communicate with her birth mother, who Tennessee told her in the early 1990s was already dead.

David writes his adoptive mother’s death was the fifth death of a parent he’d had to go through. He explains that he – hadn’t learned of the first two until much later after they’d occurred. The first one to go was my birth father, who died 32 years before I learned about it, the second one my birth mother whose death I did not learn of until 8 years after it happened (very similar to my own mom). Then there was my adoptive father 12 years ago, and now, Joan Audrey Bohl who died twice —first when the dementia robbed her of her mind and memory, subsequently rendering me a stranger when she would fail at times to remember who I was and why I was visiting. There she was another mom who had no idea I was her son. In those moments, in a most sinister coincidence, she was like my biological parents who relinquished me and existed in this world without any specific knowledge of me.

He wants us to understand “What all of this means to someone like me—a relinquishee and adoptee who now has two sets of deceased parents–is that I must face twice(?), five times(?) a yet-to-be determined amount(?) of grief and confusion. Add to that losing my adoptive mom to dementia, and there is plenty to process, a great deal of loss, and certainly much to grieve. I am, of course, not blaming any of my parents for dying or getting sick, and I’ve made peace with my biological parents for giving me up a 62 years ago. But it would be disingenuous to say that I am no longer affected by these losses and that my mother’s recent death doesn’t trigger some new layer of grief where all of those people who contributed to my existence must be acknowledged in how they shaped my life. And so, I think about mothers. The mother I knew and the mother I’ve never met. And then the mother I knew who no longer knew me. I think of fathers, the one who had never even met me, and the one who raised me and provided me with a life filled with opportunities. And I of course, as a father, I think about my children.”

When I try to talk about my own family, my youngest son says to me – you have a very complicated family. It is true. And it is true for adoptees as well. As I have learned who my original grandparents were and have made contact with that novel new experience of genetic relatives that never knew each other existed – it has actually given me a new sense of wholeness – while at the same time totally messing me up with the adoptive relatives and the feelings I have (and still have) and each of them. Very complicated indeed.

There is much more in his very worthwhile article – see the LINK.

The Mandalorian

So, I’m not a Star Wars fan. I was once told I reminded a Salon participant at Jean Houston’s home of Yoda. I went looking. I have to admit there was some physical resemblance. LOL

Anyway, today I learned from a Time magazine article about The Last of Us that The Mandalorian had an adoption theme. That I did find interesting (though I am still not going to watch it). I did go looking and found quite an extensive article at Adoption.org LINK>What Does ‘Star Wars’ Have To Do With Adoption? In that article I found some answers.

From the article –

There is also a series in the Star Wars universe that is an amazing picture of foster care in the most untraditional sense. The Mandalorian explores the question of “who is family” when the main character is charged with capturing and eventually protecting a young creature who bears a strong resemblance to Yoda. He is strong in the force, but the Mandalorian is set in a time when being a Jedi is outlawed, and Jedis are killed without impunity. The Mandalorian becomes a makeshift foster father to the little guy who finds all kinds of ways to get into trouble and create drama. The war-hardened Mandalorian grows to love the little guy and does everything in his power to keep him safe and to get him back to “his people.”  At the end of the first season, we see Grogu go off with Luke to learn about the ways of the force, but it probably isn’t the last time we’ll see the little guy. 

Maybe it is just because adoption and foster care are such a huge part of my life that the themes of adoption, found family, and foster care stand out so starkly, but I don’t think so. The entire series falls apart without twins separated at birth. It doesn’t work without friends who didn’t know each other becoming the best allies for one another. The connection they feel is what ties all of the stories together. One of my favorite parts of the movies is that Jedi “become one with the force” when they die. When someone is “one with the force,” they turn invisible but can still interact with the living Jedi. They can still root their family on from beyond the grave. Even though our family is gone, they are still with us. Everything is connected by “the force.”  What a great allegory for the love believers are supposed to share. 

