My Adoption Day Is An Anniversary of Loss

by Mary Choi Robinson, adopted from South Korea to the USA.

This is Choi Soon Kyu.

She is about 4 years old in this picture and recently orphaned and sick from the ravages of poverty.

Before this picture was taken she had a prior life and was someone’s child, someone’s daughter with most likely a different name.

About 8 months after this picture on February 18, she will be delivered to the US, be given a new identity and family; a new life that is foreign, scary, and imposed upon her. Her name will be changed and she will lose her language and culture to new ones.

Her three identities, her three lives, are borne of trauma and loss. She is now me and I survive every day from all she lost.

Don’t tell me to be thankful or grateful, or that every child deserves a safe, loving family and home.

Instead try to understand that I carry this unbearable grief and loss every day. A grief that is not worse but unlike other grief that cannot always be easily expressed. A grief I’m not certain how to mourn and will most likely never recover from, that may have generational consequences.

Some days I struggle more than others, especially when unexpectedly blindsided by adoption.

So today is not just the anniversary of my adoption/arrival to the US, but also an anniversary of loss. But I’m still here and doing the best I can making the most of this life, so I’ll celebrate that.

If you’d like to read more from Mary, her Masters thesis is included at ICAVs Research page – Living a Parallel Life: Memoirs and Research of a Transnational Korean Adoptee.

Kris shares about Adoptee Anger

This is a series on Adoptee Anger from lived experience, to help people understand what is beneath the surface and why adoptees can sometimes seem angry.

by Kris Rao, adopted from India to the USA, recently discovered their adoption as a Late Discovery adoptee.

In 2019 at the age of 34, I learned that I was adopted. Since then, I have become insanely familiar with the grief cycle. In a non-linear fashion, I have been relentlessly experiencing all the emotions associated with grief. Of all the emotions, anger, however, has become the one constant emotion when I think about adoption.

In the case of my experience, as a late discovery adoptee, I am angry for being lied to for 34 years. I feel deceived. Conned. Duped. Whatever words I can think of to describe it, ultimately for 34 years I was manipulated into believing I was someone that I’m not. Manipulated into believing strangers where my biological and genetic kin. The identity I was given never seemed to fit with the person I knew myself to be, and I was gaslit into feeling like the crazy one for my thoughts.

The thing about anger though, is that it is perceived as a negative emotion. All my life growing up, I have been taught to control it. To not let it get the best of me. Even now, as I write to share my experience and express my opinions on adoption today, there are those that tell me to not be so angry. That anger is not a good thing.

For quite a while after discovering the truth, I struggled with the anger. In a group for late discovery adoptees, I once posed a question about anger. More than 90% said that they still are angry, or struggle with anger. The most helpful responses were the ones that said it was okay to be angry. One adoptee even responded to something I wrote and said that it was a “righteous anger”. And they were right. My anger is righteous and justified for my experience. It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to feel it.

As Faith G. Harper wrote in her book Unfuck Your Anger: Using Science to Understand Frustration, Rage, and Forgiveness:

“If feeling anger is OK, you can be angry and still be OK.”

Looking back, I think I struggled with anger because I confused my thoughts about anger with how we manage and act upon it. There is nothing wrong with the emotion itself. Anger is a normal reaction to any negative situation, and it’s how we deal with it that determines a positive or negative reaction. And that’s the key thing, “Anger is a response to a deeper emotion. It’s a secondary emotion, meaning it’s reactive. Not just to situations we encounter but to other emotions.”

Negative emotions are okay as long as we express them in a healthy manner.

I was always frustrated growing up with how I was raised. Frustrated that I couldn’t understand why I always felt different. That frustration turned into anger soon after discovering I was adopted. I’m angry about being lied to. I’m angry about all the abuse I experienced and for being gaslit into believing that it was for my own good. And I grieve because of it. It’s a lot of negativity to deal with all at once. When I learned I was adopted, I was hurt. There was sorrow from what felt like a huge act of betrayal. That hurt would also become anger. The more I tried not to feel all these “negative emotions”, the more “negative” I felt I was becoming.

Mark Manson wrote the following about negative emotions in his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck:

“The desire for a more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”

“This is a total mind-fuck. So I’ll give you a minute to unpretzel your brain and maybe read that again: Wanting positive experience is a negative experience; accepting negative experience is a positive experience. It’s what the philosopher Alan Watts used to refer to as “the backwards law”—the idea that the more you pursue feeling better all the time, the less satisfied you become, as pursuing something only reinforces the fact that you lack it in the first place.”

It’s been a lot of work, but I’m learning to reframe myself and how I view my anger. I am learning to simply accept what it is, and use that to process my grief, my trauma. Accepting the negative experiences of my adoption. Allowing myself to feel my anger, and not be it.

