Category Archives: Resources
I’ve missed you.
In September, I accepted a part-time job. In October, I agreed to work full time when my supervisor said those two little words I can never resist: process improvement. Almost nothing makes me happier than finding better ways to do…well, pretty much anything.
The downside is a sharp decline in free time and I’ve really missed writing.
Tonight I listened to a goal-setting webinar led by Michael Hyatt. I chuckled a little bit when he talked about his own goals. Maybe one of his goals for the year is to sell a lot of the “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever” program he offers at the end of the webinar.
Sales pitch aside, I learned (re-learned) a few things:
- Goals must be written.
- I believe the statistic on the webinar was around 40% more likely. I found a couple articles with statistics up to 80%. The point isn’t really HOW much more likely we are to hit our goals, but that we ARE more likely to do so. Check out some of the articles on the Forbes site.
- Goals must be measurable.
- “I need to lose weight,” is not specific enough. “I want to permanently lose that stupid ten pounds I keep regaining,” is better.
- Instead of “I want to be recognized at work,” a more measurable goal is, “I will meet or exceed my assigned metrics every week,” or “I will read three industry-related articles each week and discuss ways our team can utilize what I’ve learned to improve our processes.”
- Goals must have a deadline or time frame.
- Deadlines provide urgency. I’ve been “working” on updating spreadsheets for the past few weeks but never seemed to finish. Other When the top brass informed us (yesterday at 6 am) that the analysts would pull a report for a presentation at 3 pm today, guess what I finished by 2:30.
- Deadlines provide the ability to draft a timeline—and again, writing the goals improves our chances of finishing.
- Goals must be realistic.
- “I will run a marathon next week.” Written, measurable, deadline. And crazy, unless you’re an avid runner. For most of us, “I will walk to the mailbox instead of driving to get the mail,” or, “I will stop circling the grocery parking lot to find a spot three spaces closer. Instead, I will park at the far end of the parking lot,” are realistic goals.
Most of that is old news. Michael said a few things I’d never really considered.
Goals should be visible.
Post goals somewhere we’ll see them daily. Make a list or, like the picture here, find a creative reminder.
Goal lists should include no more than seven to ten items.
Bonus if we can pare it down to four or five. A goal list shouldn’t be twenty-five things because our brains can’t track that many items, even in writing.
Goals should be passion-driven.
If a goal isn’t exciting, why is it on the list? I never before realized that goal-setting is different from “the list of things I need to accomplish around the house this year.” No one is passionate about painting the front porch steps (on the other hand, I take great delight in plastering sheet rock…but still, not a life goal).
Our goals should make us uncomfortable. Even afraid.
If we’re comfortable, we won’t grow. We won’t take risks.
I plan (IN WRITING) to spend time this week (TIME FRAME) thinking about goals for the upcoming year. I know, it’s a little earlier than the traditional “it’s a New Year; I must revamp my life,” but I invite you to join me.
Let’s choose four or five goals (MEASURABLE) fired by our greatest passions.
Goals that freak us out a little.
Let’s talk about what we’ve accomplished this year and where we want to be next month.
Goal One: Even when working like mad at the job I love and working like crazy for the Hubby and kiddos I love, I will I WILL
I will (this is in writing) make time to post at least once a week (measurable and realistic) for the rest of the year (deadline).
Your turn! What’s your goal one? Comment below.
When the kids arrived, having experienced trauma layered on trauma, they were a couple of angry little hyenas.
Every morning, our son woke screaming in anger. For hours.
We found the music on K-Love soothed them.
You can read more about that in Our Three Songs, a post I wrote a little over two years ago.
This morning, I woke (in slight disgruntlement at the early hour) to my son singing at a decibel level to rival any bass-thumping stereo system on the road today.
When we turn on the radio, he listens for a few minutes, eyes narrowed.
“Is that K-Love?”
I confirm, and he nods, satisfied.
If it’s not K-Love, I have 30 seconds to change the tuner before he begins to complain.
He’s happier, more confident. So is our daughter. They sing with smiles brightening their faces.
Things are definitely not perfect, and the hours of therapy in which we still participate are responsible for much of their gains.
The music of K-Love is just as responsible for their improved outlook.
Today is the last day of the pledge drive. K-Love is on the air in the USA because of listener support.
Hypervigilant.org is a proud business partner supporter of K-Love.
I encourage you to support their ministry. I have seen firsthand the changed lives.
You can donate at 800-525-5683 or at www.klove.com
I get a little sick when I read articles about pretty families adopting a bunch of kids from difference sources (international, domestic, foster, birthmom, etc.).