Even if you know nothing about Star Wars, you know about the swords. Almost everyone has swung a plastic, colorful sword and made the noises “swoosh, whoosh, bzzzz” as they “fought.” My adopted kids think it is the best ever. Star Wars and adoption are like popcorn and coke. You don’t need to make the association. However, if you have the popcorn anyway, the coke makes it so. Much. Better. Honestly, though, we couldn’t do this adoption thing without mentors and help from the people around us.  Luke and Rey had big feelings about their past. They felt betrayed by their parents until they knew the truth.

Rey stops to think about the people who loved her. The people who helped shape her into the person she was, the people who cared for her when she didn’t know what to do. And she found her name. She called herself Rey Skywalker. She had no “legal” claim to that name. She hadn’t officially been adopted by Luke or Leia, though Leia ended up being her greatest mentor. She chose to associate herself with the people who loved her when she was struggling and when she triumphed. 

There is much more at the link. The author, Christina Gochnauer, is a foster and adoptive mom of 5. She has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Letourneau University. She currently resides in Texas with her husband of 16 years, her children ages 3, 3.5, 4.5, 11, and 12, and her three dogs. She is passionate about using her voice to speak out for children from “hard places.”

Goodbye Again

Candace Cahill lost her son Michael twice, first to adoption and the second time when he died at age 23. The story follows Cahill from the moment she makes the decision to give birth to her baby, to her tortuous decision to relinquish him to adoption, through the subsequent years of doubt and yearning, to their reunion, and finally, to his heart-wrenching, untimely death. It is an intimate story of child relinquishment and child loss as well as a sensitive and intelligent exploration of motherhood and forgiveness. Today’s blog is thanks to LINK>an interview of Candace by Michèle Dawson Haber for Hippocampus Magazine.

As a writer, trying to get my own family’s story told, her insights into the publishing experience are informative. I know about the need for a cliff hanger at the end of each chapter to keep the reader wanting to read more. Candace says “I wanted readers to feel as if I was sitting next to them telling the story. It was about finding the right balance between exposition and scene.” Writing is harder work than I once believed. She also made an interesting choice for her narrative arc – “I originally opened the book with the scene when I hear Michael has died, and then I interspersed my pregnancy and his childhood. It worked, but not as well as when I arranged the events chronologically. I’m much happier with this structure; it feels more intuitive.”

Michele notes – Your story about . . . one first mother’s experience of adoption from pregnancy, relinquishment, years of no contact, and then reunion, is an important contribution to the discourse on the impact of adoption. To which, Candace noted – until recently, stories from the point of view of a member of the first family have been mostly non-existent. In sitting down to write it, her only thought was, “I’m just writing my story for me, it’s not going to be published. It was only when I got about halfway into it that I realized it should be out there, because it is a story you just don’t hear.”

In this blog, I do advocate for family preservation, even though I would not even exist if there had not been the adoption of both of my parents. Michele says “There are many who believe that adoption should be abolished altogether. These advocates say that the effort and resources that are put into adoption should be redirected to family preservation.” Candace realizes that “My story puts me on both sides of that issue. It could be used by an abolitionist, and it could be used by adoption proponents as well. Writing my story has helped me come to see that two things can be true at one time. I don’t believe that we are ever going to get to a place where adoption isn’t needed at some point. There will be times when the natural parents are incapable, unavailable, pass away, or whatever it may be, and there are no other kin that can step in. But we do need to make much more of an effort at family preservation, or at the very least, we need to quit stealing children’s identities.”

Michele notes – “only after reading your book did I consider that a first mother might also undergo an identity crisis. Do you mind telling me what you discovered about your own identity over this period?” Candace replies – “My biggest struggle was recognizing that I was a mother. That, despite the fact that I relinquished my child, I still was a mother. I’m not a parent—I was never a parent. But I am a mother.” As a mother who really didn’t raise my own daughter beyond the age of 3, I understand this perspective.

