Adoption is a foreign country … a lost home (5)

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The late Betty Jean Lifton—adoptee, writer and adoption reform advocate—a front runner in understanding and articulating the impacts of closed adoption, in the last of her trilogies, Journey of the Adopted Self – A Quest for Wholeness, speaks of the lost home adopted people experience through their lives.

“Whether heterosexual or homosexual, many adoptees carry through life a sense of dislocation, a sense of being the outsider, a sense of orphanhood. The adoption papers are their passport, but their true home is lost to them. They have been in exile ever since being cut off from their origins, and fear they will end up in exile. Having experienced total loss once, they fear they could experience it again. They can never be certain of what a secure home is.”

And this happens in the best and loving of adoptive families. I had one. Notwithstanding the unconditional love, the protection and privacy of a secure house and worldly possessions—typical of any western middle class family—the dislocation was ever present, the sense of living in a state of perpetual exile remained. Fuelled in part by secrecy—‘there’s not much that we can say’; the silence—‘let’s not go there’; and the pretence that all was well—a happy adoptive family where love would conquer all.

There is a tension … noted by Betty Jean … of exposing the myth of the happy adoptive family … where an excess of happiness to make up for the excess of loss in many ways masks an excess of denial to cover the first loss. Out of this tug of war of human emotion emerges yet another tension that isn’t easy, or comfortable to live with, and harder still to describe — the tenuous thread of holding onto the very real need and love that adoptive parents and the child may have for each other while they try to identify what ‘home’ really is.

Adoption is a foreign and confusing country.

 

The myth of the happy adoptive family … where an excess of happiness to make up for the excess of loss in many ways masks an excess of denial to cover the first loss.