The adoption isn’t what makes me ill.
Nor the number of children (usually very high, in these articles).
Not even how they acquired the kids.
The thing that really bugs me is how happy everyone seems.
Unsuspecting, good-hearted people read these articles and think, “Wow, they just adopted enough kids to have their own sports team. Look how happy they are. Everyone gets along. So cool!”
And then they find a real-life adoptive family and tell them how amazing they must be.
And then they sign up to be foster parents and can’t figure out why things aren’t hunky-dory.
What happened to amazing???
And then they think,
“If that family could take in fourteen and a half kids who now succeed in school and have fabulous manners,
WHY DO I HATE BEING A FOSTER (or Adoptive) PARENT RIGHT NOW?
Preparation and expectations.
I know, I know, I keep going back to this like a monkey with a crack habit.
First of all, if you are in the middle of all the
many adoption (or foster) situations entail, please don’t give up. And also, when you read these joyous articles of how their children are together creating a solution to world peace, don’t be fooled.
Don’t get me wrong, there are probably a few really happy families out there who have created Shangri-La in their living rooms.
Let’s just look at the facts, though.
EVERY adopted child has experienced loss, or they wouldn’t be available for adoption.
EVERY adopted child has (or will have) feelings they can’t fully comprehend. These might include anger, grief, denial, abandonment and low self-esteem.
It’s almost impossible for a child to emerge unscathed from a situation that makes them available for adoption.
Traumatized kids need help learning to understand their emotions—and eventually, how to deal with them.
Let’s frame this in perspective.
Put the following adults in a house and make them live together with no prior contact:
- Two divorced adults whose partner cheated on them. Non-cheaters were still 100% in love.
- Two adults whose parents abused them.
- Two adults who had a great life and relationship with parents; both parents just passed away.
- Three adults whose spouses died.
- An adult who experienced physical harm at the hands of a stranger.
- A rape victim.
At first, they’ll all be civil and get along. After a while, it won’t be all sunshine and lollipops.
If you don’t believe me, watch any of the ridiculous (we all know they’re scripted) reality TV shows. Even adults without apparent trauma can’t get along for more than a couple weeks.
- We expect children with similar losses and abuses to move in with people they barely know (sometimes just parents; other times, with other kids) and surf along. No problem. Hakuna Matata.
- We allow the fairy tale stories touted by the media to make us feel bad about how things go at our house.
Here’s the honest truth:
1. ADOPTION is the absolute toughest thing we’ve ever done.
2. There’s no such thing as an adoption fairy tale. Or if there is, I don’t know about it.
3. Adoption will not be anything like you expected.
4. Adoption will be MORE than you expected. More angst. More tears. More trauma. More grief. More celebrations. More relief. More joy. More “I’d do it all again for this kid.”
5. Adoption requires support. Asking for help does not equal weakness.
6. Adoption isn’t (did I mention?) pretty.
7. Adoption is HARD.
8. ADOPTION IS WORTH IT.
Yes, it’s tough. If you’re in a rough spot, trust me, I get it. Some days, sinking under the bathwater and just…staying…can seem enticing.
I want to be the best mom I can be, so recently signed up to chat with a counselor. Parenting kids of trauma is no joke. Like I told the counselor, we’re in a really good spot right now, but I can’t fully enjoy it, because I’m always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Because it always does.
We get to a point in which we can relax a little, breathe a little deeper, and then BOOM there goes the shoe. (Sometimes it’s more like a steel-toed boot, and instead of just dropping, it drop-kicks us in the Aston Martin…)
But I have to live in the moment, because we DO have “those moments.” The breakthrough. The understanding. The forgiveness. The clarity. The diagnosis.
If you’re in the same situation, I hope you’ll find a little peace here. Know that you’re not alone. We all teeter on the edge sometimes.
And if, like me, you’re waiting for that “next big problem,” let’s learn to forget about the other shoe.
“Tomorrow has enough troubles.” Right?
Focus on today, and breathe. God will take care of tomorrow (or for that matter, the next five minutes).
*Although I write from my adoption-related experience, one of my blogging buddies pointed out that much of this applies to biological children, as well. What are your thoughts?
How about you? Feeling overwhelmed? Tell us about it below. We all feel better knowing it’s not “just us.” (Hey, even me…) 🙂
If you haven’t checked out Reddit’s Adoption community, it’s time. Here’s an example of the amazing support you’ll find in the adoption sub. This post, written by a parent who’d like to be anonymous, is in response to a heartfelt plea from another adoptive parent. I’m telling you…go: Reddit.com/r/adoption
As an adoptive parent, I feel for you and appreciate that this is incredibly hard. And hard in ways that are triggering. And hard in ways that are deeply despairing.
