A year

People talk of loss as if the big milestone events end with adoption, and only the ramifications continue.

But the loss never ends; letters bring news of new happenings missed, our days are full of moments we wish could be shared, and decisions continue to be made outside our control.

This week marks a year since news came that CHTs Mother, who we had wanted to meet so badly, was dead; probably by her own hand.  In one swift blow the mystery of her Mother can never be unravelled, and is now heightened by the questions behind her death.

We are too late.

This little girl’s grief is profound and no words on this page can capture it.  Bereft, her Mother is gone forever from her reach, along with the answers to why; why their love and kinship was not enough to keep them together.

Surprised by the intensity of my own grief, I came to realize the strength of my bond and my love for this woman; in one sense her fiercest ally and champion.  I also struggled beneath the weight of my intense anger at her in the knowledge of the further devastation it would wreak on CHT, and my growing guilt from the unwitting role I played in the battles of her mind, now the war had finally brought her life to an end.

Mourning joined hands with a grief already felt, and this year has been long and hard.  In many ways we are stronger, stitched together as we try to make sense of this bombshell ripping through our already fragile lives, and again by the aftershocks it brought with it; we were not welcome at the funeral, nor included in the decisions of her estate, were not kept informed, nor recognized as family.   Outsiders once again, the very system that encourages open acceptance of the bonds to a birth family does not in equal measure acknowledge them by law.  Floundering in the complexity of a Mother’s death comforted in the arms of another mother, the people around us unwittingly denied her even the right to grieve.

It is not our way to remember a life through its death, but still we feel the need to mark this day somehow.  So with candles and a song we welcomed her in and remembered: a beloved, bittersweet woman who we knew and loved so well, but was a stranger to us.

AA, we know you suffered deep sorrow and regret at your mistakes, and there is no denying the pain that this caused.  But your little girl is here in my care, and she loves you very, very much.  I promise to always keep a part of you here and alive in me, to pass on to her every day, so she carries the best of us both in her precious heart.

Adoption: Loss and change

What has she lost in the short course of her life?

- Her people:

Severed not simply from family and close ones, but from the connections she had to the web of her whole community.  Vaporized in a heartbeat, leaving a bottomless and profound grief that sits alongside the acid sting of whole-scale rejection.   Forsaken and discarded by the people she loved:  ”I’m rubbish.” she says.

- Her things:

Torn from all that was familiar and reassuring.  Her favourite armchair, the mints in the dish, the hiding place in the garden, the hum of the boiler, the crack on the ceiling, her most precious teddy.  Every aspect of the personal landscape that etches into a child’s mind, wrenched away like a thief in the night: “I don’t care anyway.” she says.

- Her culture, her sense of belonging.

Cut off from everything that reflected a sense of place back to her. Her accent, her habits, her mores, her customs her traditions, the taste of a shepherd’s pie, all came suddenly to an end, leaving her an outsider to her own life: “I don’t know what you mean.” she says.

- Her means to share experiences.

Cut off from all her stories and every event that ever happened, she found herself pushed into isolation.  With no common ground, no memory lane, she became a mystery to herself, with no one to answer questions about: how she got her name, her first word, what happened the day she was born, her close encounter with a hedgehog: “You just don’t get it.” she says.

- Her willingness to trust.

As we dare to pick apart the loss, we uncover a shame that infiltrates her very sense of self.  In doubting her own self worth, she also questions the legitimacy of anyone to care for her. Fear thwarts the intimacy that trust demands, and mistakes it for control and blame: “I am just a bad baby.” she says.

- Her openness to love and be loved

Every meaningful intimate relationship and connection she ever made resulted in neglect, abuse, and – eventually – abandonment.  Her willingness to trust, to be cared for and helped, was decimated; replaced with a pain that keeps her pushing hard at arms length from the very love and security that would help her move forward. “I don’t need you.” she says.

And then – as if this isn’t enough – comes the final blow; a total lack of understanding from a society that celebrates adoption with a blindness that negates and opens old wounds time and time again: “You are lucky Mumdrah chose you”, society says.

At the moment she joined me, she lost Everything.

CHT’s adoption song of loss and trust