Candace says I “started querying agents in February 2021.” Then she mentions, Legacy Book Press. She thought it was perfect because they only do legacy stories. That is when she decided to skip the agent thing and go straight to publishers. She says that “Legacy accepted right away, and I decided to move forward.” In the interview, I learn that Candace had training as a social worker. I have great respect for the field because my beloved, decease mother-in-law was a member of that profession. She says that the field – encompasses empathy, the ability to recognize and see other people – and I would say from my own experience that was very much true of my mother-in-law.

Candace expresses her intention this way – I am using my memoir as a case study to develop a curriculum that can be used in social work departments and as continuing education materials for adoption professionals. I also hope to help adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents learn to be more open regarding everything related to adoption, but especially in talking with their adopted children openly and honestly. Michele ends her interview acknowledging how that – “work is so necessary to help transform understanding of the impact of adoption and forge a path toward systemic change.” 

Tragic

Angel and her Grandmother

Hers is a clear case of all that is wrong with foster care and the family court system. Monica Dunning, Angel’s grandmother, had successfully completed the foster parenting classes and background checks to become a licensed kinship foster care home. Dunning was seeking to be named her granddaughter’s guardian.

Angel’s mother died in a car crash on Halloween 2016. Dunning said that Angel was placed into child protective services in Tennessee the very next day because of a “no contact” order with her father. Dunning said her daughter was divorced from Ahearn at the time of her death. Allegations of domestic violence led to the court order that prevented him from seeing Angel. The girl passed through eight to ten foster homes in Tennessee over the next few years. Instead of being placed with her grandmother, Angel’s father was awarded custody of her on May 3, 2021.

“It’s heartbreaking that I feel like me and my family were absolutely robbed from the time that my daughter passed away. We just, we had very, very limited contact. And there was absolutely no reason why she couldn’t have come here,” Dunning said. After her father gained custody, she was no longer aware of Angel’s whereabouts until she got the call on October 18th that let her know that her granddaughter was dead. 

A third-party caller claiming to be Rachel Hollifield’s aunt said in the 911 call that for the past year her niece had repeatedly tried to run away from Leonard. She was not sure what triggered the shooting incident. The woman’s aunt told the dispatcher – she heard a scream in the house followed by gunshots and then it got silent while she was on the phone.

In his Georgia home, Leonard Ahearn first killed his daughter, Angel Ahearn, who had just turned 12. Then he shot Rachel Hollifield, his girlfriend, in the hand. Finally, he turned the gun on himself. Angel died at the scene. Leonard and Hollifield were transported to a hospital. Leonard later died from his injuries. Hollifield is expected to recover. 

Dunning was particularly frustrated because she had invested time and money to undergo the process to authorize her to care for Angel, in a home where Angel would have been safe. She said it seemed as if the officials in charge of Angel’s case “would place [Angel] with anybody” but her maternal grandmother.

What Is And Is Not

My nearly 6 year old (in my care since she was 6 months of age, came to us from foster care) emotionally shared the other day that she’s embarrassed being seen with my husband and I at school drop off/pick up because she’s aware it’s making her different from the other children who have their birth parents pick them up and how she wishes her Mum could come to pick up sometimes (her Mum passed away tragically two years ago so it’s literally impossible).

There is no real clear physical difference between us – so it’s really just that she knows we aren’t her birth parents and she grieves what could have been. I told her I understood why she feels sad about that, that it makes sense she’d love her Mum to come and that I’m really sorry I can’t make that happen. I also pointed out other children wouldn’t know (for the most part) that we aren’t her birth parents because we’ve been private about her story (however, she recently shared with her class that she had scattered her Mums ashes). There are other kids who could be in the same situation as her and she wouldn’t know.

She’s really dislikes having a different surname than us because “you’re my parents and you’re my family, so why can’t I have the same name?”, even though we’ve never made an issue of it and we tell her how much we love her name and that families don’t require the same last names as each other. She has been asking for the last few weeks, can she please change her surname to our surname at school/extra curricular activities. She’s started calling herself and her little sister (who is her biological sister but also has a different surname, not the same as hers) *their names* with our surname.

