Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dealing with it.

Double Portrait, Lucian Freud           

I love this post on Lost Daughters by Karen Pickell. She's talking about dealing with grief. My best friend said to me one day that me and my family cry because it's Tuesday. She comes from a family that doesn't show emotion. It was always forbidden for her which I find very sad. At the same time I come from a family of criers. I cry over many things - commercials on tv, books and movies, compliments, anger, you name it - I can cry about it.

I'm a step-parent adoptee along with being a mother who lost a child to adoption. I know about dealing with grief. I've been living with the grief of losing my daughter for the last 32 years. It was a grief that had to be hidden and swallowed on a daily basis. I had to pretend that I had 2 children instead of 3. I had to pretend that everything was just peachy with my family even though becoming pregnant while single was the ultimate perceived shame upon my family and my daughter's adoption was the result of that shame.

What Karen's post reminded me of were the times when I was a little girl and my parents would find me crying for what they thought was no reason. I heard these stories for years, stories about me as a little child, sitting in front of the tv just crying. They told me they would ask... "why are you crying?" The joke was when I would say... "I don't know". They thought that was funny. They thought it was funny that a small child of 4 or 5 years old who was sitting there crying her eyes out, didn't know why she was crying. I've often wondered if the crying had something to do with the loss of my father even though from the stories I heard, there wasn't much to lose. Who knows. I just can't imagine having one of my children crying like that and not being concerned about the cause. Apparently I was suffering from some sort of upset but couldn't verbalize it. Did I somehow know that my father didn't want anything to do with me, even though he was gone when I was a baby? Was that affecting me or was it just something happening in the house that day that bothered me. From what I understand it wasn't an isolated incident. I guess I cried a lot as a kid. What I want to know is... why.

I learned a lot about my adoption experience of grief by going through a completely different type of grief process. I was extraordinarily close to my grandmother. In her last decade she lived very close to me and I saw her nearly every day. Her last weeks were spent in a nearby nursing home and I would sit with her for hours. We talked about everything under the sun including the fact that she would be leaving us soon. We cried a lot, we held each other's hands, the grieving had begun. She grieved with me about her leaving. When she died I was sitting on one side of her bed holding her hand while my mother held her other hand. The rest of the family was gathered around the room. As she took her last breath I felt peace. Of course I cried through the following days of dealing with the funeral and all that entails but I also laughed. We all had many good stories to tell about our lives with her. Of course I still miss her but now I can look back and think of her with fondness and love.

Losing my daughter and losing my grandmother were both devastating to me but there was a difference. I was allowed to openly grieve one loss but not the other. Although the people in my family cry easily, my pregnancy and shame meant that there could be no grieving about adoption. How could I grieve for her if no one is supposed to have known about her? As far as the loss of my father, how could I grieve something that I was too young to recognize or understand? For that matter, how could I grieve something that no one else even considered to be a loss for me at all?

What I do know from these grief experiences is, whether it's hidden or unrecognized, grief has to come out at some point. It has to be dealt with eventually. In the loss of my grandmother, the grief was hard but eventually there was peace because the pain was allowed to happen. When it's allowed it's easier to move through it. In the loss of my daughter the grief would explode out of me every year around her birthday. I could only swallow so much during the course of the year before it would spill over and her birthday was the catalyst. I then thought that reuniting with her would end the pain but what I found was, in meeting her, there was another layer of grief to come to the surface - it was the realization of all that I missed in her childhood and the anger at what was done to both of us. When I saw the photos of her growing up it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Everyone's process is different and we all need to do these things in our own way. For me, going through one type of grief gave me a much better understanding of the other kind, the kind that had to be hidden. In thinking about how I handle life situations, it's good to realize that maybe it's the grief that has to be dealt with and it's not that I'm somehow defective.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


The Mending Project is an installation and performance art piece by artist Beili Liu. I discovered this project from a website called This is Colossal. It's an amazing website that offers the most creative, unusual, artistic, outrageous and ingenious work out there. It's become one of my favorite places to visit and share. In perusing the site today I came across Beili Liu's performance piece and was struck by a connection I felt with her work and with the work that I do relating to adoption.

If you go to the post about her project you'll see a video where she talks about her piece and what it means. She talks about difficult situations in life, fears we encounter and uncertainty in the society we live in. Traditionally, mending and sewing has been considered women's work and the mending that she's doing is about making something better, "bringing something smaller together to form something larger". When we face difficulty, she says... "The best thing we can do perhaps is something very simple and if we can do it with persistence and calmness, some change can happen." That is the line that resonated for me.

What we do is women's work. No one else can speak to what we've been through. Only women give birth, only women share their bodies with another human being and know what it feels like to feel another person move and grow within them. Only women know what it is to be connected to another human on a cellular level. Only women know the kind of primal grief that there is to experience when she loses the small being that she nurtured in her body. The pain of loss happens whether it's the pain of a miscarriage or the pain of losing a child to adoption. As women we feel this pain. It's a deep and cutting pain.

What do we do with it then? In some cases we spend years grieving. We deal with it in the quiet moments. We try to maintain a semblance of order. We focus on the outward things, the things that seem to matter. We hide. We pretend. We put on a brave face. We lie. We say that we're okay. Are we really? No, of course not. There is no "OK" in the world of losing our children.

What struck me with this artist's work is the idea of keeping it simple and proceeding with persistence and calmness. There's something to be said for the idea of making change happen in the slow and steady work of getting the word out there, moving forward with the slow and steady work of continuing the Silent Voices series. It's important that we continue with the slow and steady work of contacting advertisers about the horrendous show "I'm Having Their Baby". It's crucial that we continue to talk about what adoption did to us and what adoption did to our children. We have to keep letting people know that it's not all rainbows and sunshine, that there is real damage done in the world of infant adoption. We have to tell people about the corruption, greed, selfishness and profit that continues to separate mothers and their babies.

It's slow and steady work. It's many small gestures, many small comments. It's persistence. It's staying calm in spite of the fear. It's remaining cool in spite of the heat of battle. It's holding back the tears in spite of the choke hold they have on you. It's staying calm in spite of the rage you feel - the rage of being taken advantage of, the rage of being used as a vessel for someone else's wants, the rage of being used for someone else's monetary gain.

We take small steps. We must be tenacious. All these small steps will lead to something larger. They will lead to change and something better. We have to keep on talking about what we've been through. We have to keep on pushing. It's only through the recognition of the past that we can make the future better.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Imbalance of Power

Small and fragile the nest sits
waiting for life, leaning and pushing,
releasing the crowning glory.

It's not to be kept.
The constellation approves.
The powerless see
 the powers that be.

Privilege and influence are the controls,
in the cool shade of an industry disguised. 
Under the force of decades,
the impotent surrender.

Twigs snap, hearts break.
The powerless see 
  the powers that be.