by Jowan Kooijman, adopted from South Korea to the Netherlands. Jowan’s website provides other poems and writings about being adopted.
A day with double feelings of loss and loneliness
25 years in the Netherlands
Korea vs Netherlands Twenty-five years ago I came into this world nine weeks early. I have take a long time to grow up. I had to survive, so I could live and breathe. It was the cocoon that was nice, but it was broken early. It’s my base that was disturbed early on and what couldn’t be. Twenty-five years ago I got a new home, but there I never felt at home. It was my identity that I no longer knew. Suddenly I was a Dutchman and my name was no longer Joon-Hwan, but Jowan. It was nurture that replaced nature and everything I didn’t know, I had to learn.
The Change (Adjusting) The relocation that happened in the past has systematically changed a lot. Even now, years later, that is still tangible but especially visible. It’s my younger me who struggled to assimilate because I had to leave my place early and struggle to take my place. Because if you adjust, you lose things. Losing something says something about distance and adaptation, that it isn’t always safe. Loss is about letting go of what you love and who you love.
Twenty-five Twenty-five years ago just before Christmas, I came to the Netherlands. Embraced with love and received as a valuable gift. Now twenty-five years later I can grant myself life because I also know the other side and it hasn’t always been easy. Hard work and discipline were the fundamental principles of moving forward. I’ve also learned to value the little things, because the little things can make a big difference.
by Sharinda Nathaliya, adopted from Sri Lanka to the Netherlands.
Last year has been a rollercoaster ride for me. Through it, I’ve come to learn to let go of unnecessary control by looking straight into the eyes of certain fears caused by trauma.
It was a burnout that brought me to a turning point of realization. I needed a different perspective to chance my life by looking at it from another different angle. A new chapter had started. I soon went to therapy that helped me break down the wall I built around myself which I didn’t know how to remove. It was an incredible journey to witness myself, first class at the front row. Finally, I am able to reach were I am heading!
I’d become enthusiastic by confronting whatever I fear. To be honest, I feared to search for my biological mother. She was searched for and found, 7 years ago by a man I didn’t trust. I went on with life in full effect. I felt scared on and off and years went by and I still didn’t reach out to her. I felt ashamed of myself. I felt and still feel guilty. I thought that maybe she would be angry at me, she would blame me that I searched but didn’t reached out. I doubted if she wanted to see me still, or the worst case scenario, that she would no longer be alive.
I had to step beyond my feelings and figure it out, whatever the outcome would be.
On 27 April 2021 my Sri Lankan mother was found. We FaceTimed three times. I told her that I’m sorry I let her wait for so long and explained her what the reason was. She understood, she had a bad feeling about that man too. He treated her like she was less. The information he provided was false. She doesn’t have a mental illness. She’s not educated and that’s it. I don’t have an older half brother. I am the oldest and I have a younger brother by the same father. A father who’s ill and lives with my grandmother. I needed some time to get used to all this new information to switch it with the information from 7 years ago. My feeling was correct and my biological mother had the same feeling.
I recognized the feeling she gave me. She gave me the same feeling my beloved grandmother gave me. Before I saw her online, I dressed up. Did my hair and make up, carefully selecting which outfit to wear. My nerves went through the roof but she looked through it all and didn’t care about my looks. She saw me for being me, her daughter as human being. Something instantly changed in me. A weight felt off my shoulders, I felt at peace which I’ve never felt before. We just stared, laughed, waved hands and blew kisses to each other. Behind my laptop she is watching me on a phone screen. So surreal, so epic, so static!
If you’d told me 3 years ago that I would meet my biological mother on a digital screen, I would have laughed in your face. I never thought this would happen at all. That was the control, that was the blocked emotions, that was the fear. The pieces of the puzzle fell in place. I was shocked to see the similarities, the smile, the frown.
Days after the first meeting, I stared at myself in the mirror. It felt awkward but my self confidence began to rise. I no longer felt alone through finally seeing someone with the same features as mine.