One of my big hesitancies is the future her, looking back on her work/awards and seeing a name she might not identify with anymore and being upset we allowed her to use a different name. We are foster parents who became guardians but we specifically didn’t pursue adoption because of what we learned about the feelings of adult adoptees.

One suggestion was to hyphenate her surname with the guardian’s surname, not legally but just on paper, so she can see you are listening to her feelings, without changing anything legally. The guardian liked the suggestion – that way she doesn’t have to feel like it has to be one way or the other, either this part of my family or that part of my family. The guardian said “I definitely have no intention of changing her name legally, that’s something she can navigate once she’s an adult. But just socially, maybe hyphenating could be the solution.

Another suggested – could you explain to her that the surname was one of her first gifts from her mother ? Explain to her that there are some kids whose moms have gotten remarried and her kids don’t share her new last name. And even though it isn’t the same situation as she is in because her mom is no longer here like the other kids, it is similar with the last name situation. The reply was – I did try telling her how kids have different last names to their Mum’s sometimes because of marriage and such but she was like “but you and Dad have the same last name so that’s not the same thing.”

One answers from experience – This is tricky. I was given the choice to keep my last name or change it, and I kept it. There were so many times in school when I wished I just had the same last name as my adoptive family. It would have erased so many questions I didn’t want to answer. I’m 42 now and I’m 100% glad I kept it. I didn’t even fully let it go when I got married. On the other hand, my biological sister was all too happy to shed that last name when she got married (at 8 years older than me, she was 18 when we went to our adoptive family. So I don’t think changing to her last name was ever brought up). Our last name came from the guy who abused us. All that to say, I don’t think there is a concrete right or wrong answer here. *I* would say keep her last name but see if the school will just call her by yours, sort of like a nick-name? My sister on the other hand would say let her change it. Hugs to you as you try to navigate this.

Another shares – I have two last names and I say them proudly. Would she be willing to make a final decision after a bit more contemplation? Have her practice saying and writing the new name combo – you can call her anything for now. She might find just being able to say her new name and know that maybe one day she will legally be both names. The guardian answers –  I’ve responded to her saying “let’s keep chatting and thinking about it, so we make the best decision for you” and she seems okay with it thus far.

Another opinion was – I would honor her desire and let her change her name. I think you can do that and let her know if she ever changes her mind and wants to change it back, you’ll support her no questions asked. Or if it’s possible to change it with school and such without doing the full legal piece, maybe that could be a good compromise. I was under guardianship as well until adulthood, and I always struggled as a child with feeling like I didn’t truly belong and the uncertainty about where I’d spend the entirety of my childhood was deeply unsettling. I was under familial guardianship, so I was with family, but I just always felt like I was an add on, not a core part of the family. To this day, it’s something I still feel in my core when I’m with my family and I’m 37. I can understand why having a different name could exacerbate that feeling for her. Part of it is just inescapably that our childhood was different and more traumatic than those around us and even the best support systems simply cannot undo that. And that’s hard to understand as a kid and it leaves lasting changes to one’s brain. And for me at least, the uncertainty about whether I’d be able to finish out a school year, let alone all of K-12 in the home I was in, was always hanging over me. It just didn’t feel permanent (though it did turn out to be). There are SO few things that are in our control when we are kids, and the lack of control over any aspect of our lives can be overwhelming.

A school staff member noted that – our school has “legal” name and “preferred” name. “Preferred ” name can be changed at any time without any documentation, it shows up on attendance and display but all legal documents show their legal names. She even adds that – I did this as a child until I was legally able to make the decision to formally change my name.

 

Funeral Anxiety

Today’s story (not my own) –

I’m an adoptee who didn’t find out I was adopted until I was 24…I turned 40 in May (major trauma obviously, but that’s for another time). I’ve met my birth mother, maternal grandmother, birth father, and a couple (not all) of my siblings. Novel made short, my birth grandma died last Thursday. Her celebration of life is set for next Friday and I am struggling really fucking hard as to what to do.

