Coming to terms with being adopted is a difficult process for many adoptees. Confusion, grief, and self-doubt are all perfectly normal emotions, so don’t feel ashamed if you experience these or any other strong emotions. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and share them with trusted friends and family members. You might also benefit from reading about other adoptees’ experiences, speaking with a counsellor, or joining a local adoption support group.
Method 1 Finding out that You’re Adopted
1. Discuss your emotions with your family and friends. It’s natural to be confused, shocked, and overwhelmed after learning you’re adopted. Allow yourself to feel these emotions and share them with people you can rely on.
You may feel guilty or nervous about sharing conflicting emotions with your adopted family, but try to ignore these feelings. You don’t have to hide your emotions or struggle with them on your own.
Tell your adoptive parents, “I’m experiencing strong emotions as a result of my adoption, but please don’t take it personally if I share them with you. I want to be honest about my feelings, and talking about them with you helps.”
2. If you didn’t find out until later in life, try to be understanding. If your parents have hidden the fact that they adopted you, try to understand their motivations. When parents withhold information about their adopted children’s adoption, they usually have their adopted children’s best interests in mind.
If you found out about your adoption as a teenager or adult, it’s natural to be shocked, sad, or angry. Talk to them when you’re calm, and be honest with your parents about your emotions.
When approaching them, try saying something like, “I understand you had your reasons, but I wish you had told me when I was younger. I’m disappointed that you kept me in the dark for so long about something so important.”
Allow them the chance to explain why they didn’t want to tell you. Inquire, “Could you tell me why you aren’t telling me? It would allow me to see things from your point of view.”
3. Examine books and articles written by other adoptees. Find memoirs, essays, blogs, and other publications written by adoptees who have come to terms with their adoption experience. Learning how other adoptees deal with their emotions can help you deal with your own.
In addition to written sources, you can watch documentaries and films about adoption.
Look for adoption-related media on the internet, at your local library or bookstore, and on your video streaming service. Stories and media can also be found at http://www.adoptionbeat.org.
4. Look for an adoptee support group. At a local age-appropriate support group, share your storey with others in similar situations. Look online for a support group for adoptees your age, or ask a local counsellor or adoption agency for a referral.
https://americanadoptioncongress.org/support grps.php has a list of US support groups organised by state.
If you are hesitant to join a support group in person, you can join an online support group or a social media page.
5. Speak with a counsellor who has worked with adoptees before. Look online or ask your primary care physician for a referral to a local mental health professional. Find a therapist who specialises in adoption-related issues such as grief, loss, identity formation, and fear of abandonment.
A counsellor can assist you in understanding and processing your emotions. Seeing one may be beneficial if you are concerned that your ability to form friendships and intimate relationships will be hampered by grief, fear, and anxiety.
If you are experiencing any of these feelings and want to seek help, don’t be ashamed. Many adoptees have strong emotions and have difficulty completely trusting others.
6. Concentrate on the relationships you’ve formed with your adopted family. Many people are concerned that their adopted family is not their “real” family after learning of their adoption. While these emotions are normal, the bonds you share with your adopted family are genuine.
If you have biological siblings who are the biological children of your adoptive parents, you may feel conflicted or excluded. Remind yourself that, despite your disparate backgrounds, you and your siblings are all members of the same family and have equal standing.
Sibling relationships are all complicated. If you have a strained relationship with a sibling, it may be beneficial to consult with a family counsellor together.
Method 2 Coping with Grief and Loss
1. Allow yourself time to mourn. Some adoptees may experience sadness, confusion, or a combination of emotions in relation to their birth family. You have the right to grieve for your birth parents, to be sad that you don’t know them, and to empathise with the events in their lives that led to your adoption. You don’t have to keep these feelings hidden from yourself or your adoptive parents. Allow yourself to be moved by them and share them with trusted family and friends.
It may seem strange to be sad about the loss of something or someone you never met. This type of grief is known as ambiguous loss, and it is common in adoptees.
2. Determine what you’ve lost. Reflect on your feelings and try to define what you’re feeling. The most difficult aspect of ambiguous loss is that the object of your grief isn’t always clear, so defining what you’re grieving takes some effort. Identifying the source of your grief is an important step toward healing.
When someone dies, you know who you’re mourning and why you’re sad. These are less clear in the case of ambiguous grief related to adoption.
Try to put your emotions into words. For example, you could say or think to yourself, “I’m sorry I don’t know who my birth parents are.” “I’m sorry that I might have siblings I’ll never meet,” or “I’m disappointed that I don’t know anything about my ethnic background,” or “I’m sorry that my birth parents went through the difficulties that led to my adoption.”