We fostered a 9 year old with the intention of adoption and finalized last year (2 years later). He had been through a lot – the adults around him have consistently failed him. Instability, violence, abandonment, inconsistent schooling, serious felony activity.
Our first months were actually very harmonious. As we built trust, it got very intense. Defiant. Screaming. Running out of the house. School refusal.
This is where I get you. Holy crap this is the hardest thing I’d ever seen or done. I’ve never been good at self-care, had some of my own unprocessed issues, and could not get a hold on how to help him. I was depressed and desperate. But a few things helped.
My suggestion is that you immediately need to embrace two thoughts.
- It is harder for her. Majorly. Exponentially. Crisis level. Imagine going through what you are now with fewer words available, less brain function, less history of what success looks like, no ability to reach out, no one to talk to who knows you well, little understanding of self, no books to read, nothing. Navigating all this. It’s major. It’s bigger than those of us who were not adopted can possibly understand. I’m not saying you don’t know this, but it’s gotta find a way in.
- Your self care now has a major goal. It’s for all of you. And it’s tough. It may be the hardest thing you ever do, but you all need this.
1. Am I mentally healthy enough to make this child a major priority – right where she is at?
2. Are my therapeutic interventions working? Are they focused on getting me and our family to a healthier place?
3. Can I get the help I need to get regulated and strategic enough in my response to create health?
4. What environment do I thrive best in? (Assume that is one that is relaxed, trusting, comfortable, where you can let loose and be real.)
5. Can I create that for her too?
The system really blindsided you in a sense. That is awful and they need a course correction, but the good news is there is a lot of information out there that will clarify what these kids go through. It’s always been there. You just have to go get it. Like now.
Please seek out adoption-competent and trauma-responsive therapy if that’s not who you are already seeing.
It may truly be that you need to let her go, but get a heck of a lot of adoption-competent and trauma-responsive help. Be an open book with therapists, tell them exactly what is happening – especially the hard stuff, even when you lost your $%&.
Her actions are absolutely to be expected.
I hear that you were surprised and unprepared. And I feel that big time. But this is heads up textbook for what she’s faced/facing.
She isn’t going to be able to verbalize it for a long time. But it has to come out somehow. All that sadness, and shame (misdirected of course). All that anger from being separated and disconnected from what she knew. The lack of control. The mystery and being rudderless.
She is using her body and voice to shout I AM HERE. I AM HERE. I AM HERE. I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE VERY MAD. I DON’T KNOW YOU. I’M IN PAIN.
It will not be logical or linear. Not her job. Not possible.
Our therapist early on told us our only job was “to be a soft place to land.”
This was a major shift for us. We are all told parents must be tough, disciplinarians, correct every off behavior, teach respect. I believed all of that. And it’s not without some merit, but so much is overridden here.
We decided we had to lead with “soft” and “soft place.” When we deviate from that, things get worse.
It was a slow start.
And we did that through self-care, tons of reading, getting our triggers 30% more in check, and remembering we were not parenting a typical child in most ways.
He is developmentally much younger. It sounds like she is, too.
Regarding consequences: she’s too young and too traumatized to learn that way. They (counselors) need to be helping you find other methods. She has not had agency. Things won’t land the same way.
I’d also do a lot of reading around auditory processing and trauma. Can she understand the countdowns you mention?
Are they working?
If they aren’t working, ya gotta pivot.
The pivoting is exhausting, but worth it. And some months, we suck at it. But now about 2 years in, we’ve learned several things:
-Isolation makes it worse; we only walk away to calm down or self-care and then we must come back. Time outs = no.
-Telling him he can’t go somewhere doesn’t work at all. He’s used to disappointment, punishment, disconnect. Not a help.
The pivot is almost always to getting to the calmest place possible.
Not reacting with intensity.
No raised voices.
No shaming (read everything you can on shame and consequences).
-Rigid thinking is a brain thing. Inability to self-regulate is developmentally appropriate and staying inconsolable, intense, etc. is both the reality of small kids, and also connected to trauma. Had to learn this over and over and over again.
This goes doubly for kids who have been exposed to drugs in utero and have had brain issues.