Yes, I knew (?) and loved her. I THINK I want to be there. But I also don’t want to be the proverbial long lost child/grandchild/sibling who comes waltzing in. I have so much guilt, I’ve carried it since I first met my birth mom (another long story). It’s such a tricky relationship, on all sides, and I hate this. I wish more than anything I had someone to just tell me what to do; to hop on that flight and do this, or to stay home as I am so sick and conflicted already that it wouldn’t be well for my mental health. My birth mother has always made me feel horribly guilty. My adopted mother does the same. So I just kind of keep all of the moms at arms length for the sake of my mental health. My Granny was different. I only saw her a literal handful of times, but she was strong and kind and she validated me. Now that she’s gone, I don’t know what I want anymore.

It’s just weird. It’s a weird place. Being adopted is weird period, and I mostly despise it.

One response from another adoptee – I wouldn’t want to miss it and regret it. Family events are hard for me because biological family is all gathering, and it is a painful reminder of all the family events I was not a part of. You aren’t obligated to stay. If you feel it’s too much to handle, you could leave at any time. I’d check into nearby coffee shops/diner/regular shops that are in walking distance in case I needed an early escape. I didn’t know my maternal grandma for long but I did spend her last moments with her in the hospital. I am glad I did.

Someone else suggested exit strategies – Opps-forgot my sweater in the car. (5 min break). Tylenol is in the car too. How forgetful. Sigh. Need some caffeine to stop this headache. (Walk to coffee shop, 20 min break) Oh no, I cleared the day but work really needs me to resolve an issue. Can we catch up in a couple of hours over dinner? Also, if it would be helpful, bring a support person who can just listen to you (and serve as a buffer if you need one).

Another adoptee points out that funerals are for the living. Do what’s going to bring YOU peace and screw what anyone else thinks. Don’t overcomplicate your decision with the intricacies of your relationships with your birth family. Either you want to be there for YOU or you don’t. I hope you find peace in whatever decision you make.

Another asked – Would you regret it if you stayed home? Would you later look back and think you should’ve gone? Go with the option that leaves you little to no regret. You deserve to be there, this is your family and I’m sure you’re very wanted. The original poster answered – I’m truly not sure if I would regret it. She’s already been cremated, so I could always go on my own time, alone, and save myself some chaos. It’s just a tricky relationship with my birth mother …odd at best. I’m putting it very nicely, too.  I don’t like feeling manipulated.  It’s been rocky, and then some.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri

Not my usual kind of story for today but this man was definitely missing his Mom. When his father died of cancer, his mother informed him that she was not his real mother and he was the result of an affair between his father and a Scottish nurse. He was 23 years old.

He was granted refugee status by Belgium in 1981 and tried to travel on to Britain to find his real mother, whom he believed resided in Glasgow. He discarded his identification papers onboard an England-bound ship in the belief he would no longer require them. He was mistaken and this rendered him into a stateless limbo.

Repeatedly refused admittance to the UK and sent back to Belgium or France, he eventually gave up his quest and settled into a life in exile in August 1988 at Charles de Gaulle Airport. In 1992, a French court ruled that Nasseri had entered the airport legally as a refugee and could not be expelled from it. At Charles de Gaulle, he spent most of his time on a red bench on the lower floor of terminal 1. He was known to decline donations and gifts but did accept the occasional meal voucher from airport staff. He lived in the airport’s Terminal 1 from 1988 until 2006, first in legal limbo because he lacked residency papers and later by choice.

His saga inspired a movie by Steven Spielberg called The Terminal starring Tom Hanks. He ended up in a hospital for an operation. Then moved to a hotel near the airport, paid for with the money he’d received from the film rights. When that ran out, he moved to a shelter for homeless people. In recent weeks, he returned to living at the airport again. He died on Saturday around midday after suffering a heart attack in the airport’s Terminal 2F.

