A fellow adoptee friend of mine shared this earlier today and it struck me. I immediately had to go write about it!
Goodbyes have always been difficult for me. As a child, they were nothing short of traumatic—especially when it came to my parents. When I was 7 my mother travelled for the fourth time to India, this time to accompany a friend in bringing home her own adopted baby. I knew how far away India was, and I was sure my mother was going to die while there. I tried my hardest to be brave and not to cry, but my heart ached for my Mama to come home. I needed everyone home in order to feel we were all safe.
I remember believing with all my heart that if I didn’t give a proper goodbye they would either leave and never come back, or they would die without a goodbye.
When my dad would leave for work every morning, if I didn’t get to give him a kiss and tell him goodbye face to face I would have a breakdown. Breakdown as in crying uncontrollably until I could find him and embrace him. Separation was so traumatic. There was one particular day I remember I was so inconsolable that my mom called my dad back to the house because he left before I could say goodbye. I remember another day where I was sick with the stomach flu and Dad had snuck off to work without saying goodbye. I was devastated and as I was hurling into the trash can, I tried yelling out goodbye loud enough for him to hear. He didn’t respond, so I knew he hadn’t heard. My little heart was absolutely broken.
In my young innocent heart, I thought goodbyes were permanent. I’d been told so often that my birth family loved me so much that they had to say goodbye to me. So in my mind, love meant goodbye, and goodbyes meant forever.
Anne’s words hit me because after so long of this anxiety and stress that accompanied goodbyes, the adoptee’s body and mind shut down. It’s easier to walk away than to undergo the stress it triggers. The moment our blood relatives abandoned us, our little bodies experienced a separation so traumatic, it triggered a heightened level of a stress hormone that never quite went away. Fight, flight, or freeze. Now as adults, that’s how many of us function—at the first sight of conflict, we see a goodbye. And goodbyes have only ever meant forever. If you know an adoptee who struggles with this, please hang in there. Please don’t give up on us. We are trying…it doesn’t mean we don’t care.