The Pain of Family Feuds

I’ll let this story from my all things adoption group speak for itself.

I’m an adoptee that was adopted by my maternal grandparents at birth, my birth mom has always been in my life at different times and in different ways, our relationship now is very rocky, and I never saw much of my dad growing up.

When I was 6, my grandparents cut off all contact with my dad’s family. For years they told me that it wasn’t safe, or that they had no interest in seeing me, which wasn’t true – my grandparents actively threw out letters and cards from them.

I used to beg to see my family, when I was a young teen I started sneaking out to see my aunt, then my grandparents found out. I was grounded and stopped from leaving the house. I grew up remembering and loving these people who lived literally two miles away but missing out on a childhood with them.

I grew up with no racial mirrors and felt like I did something wrong to these people that I had fun memories with as a kid. One time I saw my aunt across a store and begged my grandma to say hi, but my grandma dragged me out of the store and said it wasn’t safe.

4 years ago, I reunified with my dad’s family locally and have an amazing relationship with them, and flew to California to see my uncle and meet my cousins for the first time, and eventually flew to New York. I was greeted with open arms, but it doesn’t make up for the 20 year gap of not having these people in my life. These are people I should’ve grown up with!

My aunt lives close to me and we talk, but I feel like a stranger in her house. I feel like I don’t belong here. My uncle is in town to visit with his kids, and I’ve been here all day, and decided to stay the night…for the first time at 28 years old, I’m spending the night with my aunt – something that most kids did growing up.

It’s 3 AM and I’m laying on her couch, unable to sleep because I don’t feel like I belong here, even though they treat me like we were never apart. I don’t know what the point of this post is…it’s just complicated, not many people understand my complex adoption trauma or seem to think that it’s somehow “less” because I was adopted by my grandparents, I should just shut up and be grateful for that.

I still feel like I’m in the fog. My grandparents have both died, and I have a hard time wrapping my thoughts and emotions around the trauma that two people I loved very much even so caused. I’m just trying to live with it.

Difficult Relationships In The Moment Of Dying

Even when an adoptee is able to find and attempt a reunion with their biological mother, it doesn’t always go well.  Case in point, a woman who tried to create a relationship about 11 years ago. The woman and her mother talked on the phone for months almost every single day. During that time period, they were supposed to meet multiple times.  The mother always ended up backing out – every single time. The adoptee tried to give her mother the benefit of the doubt, but it hurt more and more every single time this happened.

She found out 2 days ago that her biological mother had been put into a medically induced coma and a decision was made to pull the plug and her mother died. This woman goes on to say – I didn’t really think I would have any feelings in regards to her passing as I didn’t have a relationship with her. Yet, last night I didn’t get much sleep and I’ve been in this fog since I found out. I haven’t cried, but I have been feeling a little bit of regret.”

Then comes the kicker for her – she finds out that her mother put  her and a younger sister (age 19 and was raised by her biological dad, a step mom and somewhat their mutual biological mother) down as her next of kin, which is technically true but can have unintended consequences.  She has learned that they will both have to sign the paperwork for the funeral home to cremate their mother and will be required to make all of the decisions about her services.

She goes on to say – I know nothing about this woman. I’ve hated her for so long that I literally blocked her in every way possible. Why would she put this responsibility on me? It has made me so mad. And I don’t even know if everything has already been paid for or if my little sister and I have to pay for it. I literally can’t afford to pay for anything else right now except my bills. I am seriously at a loss. 

And yet, there comes another woman in similar circumstances with a different experience.  Her biological mother is dying but recently blocked her on Facebook. She is distressed because she won’t even get to say goodbye to her mother. But sympathetically, she acknowledges that she would also be mad if someone tried to make her responsible for her deceased mother’s expenses, especially since her mother won’t even speak to her.

And she goes on to acknowledge – Either way, it’s tough – especially when we are told all our lives that we aren’t rejected – we are loved and wanted and then you grow up and get rejected all over again.

The experience of yet another woman reminds me of my own mom . . .

I spent years hating my birth mom. She died the month I decided to start looking.  Then my siblings found me to let me know she’d died before I even started. I was not involved in anything and I really didn’t know her. Sometimes I wish I could have been there, or been acknowledged some way. I don’t know what’s worse.

One biological mother who gave up her child to adoption wrote –  if I died, I would put my daughter down as a person on the list.  I would want it to be her choice for once.  She could choose to be a part or just drop her biological mother for good. I just feel like it would be rude not to include her, even though our relationship is bad, I would still want her to have the choice.  I know, kinda crap after the fact but I’m trying not to make any more decisions for her.

Being an adoptee is complicated business, even once the adoptee is grown and a mature adult.  First of all – no one can make you financially responsible in this situation.  Do not sign anything and make the case that you are NOT legally related to this person.

However, this is always true – grief simply is complicated terrain for most people to navigate.  There is nothing you might feel that can be labeled “wrong” … it just is how you feel. Anger is OK. Rage is OK. Sad is OK. Indifferent is OK. Relief is OK. Feeling nothing is OK. And most importantly, remember, none of this is going to be a permanent heartache in your life going forward, though it may always remain a painful memory.