~ RIP ~ Mehran Karimi Nasseri Asked by a journalist in 2003 whether he felt angry about having lost 15 years of his life at an airport terminal, he replied: “No angry. I just want to know who my parents are.” Maybe he has now been reunited with his Scottish mother and will have learned the full truth from his Iranian father.

No Big Deal ?

Because LINK> Rebecca Solnit says it so well in her essay in The Guardian . . .

Being a parent is expensive. Being a criminal is also expensive, whether you lose economic opportunities to avoid apprehension or spend money on your defense if apprehended or go to prison and lose everything and, marked as a felon, emerge unemployable. Abortion is an economic issue, because when it’s not legal, those are the two remaining options, leaving out being dead, which you could argue is either very expensive or absolutely beyond the realms of money and price. And being dead is also on the table because women have all too often died from lack of access to reproductive healthcare, including abortions (to say nothing of being unable to leave an abuser, to whom pregnancy and children can bind you more tightly). They are facing more of that now.

Having no options but to be dead, criminal or a parent is not a sane or moral argument for parenthood, and it’s also pretty different than having certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Also, now that abortion is unavailable under almost all circumstances in Texas and other states, it’s an economic justice issue in that those with the financial capacity to take time off, travel in search of care and pay for it out of pocket are not affected the way those who cannot do so are. And those who can afford to get an abortion under these circumstances are also those who can afford to defend themselves against possible criminal charges.

All of which is to say, abortion is an economic issue and a labor issue, as well as a human rights and healthcare issue, as the AFL-CIO and other labor unions have recognized. So it’s been confounding to see some supposedly progressive men say that people should talk about economics instead of abortion, as if the loss of reproductive rights isn’t a huge economic blow to anyone facing the possibility of an unwanted pregnancy. The last days before the midterm elections should include robust Democratic conversations about defending rights and pursuing economic justice, with access to abortion central to both.

Access to birth control and abortion laid the groundwork for US women to begin to claim financial, professional and educational equality – a goal still far from realized, overall, but reproductive rights flattened the mountains and filled in the chasms a little. Taking that away pushes women back into the grim era when an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy could upend a life, stop an education, stymie a career, force unwanted dependency on the person who caused that pregnancy – an era when self-determination was an aspiration, not a given.

The Dobbs decision striking down Roe v Wade on 24 June was cavalier about all this. The majority opinion pretends that bearing a child no longer has significant social and economic impact. It cites among its justifications that “attitudes about the pregnancy of unmarried women have changed drastically; that federal and state laws ban discrimination on the basis of pregnancy; that leave for pregnancy and childbirth are now guaranteed by law in many cases; that the costs of medical care associated with pregnancy are covered by insurance or government assistance; that states have increasingly adopted “safe haven” laws, which generally allow women to drop off babies anonymously; and that a woman who puts her newborn up for adoption today has little reason to fear that the baby will not find a suitable home”. In other words, there is no reason not to have an unplanned or unwanted child; doing so is no big deal.

All of which are callous lies. The right not to bear children isn’t just about respectability for the unmarried, and to frame it that way while ignoring the profound and lasting emotional, psychological and physical as well as financial impact of carrying a pregnancy for nine months and giving birth is outrageous. Discrimination against people who may get pregnant or are pregnant continues despite those laws; many pregnant people continue to lack access to healthcare; and the fact that a baby can be handed over is no justification for being forced to bear it. Furthermore, as another branch of the US government that the supreme court could have consulted reports: “The number of children waiting to be adopted also fell in fiscal year 2020 to 117,000”; the number in foster care was over 400,000.

One of the striking things about the conversation in defense of abortion rights in recent months is the testimony by those who’ve undergone pregnancy, miscarriage and childbirth about how physically grueling and even life-threatening they can be. Pregnancy can incapacitate women for months, which is obviously economically devastating to a poor person working in the gig economy or, say, in a nail salon or a fast-food restaurant. It can be an overwhelming experience, interfering particularly in the ability to perform physical labor: the judge may be able to toil on when the janitor cannot. And a lot of people are making a living through work that is physically demanding.

