Reunions and Expectations... and what to do about them
Where do I begin to describe this past weekend that I spent at the workshop the Forget Me Not Family Society hosted, “Reunions and Expectation……..and what to do about them” with Joe Soll? Driving into New Westminster for the workshop on Saturday morning, on the radio Pat Benatar was blasting out “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” and that made me think……..yeah, how perfect. I was wanting Joe to hit all of us with his ‘best shot’, I was wanting him to challenge all of us to be strong and to be able to reach inside of ourselves for what we needed to get out in order to continue on the next step of our adoption healing.
Once again a group of us whose lives had been affected by adoption had gathered to learn how we can deal with the expectations that we didn’t know we had about our reunion stories. We were going to cry, and laugh, sometimes at the same time. As Nancy Kato said, we were with enlightened witnesses……….loving witnesses, we were safe to share our thoughts and yes, Mr. Soll, our feelings.
One of Joe’s goals was to teach us that we needn’t be afraid of our emotions, that we need to be able to acknowledge our feelings of pain and loss, and of anger. It’s okay to feel our feelings, and know that we won’t die from them. We also need to learn that we aren’t responsible for the feelings of others.
One of the fears that was very common amongst us was that if we started to cry, if we allowed ourselves to do so, we may never stop. Because of that fear many times we don’t want to feel our pain or acknowledge our sadness at our loss of mother or child. At times when we are asked how we feel we will think for a moment and then respond……..”I don’t know.” That response means that we have quit thinking, we don’t want to think, we don’t want to acknowledge the feelings we are having. Time and time again Joe would remind us about our wounded inner child that each of us have. What we need to do is reach inside ourselves, talk out loud in our heads, and acknowledge that little person we all have inside. For those adopted we need to find our 7 year old, and for mothers, the connection needs to be made with the age they were at the loss of their child. We need to make that connection, so that we can help our ‘little one’ heal. We need to let our inner child know that we are the adult them, and that they are safe with us. Our inner child knows how we feel, they know what happened back then, they have the memory. We need to reassure them that they can always trust us as their adult self, and that we will always be there for them. Between the two the healing begins, a true team is formed.
Joe taught us about how reunions can go astray because of the fears we have, of seeing the family we missed out on, the child that we didn’t get to raise, can for some be too much to bear, and so sadly the fear is so great that a pull back occurs. The pull back can be short lived, or it can last for years…….sometimes forever. What we need to do is to learn that the pull back isn’t about us, it’s about the fears and pain our mother or child is feeling. The feelings being so great that it’s easier to throw the wall back up, and retreat to the safe place of denial…….the safe place where what is real doesn’t exist. Where we can once again blot out the painful feelings.
Joe taught us about our anger, and what we can do with it to make it constructive rather than destructive. We can make anger lists, we can weight those feelings of anger from one to a million if need be, in order to help see what is making us feel the anger that we do. We can become physical with our anger……….clean the house, go for a good long walk……get that anger out in a positive and constructive way, channel it to help us and not hurt us or those around us. When we learn how to do this, we don’t need to be afraid of it.
“If we can change how we think, we can change how we feel.” Those are the words that Joe Soll repeated several times over the course of our weekend. If we can throw out words in our vocabulary such as ‘rejection’, we will be able to change how we look at reactions we are met with in our reunion. We can’t be rejected, we may not receive the acceptance that we were hoping for, but knowing that it’s not a rejection of us, knowing that it’s not personal can help us turn our thoughts around. If we change the thought that the lack of acceptance or lack of acknowledgement is about the experience of our ‘found’ person we won’t feel the hurt and the anger, or if we do experience those feelings, we will be able to ‘think’ our way to a clearer understanding of what is going on.
Joe and Nancy (and so do I) believe that when we don’t know the whole story of what went on when we were born, or if our mothers don’t know what kind of lives we have had, that it’s better to have positive thoughts, take a positive spin than to take that dark and narrow road of negativity. If we don’t know why our person isn’t responding, it’s best to think that they may just not yet be ready, rather than to make up what we don’t know for sure. Why cause ourselves all of that unnecessary grief if we can possibly help it? “If we change how we think, we can change how we feel.”
As hard as it is, we need to try to empathize with our people, try to not be judgmental, because we have not walked in their shoes. This was another of Joe’s messages that kept being repeated, the need for empathy and compassion, not judgment. The need for those adopted to learn from mothers. To read about them, and learn what it was like for them. It’s also necessary for mothers to learn about what life has been like for those adopted, not knowing where they came from, or why they are as they are. Our mother’s need to know that we weren’t blank slates, that we have always carried parts of them in our genetic make-up. Just as they have carried us in their hearts.
Finally, we learned how much music is a part of our emotional well being. We had the chance to hear a couple of our adopted participants take a short break, and entertain us with their musical abilities on the piano. Dawn Wolaschuck mentioned how the Beatle’s song “Nowhere Man” has always meant so much to her, as well as how the words from “My Heart Will Go On” sung by Celine Dion.
There was a lot of crying, a lot of laughing separately, and then all together and as Dawn said “laughing and crying are both a part of life”. We thank Joe Soll for once again, coming to New Westminster, and thank all of those brave souls who chose to take the time and share their courage and bravery so that we are able to take these next steps in our reunion journey of healing.