-Remembering it’s about him. It sounds weird, but remembering it is about him, his process, his need for love and trust where there had not been any, his growth, his stability shifted things for me. I have to be the adult. The one who either gets my !@#@ in check or finds another responsible adult to be regulated.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have and sometime have a lot of challenging thoughts and fears. I still screw up, and I still need to focus on me, but it’s freed me to get myself on my own track of learning how to parent a child who has been through adult-created hell and to have him on his own track of building ease and comfort and trust.
-Respite. I had to find ways to take breaks. Sometimes a parent handoff to my spouse, sometimes calling a friend, sometimes just breathing while he is watching a movie or at school.
-Read. I’m a moderately regular reader, but now read pretty much constantly. The information we need was not given to us. The books on trauma and care of kids whose adults have failed them weren’t relatable until I was deep in. Now they are a godsend.
And read everything you can by adoptees. The happy, the angry, the bitter. These voices may not be speaking directly from her experience, but over and over again, I get insight into his behavior and needs from listening to folks who have been there.
This is the big secret in the process that agencies still don’t get.
Adoptees who are sharing what life has been like for them are peerless as our educators.
Shifting our focus to read books by adoption therapists and adoptees has been essential. And focusing our reading on trauma and child development.
This is one of the very best.
Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues.
There is a website called Land of Gazillion Adoptees. No, they are not writing for us, but their words and resources, to me are part of trying to understand what his voice might say were he not his age and still with so much fresh pain and challenge. Love me through it. Respect my story. My privacy matters. I’m not magically healed because I have a new pillow and home. It has to be ok for me to feel rage. (Please pardon the putting words in mouths of others – but these are what I have heard that have shifted how I parent).
I just want to say that walking away if you know you are going to have to fake a robust investment in her health, if you can’t parent this child, may be quite humane.
She needs adults who want to get on track ASAP and who can work on it literally every day. And it’s undeniably exhausting.
I wish you peace and for her, so much comfort and safety and health.
I often hear or read stories about inter-racial families and the feeling of “not belonging.” Sybil brings light to a topic I’ve rarely seen: feelings of not belonging, within a family of the same ethnic background; racism within race.
This interview may be difficult to read. It’s easy to gloss over the “tough emotion” parts of adoption and to just hope that we’ll make it, that we’re doing enough. Sybil leaves no doubt: adoptive parents are responsible to learn, grow and listen.
And as you know, that’s what these interviews are all about.
Interview with Adoptee Sybil M. Ezeff
Tell us a bit about your adoption experience.
I was adopted at 6 weeks, a domestic adoption. My parents and I are Black Americans. My parents are best friends. They have a great relationship. Sometimes I feel like it’s them plus 1. I don’t always feel like a part of my family, because they are so close to one another. I feel like my mom defends everything my dad does even if he says something that hurts me.
Growing up my dad would sometimes make some pretty harsh comments, “I should have left you at the orphanage.” He had a short temper. People that know you the most usually know what to say to hurt you the most. My dad was somewhat of a bully in that sense. He can be extremely nice too. If you met him, you would think he was the nicest person you ever met. However, he has an issue controlling his anger. Whenever I did something wrong or disobeyed him as a teenager he liked to get to me where it hurt the most.
How would you describe your relationship with your parents? (Both now and when you were younger.)
When I was younger, I just felt I didn’t belong. My parents gave me everything imaginable. They say adopted children have one of two outcomes:
- We are abused
- We are spoiled
Even with all my parents gave me, I still felt extremely lonely. As a teenager, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just felt sad all the time, and I had no idea why. Of course, there were good times too. My parents never stopped me from any hobby I wanted to experiment with. I took dancing lessons, music lesson, violin lessons. I was even a Girl Scout.
I think when adoptees speak about our pain or sadness of losing our identity and birth family growing up, other people automatically label us as “angry” adoptees. I wish people would accept the bad as well as the good. Why does my adoption experience have to be good only? Why can’t it be a little bit of both (good and bad)?
Do you have any siblings?
No adopted siblings, but I have at least 1 other from my birth mother. He is a year or two older than myself. My birth mother has not acknowledged to me she has a son, and no one in my birth family will give me any information on finding him. They all say the same thing to me, “We haven’t seen him since he was a baby” as if he just disappeared like a thief in the night. Whenever I do find a birth family member who says they will help me they never come through. They either stop answering my phone calls or just ignore me. This is a half brother. I know nothing about him except his first name may be “Eric,” and he may have been born in or near Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is between the age of 34-36. He was not adopted through the system like myself.