Another striking new note has been the insistence that we need to stop defining abortion as a stand-alone right and look at the criminalization of pregnancy and motherhood, especially for poor and nonwhite women. “More than 50 women have been prosecuted for child neglect or manslaughter in the United States since 1999 because they tested positive for drug use after a miscarriage or stillbirth,” reported the Marshall Project, while noting that miscarriages are common under all circumstances. “Sentences have ranged from probation to 20 years in prison. Women prosecuted after pregnancy loss are often those least able to defend themselves, the investigation found. They typically work low-paying jobs, are often victims of domestic abuse, have little access to healthcare or drug treatment and rely on court-appointed lawyers who advise them that pleading guilty is their best option.” Too, some women die from pregnancy and childbirth, and thanks to unequal medical care, Black women have the highest incidence of such deaths. Pregnancy and childbirth can also cause permanent physical changes, including lasting pain and disability.

The laws making the most intimate conditions of a body and life subject to legal intrusion are reportedly already preventing pregnant people from seeking healthcare and spreading well-founded fear. Making the administration of an abortion a crime is frightening medical caregivers and interfering with their ability to provide care. Some of the proposed abortion bans would include life-saving abortions, and we have already seen cases in which medical care was withheld until a woman’s life was actively in danger. Women are already being denied prescriptions when those drugs can be used in abortions, another way that taking away abortion rights is turning into a broader loss of rights.

The financial and professional impact of parenting in heterosexual relationships still mostly falls on women. The majority of women who have abortions are already mothers raising kids; we are in a childcare crisis that has, along with the long months schools were shut during the pandemic, crushed a lot of women’s working lives and financial independence.

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez noted in late September, “When the powerful force people to give birth against their will, they trap millions in cycles of economic setback and desperation. Especially in a country without guaranteed healthcare. And desperate workers are easier to exploit.” The supreme court majority pretended it was undermining access to reproductive rights because they have no significant impact, but of course the court’s agenda was the opposite: to impose the conditions that make women subordinate in rights and economic status.

Ancestral Reverence

It is the final Dia de los Muertos and my thoughts are on my ancestors. The image comes from LINK> Christiane Pelmas site for Women’s Ancestral Reverence Group – Weaving Our Radical Roots In These Darkening Times. It is an Autumnal Equinox Kiva. I have scattered roots of American, Mexican and Native experiences in my life having been born in Las Cruces New Mexico and growing up in El Paso Texas. My family often vacationed on the Mescalero Apache Indian Reservation campgrounds in Ruidoso New Mexico. Once my sons, husband and I spent Christmas Eve at the Acoma Sky City Pueblo.

My ancestors include my deceased parents, their original parents and their adoptive parents. Therefore, I have 8 grandparents instead of the usual 4. The original grandparents are people I never knew but that I now know had lives – information that was kept from me until after my parents deaths. I like Christiane’s site because when adoption is part of one’s core self there is trauma. It can’t be helped but it can be healed. I believe much of what I have been doing since I set off on my genetic roots journey in the Autumn of 2017 has been to heal the broken threads.

So for today, I will share some excerpts from Christiane’s site. I would add that I am aware that many people have uncomfortable relationships with one or more of the members of their family. She writes – “Nearly all human cultures (with the exception of western industrial, capitalist culture) practice complex rituals designed to foster on-going intimacy with, and healing of, their ancestral lineages (deceased relations of our blood lines). In western industrialized culture (and increasingly around the world, as Patriarchy colonizes more, and more, of the globe) we suffer from a devastating orphaning.”

Christiane writes of 3 intentions for practicing Ancestral Healing –

[1] to make connections with people of our blood and bone; those ancestral relatives who are vibrantly well and eager to provide us with their support, love and guidance as we journey through our lives. And in the case of my adoptive grandparents, I will add the people of my heart.

