"People don't tend to have the same respect for emotional brokenness as they do physical brokenness. Because they can't see the broken heart like they could a broken leg, it's easy to doubt that anything significant is really wrong."
A dear friend, who I feel a great connection to although we've never met, said this in one of her blog posts. Really, you should read her story from the beginning. She is an adoptee going through a tremendous amount of emotional turmoil, stress and upheaval at the moment. Actually those words really don't convey what she's been dealing with but how do you get across the ridiculous amount of trauma that a person goes through. How do we explain to people who really have no experience with this kind of thing, what it is we go through. You really can't. Unless you've walked in those same shoes you really can't know the depth of the emotion. They hear the words and try to understand but since there's no physical evidence it's too easy to move beyond the brokenness without considering that the break is still there on the inside. It's too easy to forget that the pain is still there. A cast on a broken bone is a reminder. There is no reminder with emotional trauma.
When I lost my daughter to adoption no one could see the broken me. No one had any idea because I was expected to hide it. She was a big secret so of course no one knew what had just happened. Imagine this scenario - your child dies and no one knows. In just a few days you go to work and you're expected to smile and act as if nothing has happened. You can't talk about it. You can't cry about it. You can't even seem sad let alone be able to really grieve. Your friends don't know so when you go to a party or out to dinner, you have to pretend not to think about it and just make small talk until you can get through the evening without crying. Your coworkers don't have a clue of course so you have to put on the professional face and maintain your composure throughout the workday. You run into people at the grocery store that you know from school or church or work and you have to pretend to be happy that you've run into them and have to now act like nothing out of the ordinary has happened.
Then you have the family members who DO know what happened - the very few who were privy to the actual events- the ones who knew where you were when you were gone out of town for 5 or 6 months during the pregnancy. I'm starting to realize that when dealing with this type of trauma, it's really not much different when people know what happened as opposed to the folks who really didn't have a clue. If you're not part of the adoption community in one form or another it's difficult to understand the trauma that is involved for that person. For the people who knew what was happening, it became about not only keeping the secret but keeping the peace. I think on one level they just didn't want to upset me. The thinking at the time was... just don't mention it. Just like the idea of keeping a baby away from the mother after the birth was supposed to make it easier to deal with the separation, the idea of not talking about the loss was supposed to make the transition back to "normal" life easier. Did that work? Of course not. On another level, this kind of denial just made it easier for them. Just get back to the status quo and everything will be okay. If we make it look good on the outside, it will be good on the inside. Keep the surface squeaky clean and all will be good.
But.... what happens then? Sure, you manage to maintain on the outside but what's happening on the inside? You're still broken. You swallow the pain. You go home and try to figure out how to cope. You cry when you're alone. You have nightmares. You deal with fear. You deal with anxiety. Why do we struggle to deal with this alone? Because like my friend said.... the emotional brokenness is not as obvious so it doesn't get the same amount of respect. We hear.... just move on, don't be bitter or angry, put the past behind you, why can't you just leave it behind? It's been so many years... why are still crying about it? Why are you still writing about it? Oh, you're writing about that again... that's why you're banging on the keys so hard. Well, pardon me, don't mean to be so noisy while I do my best to work through this and try to do something to help others. Sorry, hard not to get snarky when dealing with this issue.
With a broken bone you can see the result of healing - the cast comes off. The wound is healed. With adoption, whether adoptee or mother, the wound is never really healed, it's just scabbed over. Sometimes events pick at the scab. Sometimes people pick at it with the comments they make and they don't even realize they're doing it. Sometimes the comments are intentional because others don't want to deal with the truth - it makes them too uncomfortable. Maybe that's because they had a hand in making the adoption happen or maybe it's because they participated in the adoption of another child because like so many millions of people - they got sucked in to the adoption industry propaganda.
However it happens.... the wound is there and the respect isn't. We have to hold each other up. We have to be there for each other - mothers for mothers, mothers for adoptees, adoptees for adoptees. Eventually we'll get there. Eventually people will understand more. Thanks to my dear friend for putting herself out there and letting people see the turmoil and raw emotion of what being an adoptee is like from her experience. It's only through the telling of these experiences that we can gain the understanding and eventually the respect of others.