Supposedly my birth mother did not want to raise him either, so she gave him to someone else in his father’s family to raise. They kept in contact throughout his life, but I don’t know if they are in contact now. I still don’t understand why he was allowed to stay within the family unit while I was given to strangers. It hurts and make me feel like I was not worth keeping or fighting for especially since my birth mother is from such a huge family.
The bottom line is that all adoptees deserve the truth. People say how much they don’t want to keep hurt. Guess what? The lies hurt. There’s a saying, “The truth may hurt for a little while, but a lie hurts forever.” Lies hurt, and they destroy. One day when I have children I will have to tell them how my birth family will not tell me who their uncle is. The secrets and lies will continue. Adoption is like a bad gift that keeps on giving.
Did you feel different from your adoptive family?
We do not look alike. When I was in high school, this bothered me; I worried what other people were thinking about us.
I think my mom was aware of it, because as an adult she has told me she knew I did not have an easy childhood. Yet, she never sat me aside and spoke to me about it. She ignored my pain.
My dad was worse than my mom. He ignored it, too. He was always the first to say how I could talk to them about anything, but when I expressed my truth feelings of depression I felt he was quick to tell me that my feelings were crap. In my 20’s I was still trying to understand my feelings and was brave enough to ask my dad to come to see my counselor with me. He said, “I think it’s dumb for someone to go to counseling for being adopted.”
He is extremely stubborn and refuses to acknowledge my feelings. Even today he thinks I’m fine with life, because of all I have accomplished. He doesn’t understand that I try to make myself feel important through my accomplishments. I bought a house. I got my Master’s degree. I’ve done everything that one hopes to gain of the American dream except get married and have children (relationships are hard). He ignores my true feelings or my true self (the part I lost from being adopted).
What are some of the things your parents really “got right” as they parented you?
They told me from a young age that I was adopted.
What do you wish they’d done differently?
I wish they’d kept adoption an open conversation in my home. Mom said they would help me search for my birth mother one day, but they never asked how I felt about being adopted. It was a one time conversation.
the conversation where they tell us we’re adopted and how our other mothers loved us so much, but they couldn’t take care of us. OMG! That sounds terrible! So, if someone loves me, they’ll leave me? That’s pretty much what most children get out of “the talk.”
For at least six weeks after I was born, I shook whenever I was touched. My dad once told me he thought something was wrong with me and considered bringing me back. That hurts. People always want a healthy baby. I guess they want top quality if they pay for it. The shaking was trauma.
I wish they had known or done their homework on raising an adopted child. Back then not much education was out there on the effects that adoption loss would have on us, but is that really an excuse. I know my parents mean well, but they could have done better. If not then, then now. My dad still refuses to understand the trauma of adoption loss.
I wet the bed a lot later than my friends in school did. I often had nightmares and could not sleep well. Experts now know that this is part of the trauma that adopted children go through. We don’t know how to verbalize the loss, but our bodies show it.
Do you have contact with your birth family?
I found my birth mother and her family in February 2012 after an active 8-year search beginning with only non-identifying information.
She refuses to tell me who my birth father is. She said, “It’s none of your business.” I am currently searching for him, and am hopeful that I will find him.
She told me she “wanted to leave me and go on with the rest of her life.” Whenever she found out I spoke to a new member of her family, she’d call me. The conversation always started, “Hi, how are you?” Soon her tone changed and she would begin yelling at me telling me how dare I speak to them. I think the reason most of them still have not reached out to me is because of her. Most of them don’t speak to me and don’t understand the trauma I’ve been through.
I think it’s unfair and wrong. The birth mothers always seem to run the show. The birth family seems to react to us however the birth mother’s reaction is.
I hate when I hear other birth mothers that want to speak for all birth mothers. They try to convince me how my birth mother had no choice and how she loves me. My birth mother has completely separated herself from me and has not made any effort to know me or be a part of my life. She lied to me and said harsh things to me even though I told her how I wanted to know her since I was a little girl. It did nothing to her. She is cold and manipulative. You cannot say ALL birth mothers want their children, because that isn’t true. We want it to be true, but it’s not reality.
How did you find your birth family?
After many failed attempts with search angels, I decided to just pay and get results. I get criticized for paying, but that just shows how desperate adoptees can be to find the truth. I don’t think adoptees should have to pay to find out where we come from, but I wanted answers.
I was tired of looking at strangers on the streets wondering who my aunt, uncle, brother, sister, or even mother might be.
In what ways did the re-connection affect you?
