On my way home from Utah this last week, I took the opportunity to visit this sculpture on display at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. It is part of a permanent installation of Zimbabwean sculptures that can be found between concourses on the pedestrian walkway.
After a particularly disappointing week, “How Can I Rise” spoke to me in a way it never has before. As I stood in front of it, then slowly circled around it, viewing it from every angle, I cried. And I didn’t care who saw me cry. I just let the tears fall.
How can I rise? After 43 years of living, 23 of them as a mother of adoption loss, I cried because I have finally found answers to that question for myself. These might not be the answers for everyone, but they are what has allowed me to engage with life in an authentic and wholehearted way, in spite of the trauma of adoption loss.
And that is a gift.
Not many people know about my non-reunion reunion and fewer know the details of what has transpired over the past years. I haven’t shared much about it over the last five years because I have wanted to protect my daughter from scrutiny and perhaps even unkind judgements by those who don’t think she is acting how she “should.” I am of the opinion her behaviors are perfectly understandable, considering the totality of the situation, and I am thus able to navigate our non-reunion reunion with a great deal of grace and patience because of this belief.
But while the behaviors are understandable, they do at times hurt.
Like this last week. It was The Big Hurt. In the most simple terms, this is what happened: I went to Utah. My daughter and I made plans to meet for the first time since relinquishment in March 1993. Thirty minutes before we were supposed to meet, she texted me that she wasn’t able to make it. I cried. A lot. I cursed. I called my “reunion doula.” I talked with my mom. I survived. I got on a plane and came back home.
How can I rise, especially in the face of what transpired this week?
I rise because I had the courage to show up for her.
I rise because I stayed true to my core values of honesty, integrity, and love.
I rise because I have learned I am worthy and deserving of love and acceptance.
I rise because I have learned how to embrace my own deeply flawed self with radical acceptance.
I rise because I have learned who is worthy of holding my story, who will respond with empathy, and who will not.
I rise because the shame heaped on me by my religious culture no longer holds me hostage.
I rise because I have learned the alchemy of dancing with the dark emotions.
I rise because I have learned not to “move on”, but to move with the grief of adoption loss.
I am not saying I am healed, not by a long shot. Any of you who’ve been in adoption land for more than a few years know there is no “healing” – not in the normal, textbook sense of “healing” from loss. But I am willing to say I have learned to rise again and again and again when adoption trauma plows me over.
A fair number of others have emailed me or asked me privately to share more about how I have developed resiliency on this adoption journey, so over the next few posts, I will try to share what has helped me along the way (and what led me back to graduate school to earn a second Master’s degree, this time in Clinical Social Work.)
Until next time, much love and belief –