I finally have the courage to go and meet her, to get to know her, with patience. To take time for these precious changes and chances in life. I want to make a documentary of my trip back to Sri Lanka. To meet her, take the time to know her, meet my father and grandmother. I also need to start the search for my younger brother who’s also adopted and can be anywhere on this world. I want to experience the island of Sri Lanka, the culture, nature, history and art — to do this together with my biological mother. In one year’s time, I want to figure out what Sri Lanka does for my identity and expand my own narrative of adoption.
I have many questions that I want to explore through my documentary. Am I able to connect with my biological family? What happens after? How do I develop a relationship when I have differences in language, culture, values?
For those who are open, I’ll provide all the information I gain during this journey to my fellow adoptees through my documentary. Why? Because it is the least I can do to help others who travel a similar path.
If you’re interested, you can read more about my documentary idea here.
Much Love Sharinda Nathaliya
For more about Sharinda’s story, her recent Dutch article was published here and watch her self made video with english subtitles.
“An adopted teenager once told me, “I feel there are two teenage me’s. The me that was born but didn’t live. And the me who was not born, but lived the life I have today.” Without understanding she was expressing the split in the self that so many adoptees make in order to survive….” – Betty Jean Lifton, a writer, adoptee and adoption reform advocate.
Many adoptees become aware at some point in their life that who they are in the present is not the same person as the one they were in the past. Often adoptees have not been able to build an identity or live on before being separated.
Due to relinquishment, most adoptees split into parts and live like this for survival. To be able to do this, they become alienated from their original selves and leave their body. In addition, their original identity has been lost or erased by adoption.
This makes adoptees experience a feeling of intense emptiness or even an urge for death. They become aware that the original self that was born has not lived and that the current survival part that was not born, is living their life. They survive instead of live.
This consciousness opens up the grieving process that was always present in them but never allowed to have a place.
The hidden grief becomes liquid and looking at this sadness, finally reveals the original self.
Veel geadopteerden worden zich op een gegeven moment in hun leven bewust dat wie ze in het heden zijn niet dezelfde persoon is als degene die ze in het verleden waren. Vaak hebben geadopteerden geen identiteit op kunnen bouwen of kunnen doorleven voordat zij zijn afgestaan.
Door afstand zijn de meeste geadopteerden opgesplitst in delen en leven zij vanuit hun overlevingsdeel. Omdit te kunnen doen zijn ze vervreemd van hun oorspronkelijke zelf en hebben zij hun lichaam verlaten. Daarnaast is door adoptie hun oorspronkelijke identiteit verloren gegaan of uitgewist.
Dit maakt dat geadopteerden een gevoel van intense leegte of zelfs een drang naar de dood ervaren. Zij worden zich bewust dat het oorspronkelijke zelf dat geboren is niet heeft geleefd en dat het huidige (overlevings) deel dat niet is geboren is hun leven leeft. Zij overleven in plaats van leven.
Dit bewustzijn brengt het rouwproces opgang dat altijd al in hun aanwezig was maar nooit een plek mocht hebben.
Het gestolde verdriet wordt vloeibaar en door dit verdriet aan te kijken wordt het oorspronkelijke zelf eindelijk zichtbaar.
I am an orphan for a few months. I’ve been crying since October 2017 for my adoptive mother and I miss my adoptive father since July 2020.
I know all my life that the world is harsh and missing empathy. Lots of questions sit crying in my heart. Am I longing for the safety of the past? Or do I prefer to travel to a paradise in the future?
My name is Ramon C Manjula. In 1984 I was born and adopted from the city of Kalutara, Sri Lanka. I was seven weeks old.
In me there is a melancholy that borders depression but passes by itself ’cause yes, what more can a therapist say?
I can’t maintain friendships nor find a girlfriend. I can’t go with compliments like, “You can have any woman you want because you are such a beautiful man”. It’s horrible those questions like, “What about women, Ramon?” or, “How is it that someone like you doesn’t have a girlfriend?”
After a life full of well-intentioned praises but without a relationship, I’m at home lonely and disrupted.
A few years ago, in the summer of 2016 — during a party for adopted Sri Lankan people like me — I met more misunderstanding and hurtfulness than a soul mate. I now realise that disappointed and hurt me. For years I screamed that pain with rage and disgust.