Speaking with my birth mother was another traumatic experience, because she was not welcoming at all, but I am glad I no longer have to wonder where I come from. The connection was okay in the beginning, but I started to see patterns of other secrets that people in my birth family were keeping from me. One family member would mention something that I never knew about. It made me think, huh, that’s interesting. No one said that to me before. They’re trying to protect her secrets. Finding them made me realize that I don’t belong anymore. I was raised somewhere else.
My birth family doesn’t understand my fear of getting close to them and losing them all over again.
I’ve already experienced that with several of them now who stopped talking to me. Our relationship was short lived. There were many nights I cried in bed realizing that they didn’t want me. They left me again. It was like a pain I had not felt since I was a little girl. Our birth families sometimes act like we should jump right in and forget the past and act like nothing ever happened as if it’s that easy. Trauma is not something you get over that easy.
People reading this may wonder why I keep saying trauma. When a baby’s born they know everything about the mother: her smell, touch, voice. To have everything they once knew ripped from them and to be handed over to strangers is traumatic.
The baby feels like the mother abandoned them. Of course, we have to go on to survive. I think that’s when the adoptee learns how to separate the hurt part of herself from the other part in order to survive. Yet, it’s still there in their subconscious. The effects of this trauma last well into our adulthood.
Everyone said how much my birth mother would not reject me and how she would want to know me. That was not what happened. She refuses to get past her own pain to give me closure. I no longer speak with her. It was too painful.
How do you think your adoptive family members feel about the re-connection? How did they react?
I told them a year after I found my birth family. My dad never believed I would find anything, so he was shocked. I told them about my birth mother’s reaction. My mom could not understand how she could respond to me that way. My dad said it is her loss. They know I spoke to other family members, but they never asked me about them or how I felt talking to them. They never asked to see photos or anything.
What advice would you give other adoptees searching for their birth family members?
Don’t give up. You deserve to know the truth. It’ s your truth. There will be lots of people who tell you otherwise. Ignore them. Most people only want to hear to candy-coated adoption stories. There are still a lot of adoptees who are afraid to speak their true feelings; they are afraid of rejection.
What are your thoughts on adoption in general?
Adoption will always be needed, because of the world we live in today. Children will always need homes. However, every attempt imaginable should be made to keep the child within the family unit. Adoption is a greedy business. Birth mothers are not strongly advised about the effects adoption will have on their children. They are told that because they are single they can’t do it and a two-parent home is better. Guess what? Adopted parents get divorced too.
Adoption does not always guarantee a better life. Sometimes it’s just a different life.
The first thing that needs to change about adoption is the secrecy and lies. Adoptions should be open unless the mother is at risk for her life. Open adoptions need to stay open. Adoption agencies need to legally hold both parties to this. I also feel counseling should be free and mandatory at least once a month to adoptees and adoptive parents as often as needed until the child is 18 years of age.
If you had a magic wand to “fix the system,” what would you do?
My way to stop it would be to stop the unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.
How do you define yourself?
Lost. I have two families now, and I don’t fit in either one. My adoptive family sometimes feels strange, and my birth family are now all strangers.
If your family was of different ethnic origin from you, did that impact you? If yes, in what ways?
We are the same race, but that doesn’t not make it easier.
With Black Americans, there can be a lot of racism within your own race and birth family.
American slavery told lighter skin blacks they were better than darker skinned ones. This particularly happened in the south and still happens today. Many of my white friends find this hard to believe and don’t understand it.
Although I was also black, my parents had more European-dominated features. Black people can have a very diverse background. Some of us may even have white skin. Because of how my parents looked, It made me feel ugly particularly since I went to primarily white schools and got teased for my “Black” features. My mom who was black had straight Caucasian hair, so she struggled with mine.
Being the same race doesn’t necessarily make it better. Some blacks talk about their struggles with white adoptive families. I had struggles in a family of my own race.
If you have the opportunity to adopt, do you think you will?
Never, because I don’t want to watch someone grow up with the pain I experienced. No matter how good a life you give an adopted child, the loss is always there.
My adoptive mom was adopted. She never expressed a need to know who she was like I have. She did once primarily for medical reasons. I sometimes see how adoption has affected her life in her need to be “perfect” for my grandparents, especially my grandmother, and how it has affected our ability to have a close relationship.
I wish I could give my mom answers, because I know deep down she is hurting but refuses to acknowledge her feelings. I think she feels she will betray my grandparents even though they are no longer living.
What’s your advice for adoptive parents?
Make adoption an open conversation in the home and often talk to your adopted child about how they feel especially on birthdays. They should see a counselor who specializes in adoption related issues. Not all therapists/counselors can help you.