3. Create a memorial or ritual to express your grief. Plant a tree or garden that represents both your loss and the joy you’ve found in your adopted family. You could honour your birth parents with a special ornament during the holidays, or you could add an extra candle to your birthday cake in their honour.
Using memorials and rituals can assist you in acknowledging your grief, making it less abstract, and reconciling your sense of loss with your gratitude for your adopted family.
4. Even if you can’t send it, write a letter to your biological parents. Write a letter in which you express your sadness, anger, confusion, and any other emotions you are experiencing. Inquire with your birth parents about the circumstances that led to your adoption, tell them about yourself, and express any resentment you have toward them.
You are not required to know who your birth parents are, nor are you required to send the letter to anyone. Writing can assist you in defining and expressing your emotions.
5. Accept that you will have unanswered questions about your adoption. All adoptees have some degree of doubt about their biological parents. You may be unaware of your birth parents, the circumstances surrounding your birth, or your ethnic heritage. Living with unanswered questions can be difficult, but try to focus on the aspects of your life that you are familiar with and enjoy.
Knowing nothing about your past changes nothing about your present. You have family and friends who care about you, as well as talents, beliefs, and goals. Instead of dwelling on what you don’t know, celebrate these aspects of your personal history.
Method 3 Defining Your Identity
1. Inquire with your parents about your adoption experience. Your adoption storey is a part of your personal narrative, and it can help you gain confidence in yourself. Inquire of your parents about the process of finding you, when they took you home, and how you grew together as a family.
While telling the adoption storey on a regular basis is especially important for children, it also benefits teens and adults.
The type of adoption agreement entered into by your biological and adoptive parents will influence how much information is available. Closed adoptions, for example, may reveal less about your biological parents.
2. Celebrate your values, interests, skills, and aspirations. Concentrate on who you’ve become, the qualities you have, the characteristics you share with your adopted family, and the life you’ve created. It’s difficult to define yourself when certain aspects of your life are uncertain. However, you are more than those uncertainties, so don’t let them undermine your self-esteem.
Remind yourself of the people, qualities, and beliefs that have shaped your personality. Make a list of your core values, such as honesty and generosity, either mentally or in writing. Make a list of your skills and interests, such as telling jokes, running track, or playing the piano.
It might be beneficial to reflect on how grateful you are for your adopted family and how they have aided you in becoming who you are. Remember that many adoptees feel obligated to express their gratitude. Strike a balance between gratitude and allowing yourself to feel conflicted emotions.
3. If possible, learn about your biological parents. Inquire with your adoptive parents if they have any photographs, descriptions, or other information about your birth parents. Learn about their origins, cultural backgrounds, and the events that led to your adoption.
Some of your questions may not be answered, and some of what you learn may be difficult to process. Finding out as much as you can about your birth parents, on the other hand, can help you learn about yourself.
Don’t feel bad about thinking about your birth parents. If you’re feeling awkward about it, talk to your adoptive parents about it. “I hope you understand that being curious about my birth parents does not change how I feel about you,” you should tell them.
4. Investigate your birth parents’ cultural practises. If you discover that one or both of your birth parents were born in a different country, try to learn about their culture. Learn about their traditions, try to learn their language, look for local clubs or organisations that are related to their culture, and observe their holidays. You could also try to visit the country of origin of your birth parents if possible.
It may be beneficial to learn about your birth parents’ cultural heritage, but it is fine if you do not wish to do so. Some adoptees find it difficult to integrate into a new culture.
5. Consider having a DNA test done. If no information about your birth parents’ ethnic background is available, you could learn about your heritage through a DNA test. You could also use a testing service to locate family members. If you’re just curious about your ethnicity, make sure the service you use allows you to keep your results private.
6. If you want to, look into finding your birth parents. The process of locating a biological parent differs depending on where the adoption occurred and whether it was open or closed. You can obtain identifying information, such as the names of your biological parents, in the case of an open adoption. If this information is unavailable, search online for government and private registry services that connect biological relatives, such as http://www.isrr.org.
Finding and communicating with a biological parent is a difficult and emotional process. It is best to consult with a counsellor both before and during the process.
Inquire with your adoptive parents whether your adoption was open, closed, or mediated. There are open lines of communication between the adopted and biological families in an open adoption.
Families exchange information through a caseworker or lawyer in a mediated or semi-open adoption while maintaining their privacy.
There is no contact between the families in a closed adoption, and neither can access identifying information about the other.
7. Honor the family that chose you. You were adopted because your adoptive parent(s) desired you so much that they were willing to go through great hardship just to have you.
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