I came across this quote a while ago, and it stuck with me regarding my grief.
“No one notices your sadness until it turns into anger, and then you’re the bad person.”

I don’t know its origins, but it feels accurate. If anything, I want people to know that my anger is not about who I am as an adoptee. It’s not even about who I am as a late discovery adoptee. It’s about what I feel as an adoptee.

More importantly, I see my anger as a tool, because it not only has allowed me to establish and keep necessary boundaries to protect myself, but it is what drives me to write for change, share my experience, and restore all that was taken away from me. I’ve learned to use my anger to advocate for change, for sharing my experience and my unapologetic truth. I share the realities of adoption by writing just exactly what I feel and how I’m dealing with it.

My anger is about calling for accountability from those that don’t want to be held accountable. It’s about reclamation.

In an essay about anger, Brian Wong wrote the following:
“While anger might not be the most practically useful emotion to have in all cases, its epistemic and motivational productivity makes it the ideal candidate in steering victims towards making appropriate claims to compensation or reparation. It is the anger towards losing what matters that enables victims to pinpoint the most important components of their restorative process – of course, we might not think that restoration is intrinsically most valuable, but this critique misses the point. Anger can play a crucial role in recovering lost goods.”

Quite simply, that’s what anger is. What it can be. 

Healing from my past traumas for me isn’t about letting go of my pain, or my anger. It’s how I manage it and how I utilize that anger. It’s about using my anger for a positive experience.

Anger as a reaction to a negative experience can provide us with the energy for change. It can be used to help keep ourselves safe and give us the courage to take back what we’ve lost. And that’s a good thing!

For more from Kris, follow at:
Kris-404:RootsNotFound
Twitter @adoptedindian
Instagram @indianlatediscoveryadoptee

Kyleigh shares about Adoptee Anger

This is a series on Adoptee Anger from lived experience, to help people understand what is beneath the surface and why adoptees can sometimes seem angry.

by Kyleigh Elisa, adopted from Colombia to the USA.

Adoptee anger by Kyleigh Elisa

I am angry for sure. I feel like my anger ebbs and flows. Like, some days I’m just ready to burst and others, it’s a slow burn deep down.

When I was first given permission to be angry about my adoption about a decade ago by a therapist, it was like a volcano that erupted inside of me and I couldn’t stop it for months. Back then it was more about always feeling unacceptable. Feeling like I hated how I was different in a sea of white people. That no-one close ever really acknowledged the pain inside me due to adoption. That I was made to feel like I was en exotic commodity, while also being told, “No, you’re just like us. You’re just our Kyleigh”. I feel like that was some kind of unintentional gaslighting trying to make me feel accepted, but it had the opposite effect.

Since then I let my anger out more regularly and I don’t drink to dull the pain like I used to. I am definitely still angry though and I hate being adopted. I hate colonialism. I hate white supremacy. I hate the patriarchy. I am afraid of religious organizations that allow people to justify it all. I believe all these things contribute to why we are all adopted.

Billowing anger by Kyleigh Elisa

I just start thinking about it all and the anger billows. It’s a thought path I have to force myself to interrupt because it does not help me. While I think it’s good to be aware that stuff exists, I also cannot allow it to deteriorate my mental health. So I research and try to give back to our community and participate in adoptee organizations – this reminds me that I’m not alone.

Remembering I’m not alone helps a lot. Taking gradual steps to reclaim pieces of my culture that were taken from me helps too. It’s scary while I try to get back what was lost, and that’s upsetting at times, but in the end I reap the rewards accepting each little piece back to me, as it’s mine to rightfully hold.

JD shares about Adoptee Anger

This is a series on Adoptee Anger from lived experience, to help people understand what is beneath the surface and why adoptees can sometimes seem angry.

by JD Glienna, adopted from the Philippines to the USA. JD is co-founder of Adopteekwentokwento, a Youtube channel that shares Filipino adoptee voices.

I do become angry from time to time. I’m angry about all the lies I have to sift through to get to the truth. I’m angry that the system gave me to abusive parents. I’m angry that there was no process to help protect me or educate them for improvements. I’m angry that I have to constantly work through the bad memories. I’m angry that I listen to the lies of how great a mom I had, or comments like, “This is my baby” when it damn well was lies. I’m angry that a child had to be the pummel bag for someone else’s insecurities.

I may not always be angry, but it bubbles from time to time. I’m angry that some want a storyline versus taking responsibility. I’m angry that adoptees are the last part of the triad to be considered behind the adopting parents agenda, the government system, and then the birth mother. I’m angry at the lack of support for adoptees in post adoption. I’m angry for those who experience that they are a lie for someone and that they have to remain a lie. I am angry for all adoptees who want to be part of a family, adopted or biological and are constantly rejected.