The woman who said she “really liked me” and that I was “a beautiful man” but “didn’t feel anything else for me”, pushed me back to the time when my biological mother did love me, but more or less said, “Sorry, I reject you, I will not take care of you”.
But also years before that I struggled with questions about life and asked: “Who or what is God?” As a result, I have started to deepen myself into religion just by watching documentaries, watching films of biblical stories et cetera.
Only around September 2011 did I start to deepen into Islam. I have also been guided — like 99.9 % of humanity do — by corrupt media. Why do recitations of the Quran miraculously disappear from YouTube?
More and more I learned about the vision of life behind the second largest religion in the world. About not drinking alcohol, not using drugs and smoking cigarettes. And especially about the the theological base. What has really changed, denied and corrupted over the centuries through the alleged innocent Roman Catholic Church?
I always wanted to address the world with a vision that would have value even after my death. So I’ve blown characters into life and started processing theological facts with them into a thriller.
For nine years I’ve toiled on the first part of my life’s work but now after everything I’ve been through, I’ve learned about humanity, myself and the world. Today I declare my message that man has completely lost his way with: “The pilgrims trip to a lost paradise.”
*** What do you think? Can writing a book be therapeutic? ***
I was told this sentence 5 years ago today, when I visited one of my children’s homes for the 2nd time.
The woman who received me wasn’t interested in my questions about my past and didn’t even understand why I wanted to see my file. I had no rights, “Forget your past!”, was screamed loudly! She threw the papers I gave her with a disdainful gesture at my head. She wanted to close the visit with this. The next 2.5 hours were really awful with a lot of screaming, manipulation and arguments between myself, the wife, the interpreter and the social worker.
This visit ended up giving me more questions. Fortunately, thanks to other employees, I finally received answers after 3 years. But my identity is still unknown.
The answers I received brought pain and sadness, but eventually also acceptance and resignation over that part. In my opinion, not knowing is ultimately a heavier fate to carry!
If you are going to search for your identity as an adoptee, it is important that you prepare yourself well. Understand it is almost impossible to know how things will turn out! You can’t imagine how the visit will go beforehand and how you will react if you receive information or not. In India we notice that obtaining information very much depends on whom you speak to.
In addition, there is the difference in culture. We are so devastated that we often view our native country with western glasses. We are not aware that our practices and thoughts are often so different to that of our native country. Sometimes that means that we don’t have compassion and can sometimes even feel disgust for the traditions of our native country.
Root trips often give you the illusion that you can find your roots on one trip or visit. The reality is that you have to go back to your native country and your home several times to get answers.
I myself notice that every time I visit India, I feel more at home and that it’s healing to be able to visit my past. Each piece of puzzle creates more resignation.
It was October 10, 1990. “Imagine” by John Lennon played on the radio. I heard my adoptive mom on the phone tell my sister that our father passed away….
14 years and orphaned again. My adoptive father suddenly died because of a medical mistake after a hernia surgery. As a result, our family would never be complete again.
As a child my surroundings often told me to be grateful for my new life with my new parents. No one told me adoption not only causes you to get new parents, but adoption also causes you to lose your parents twice.
The pain and sadness I felt as a 14 year old was immense and loneliness was unbearable. I didn’t understand then that I not only mourned the loss of my adoptive father, my safety and my new family, but that the loss triggered my old loss trauma.
Nowadays I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of adopted people have traumas that originated before they were adopted.
Traumas invisible and unpredictable and triggered by loss. Loss of a pet, home, friendship, health, job, divorce of adoptive parents or loss of a loved one or adoptive parent(s).
Sometimes the early child traumas are too large with all the consequences. But often knowledge of loss trauma can help with relinquishment and adoption, we need to declare this “abnormal” reaction to an apparent small event.
The circumstances surrounding my adoptive father’s death have helped me to make it my mission to create knowledgeable aftercare through and for adopted persons.
At AFC we notice that adoptees benefit from adoption coaches who specialise in relinquishment and adoption. This is because those adopted themselves have also suffered similar loss. Knowing the loneliness and the sadness, carrying their fate and surviving the pain.
And today I comfort myself with the thoughts that my adoptive father is proud of me, my passion and drive. And that this didn’t make his death entirely pointless….