This is a topic that is overlooked constantly in the counseling world. Adopted children often get misdiagnosed for being Bipolar. Talk to adoptees before adopting, not just other adoptive parents.
Don’t ignore the signs of trauma or dismiss the feelings of an adopted child.
Just because your adopted child makes good grades I school and is obedient at home does not mean everything is okay.
There are some adoptees that act out as children. It’s easier to see their pain, but the quiet ones are the ones that are harder to predict that there is a problem. Sometimes as adoptees we feel that we must be good or we might get sent back or abandoned all over again.
Listen to your adopted child. When they don’t say anything, that is probably when they need to be heard the most. ALWAYS REMEMBER: raising an adopted child is not like raising your own biological child.
What would you say to other adoptees?
Don’t give up on searching for the truth or feel guilty for looking for it.
Anything else you’d like to include?
- Adoptees should not have to choose families. There is a belief that if an adoptee want to find their birth family, they don’t love their adoptive family. That isn’t true. We’re trying to find ourselves. Please respect and support that.
- Finding a therapist that specializes in adoption related issues is crucial. Adoptive parents, please do your homework. Do not just take your child to “any” therapist. If that therapist cannot tell you what The Primal Wound is, that is a good sign they probably cannot help you. Finding a good therapist is crucial for you and your adopted child.
- Adoption search shows on TV are just that. It’s television. Those shows make it look so easy. They don’t show the depression we go through every birthday. They don’t show how some friends leave you, because they are tired of hearing about your adoption or they want you to get over it. They don’t show the cost of searching. Most adoptees do not get names or anything to identify the birth parents to us. Some adoption agencies charge us for non-identifying information. I paid $50. I hear some that pay as much as $500. Then we spend hundreds and thousands of dollars more on therapy, searching, and DNA testing just to find what other people take for granted.
Please note: I love my parents. They may have had good intentions, but it wasn’t enough. It doesn’t have to be like that for adoptees today. No adoptive parent has an excuse. Please do not be afraid of our stories or be so quick to judge us and label us angry. Learn from the bad stories and follow the examples of the good ones.
Sybil M. Ezeff lives in the U.S., is in her early thirties and loves animals. She has a Master’s degree and has written a memoir, currently in edit, and is working on a second book about African American adoptees. Visit her blog: https://adoptedoutmemoir.com/
He is eight years old. Skinny and awkward and adorable. We sit at the kitchen table, coloring.
His dad is one of my favorite college professors, fascinating and intelligent. His mom is the woman everyone in the girls’ dorm wants to be when we grow up: wise, soft-spoken, graceful.
Sometimes I babysit. Today, I dropped by to see his mother and play with my little buddy.
“Draw Toby again,” he pleads.
Toby, the multicolored, furry creature I created just for him. Toby is talented, musical, always smiling. Also, he has a chronic habit of leaving his high-top sneakers untied.
I pick up a marker and begin to draw.
He is nine years old. We sprawl on the floor, watching monochromatic terror and insanity crescendo on the screen. The original Frankenstein. I listen for his little sister, napping in the next room.
I am a little shocked that this movie, his favorite, will not give him nightmares. Pretty sure I’ll have one.
I glance at him as the monster comes to life.
His smile is wider than the sun and twice as bright.
He is ten.
I sit in the Florida autumn sun, absorbed in test preparation. I ignore the tiny berries sailing by my head.
Sauntering past my chair, he tosses my notebook into the bushes and takes off running.
He’s fast, but I’m still faster.
I catch up and toss him over my shoulder.
I carry him toward the pond, fabled to be frequented by a large alligator. He screams with laughter, pleading for his life. I agree to give him one more chance.
He is eleven.
He rides a large pony. I walk with him, showing him how to keep heels down, how to communicate gently through the reins.
I grin at his parents, thrilled with his quick success.
I snap a picture of his adorable little sister sitting on a Shetland.
The family moves out West. I leave Florida. My life moves on, as does theirs. Other than intermittent communication, we lose touch.
The picture of his sister remains on my dresser through grad school and three moves. I love those two kids with all my heart. The distance devastates me.
He is twenty-something. He writes a beautiful letter, thanking me for the time I spent with him during his childhood. He writes about Toby. I had forgotten.
We lose touch again, until he mails a picture. He’s married a beautiful girl.
I am happy, so happy for my boy.
He is thirty.
I read his sister’s message, stunned.
None of us knew how deeply he was hurting.
We are so thankful that he trusted in Jesus to give him eternal life, and now he isn’t hurting anymore.