[2] to heal the significant trauma burdens woven deeply into most human lineages today; trauma burdens caused by endless war, poverty, social and economic injustice, environmental devastation and the diaspora it causes, racism, sexism and all forms of intolerance and violence toward the multiplicity and diversity of Life’s expressions. So much pain. In this healing process, the brilliance and medicine of each lineage is excavated and brought forward into its present-day expression, which is my very life, the life of my daughter and the lives of my grandchildren. We all live because they lived.

[3] to do the intimate ancestral healing work necessary – so that we are capable of turning our attention to the tremendous harm we continue to cause the ability of the Earth to sustain us all. I remember within my online social networking community there was developed what was called the Gaia Minute. A daily communion with the Earth (I often did mine in the darkness at night under the stars). From that practice I came to see the Earth as my deepest core mother. Not to leave the Sun out, I acknowledge the father energy that sparks all life with existence.

In my Science of Mind magazine Daily Guide for today written by the Rev Dr Dennis Merritt Jones, he shares this affirmation – “Everywhere I go, I see only the sacred presence of the Beloved One clothing itself in a multitude of divine disguises.” He also writes that Ernest Holmes dined with a vase of weeds on his table. A reminder that the only difference between a weed and a rose was the value we place on one over the other. Through a long reckoning in my own heart, I am balancing my genetic grandparents with those who adopted my parents.

Typical Adoptee Struggles

Today’s story – As much as I love the holidays coming up I usually struggle through them. This year seems to be hitting me harder than usual. I always knew I didn’t belong in the family that adopted me and I was blessed to be able to start my own little family but still I struggle. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that my divorce number 2 will be finalized right after Christmas or that my adoptive mom was diagnosed with dementia and gets mad any time my adoption is brought up or my adoptive dad disowned me for my birthday this year or that I will never get answers about who I am because my biological dad is unknown and biological mom passed away about 5 years ago. I just feel so lost this year. I feel like I’m failing as a mom to a very awesome 13 year old. I know I’m not because I see how strong she is, but I still feel lost. I know my adoption caused a lot of trauma and I have worked really hard to overcome a good portion of it.

An adoptee asks her –  have you by chance tried something like 23 and me? When I did it helped me and brought me so much joy because I got to see where my ancestry is! Maybe you’d find some close relatives on there? I just had to reply – 23 and Me really helped in my case. They are all dead – my adoptee parents (yeah both) who died knowing next to nothing about their origins, the adoptive parents and the birth parents all dead. However, a cousin with the same grandmother (my dad’s first mom) did 23 and Me and not only could she tell me about my grandmother but that led me to another cousin in Mexico who had all of my grandmother’s many photos (including a bread crumb hint about his father).

Someone also suggested Ancestry DNA and I have done that too and it does help with people who never knew you existed to prove that you actually are family. Like her, I have found I have an overwhelmingly HUGE biological-tree and it happened suddenly. Only a few years ago, I only had some names for my first grandparents that didn’t reveal much.

Another adoptee had a sympathetic response – is very understandable and appropriate considering you currently navigating a divorce, a parent with dementia and being disowned by the other. Any one of those things is a lot for a person to handle individually, but you have a stack of upsets. It’s ok to feel lost for a while as long as you don’t forget things can and will get better. I say this as a person who also had a stack of life in their hands for a 4 year period (my mom passed, we moved my dad, who then had a major health crisis, and I also had discovery and reunion and estrangement with parts of my biological family in there as well). It got better. It continues to do so. One day at a time. Be kind to yourself. Don’t forget to slow down and breathe sometimes. You’ll make it through.

Finally another adoptee acknowledges that the layers of loss are surreal for most to understand. She is parenting 2 daughters and not with either of their fathers. Seeing her 11 yr old’s abandonment/ trust issues pulls up her own feelings at that age. She finds that she is reparenting herself while she parents her daughter. Finally able to understand emotions she’s never been able to sort out before.