We never saw this coming. I’m heartbroken.
I imagine his parents’ devastation. His family’s deep loss. They were close. Having practically lived with them for several years, I can vouch his parents were some of the best in the business. Not perfect, of course, but amazing. And still, this unexpected tragedy.
Once, I heard a slogan, something along the lines of “Suicide is Not the Solution!” Unfortunately, for many teens and young adults seems to be a solution. And in some cases, the solution.
They think it’s the final solution to a life too overwhelming to comprehend, too hopeless to navigate.
Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year and there are many more who attempt suicide. Hence, many millions of people are affected or experience suicide bereavement every year. Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally in 2012.
-World Health Organization (bold mine)
And I think of our two children, with their insane start to life. The neglect, abuse and resulting depression they’ve both experienced. Hubby and I were naive and fully untrained when they arrived. We made tons of mistakes. We still do. Although we do our best to learn and grow, both of us are far from perfect.
Children who’ve survived the foster care system are at even higher risk for suicide.
• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly two and a half times more likely to seriously consider suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Adolescents who had been in foster care were nearly four times more likely to have attempted suicide than other youth (Pilowsky & Wu, 2006).
• Experiencing childhood abuse or trauma increased the risk of attempted suicide 2- to 5-fold (Dube et al., 2001).
• Among 8-year-olds who were maltreated or at risk for maltreatment, nearly 10% reported wanting to kill themselves (Thompson, 2005).
• Adverse childhood experiences play a major role in suicide attempts. One study found that approximately two thirds of suicide attempts may be attributable to abusive or traumatic childhood experiences (Dube et al., 2001).
-Helen Ramaglia, Suicide and the Foster Child
If this tragedy can happen in my friends’ family, it can happen to anyone. There’s no way to guarantee our world’s children will discount this solution, be willing to consider other avenues, when it seems so easy to simply fall asleep. Forever.
I’ve experienced depression. Desperation. Futility. Bleak future. No chance things will improve. No way out.
One way out, it seems.
There is no single cause to suicide. It most often occurs when stressors exceed current coping abilities of someone suffering from a mental health condition.
– American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
And just as someone who is depressed may believe the untruth that suicide is the only door to relief, we have some myths of our own.
The following are common misconceptions about suicide:
“People who talk about suicide won’t really do it.”
Not True. Almost everyone who commits or attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Do not ignore suicide threats. Statements like “you’ll be sorry when I’m dead,” “I can’t see any way out,” — no matter how casually or jokingly said, may indicate serious suicidal feelings.
“Anyone who tries to kill him/herself must be crazy.”
Not True. Most suicidal people are not psychotic or insane. They may be upset, grief-stricken,depressed or despairing. Extreme distress and emotional pain are always signs of mental illness but are not signs of psychosis.
“If a person is determined to kill him/herself, nothing is going to stop him/her.”
Not True. Even the most severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, and most waiver until the very last moment between wanting to live and wanting to end their pain. Most suicidal people do not want to die; they want the pain to stop. The impulse to end it all, however overpowering, does not last forever.
“People who commit suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.”
Not True. Studies of adult suicide victims have shown that more then half had sought medical help within six month before their deaths and a majority had seen a medical professional within 1 month of their death.
“Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.”
Not True. You don’t give a suicidal person ideas by talking about suicide. The opposite is true — bringing up the subject of suicide and discussing it openly is one of the most helpful things you can do.
-Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE)
That last point is important. Ignoring the problem or the symptoms will not “make it go away.” We have to talk about it. We must. Below are suggestions for beginning the conversation.
Ways to start a conversation about suicide:
- I have been feeling concerned about you lately.
- Recently, I have noticed some differences in you and wondered how you are doing.
- I wanted to check in with you because you haven’t seemed yourself lately.
Questions you can ask:
- When did you begin feeling like this?
- Did something happen that made you start feeling this way?
- How can I best support you right now?
- Have you thought about getting help?
What you can say that helps:
- You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.
- You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.
- I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.
- When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold off for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.
Preventing Suicide, Helpguide
In my deepest depression as a teen, suicide crossed my mind. It never became an option because I had too many nosy adults in my life. And that was a great thing.
In the minds of the hopeless, suicide seems to be a solution. We need to help them see that although suicide may appear to end the problem, it doesn’t solve anything.
Be the nosy adult,
especially if you’re in the life of a child who has been in the foster system or experienced some kind of abuse.
Kids are dying for someone to care. Literally.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) or visit their website: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.