You can follow JD
@lakad.co
@Adopteekwentokwento

Ofir shares about Adoptee Anger

This is a series on Adoptee Anger from lived experience, to help people understand what is beneath the surface and why adoptees can sometimes seem angry.

by Ofir Alzate, adopted from Colombia to the USA.

I am an adoptee with anger. Does this get passed down to our children because I have three angry boys . Now as an adult, I do feel like I can handle anger a lot better – I’ll walk away from confrontation before it gets bad.

It pisses me off now because I remember a few times the adopted couple used to say to me, “You’re always so angry and that’s all you do, is want to be in your room with the door closed”, and I had to open it. How does somebody not see a problem when it’s right there in their face, like what the f*** did you expect? That I was going to be jumping up and down happy because I got my family taken away, my country, and nobody looks like me and nobody is the same colour as me? Not to mention I didn’t even know what they were saying for the longest time.

I wanted to go home! I wanted my mom! I hated it here! I don’t belong here. I was given the wrong family.

I love my 3 boys and my 7 grandchildren but I am ready to leave it all behind. I’m currently waiting to hear about my passport. Even though it was just a copy, I received my birth certificate that my mom sent me along with my baptism certificate from Colombia. I cried for almost a good hour in my room. I touched something that my mom touched!

I’ve been feeling really down ever since Christmas and I also received my high school report card – my 9th and 10th grade report cards. It broke my heart that my grades were so bad. I only had an A in gym. I was getting Ds and Fs in Spanish. I remember struggling throughout my school years. Along with everything else, I know I have ADD. That definitely was the worst mistake of my whole life was quitting school, but then again, I didn’t have the support.

I just wanted out of that house, so I left when I was 16 and never went back.

God bless us all!

So Much Loss in Adoption

by Maars, taken from the Philippines to Canada. You can follow Maars @BlackSheepMaars

I have been researching my roots for the last 3.5 years. When I first started this journey, I had nothing but scribbled memories of moments that provided places and names. Mostly by things I’ve overheard growing up when my family would speak about me and my joining of their family. There were a lot of pieces of unconfirmed information, and most are assumptions and even made up.

I sat on the couch and wrote every bit of memory in my brain of what’s been said, what’s been mentioned, what’s been gossiped, what’s been screamed at me.

I had no real information to begin this journey, and even when I pleaded for information and called around asking questions. No-one was particularly keen on saying anything. It felt like a secret I wasn’t meant to discover. But I went ahead anyway, and the first year took a lot out of me, even mistaking a woman in America for my birth mother.

I had no real tangible expectation, direction, or any idea where this journey would end up. However, after finding my birth mother, I had but one goal. To piece together our little family, to heal my birth mother’s broken heart of having had to relinquish her first two children.

I wanted to find my biological full-brother, so that at the very least she can heal her guilt and her shame before leaving this lifetime. But I couldn’t do it. I was too late, I didn’t find him until 5 months after she passed.

Growing up as an only child, growing up feeling alone in the world, an alien to my own kind, my roots, my heritage, my ancestral tradition – everything I am made of, I would have but one person left on this planet, that shares the same wounds as me because of adoption. And yet, the trauma of adoption in our lives would eventually lead us to separate again, for the second time.

THERE’S SO MUCH LOSS IN ADOPTION!

I still try to work through my paternal side, hoping for anything, clues, but the inevitable is searching for someone/something you never even knew existed, is a feat to explore.

#adoptee #adopted #adoption #reunion #searching #familyresearch #biologyresearch #ancestry #mystory #myjourney #mysearch #biologymatters #findingmyroots #brokenbranch

The Complexities of Adoption

by 백현숙 (Baek Hyun Sook) adopted from South Korea to Belgium.

My siblings and I

11 January 1984

There we were, 38 years ago! 3 small Koreans with a backpack – where the first stone was thrown in, not yet realising that the backpack would be filled with a lot of questions, insecurities, and a mess of feelings!

Every year again, around the time of January 11, I am overcome by a lot of emotions.

I’m trying to feel what my sisters felt then, how other fellow mourners felt. As a 1 year old, I can’t remember anything of this. But I can imagine how terrifying and traumatic this must have been for other adoptees who were older.

But too often adoption is considered a beautiful thing, a happiness, new opportunities. And it’s too often forgotten what this means for the adoptees themselves. For me, this became a long hard quest for why? Who am I? And it has severely damaged my self-esteem and confidence. I can say this has made an impact on my entire life.

Finding my Korean parents 5 years ago has changed nothing. Learning that my parents didn’t know anything about our adoption and the impact it has on them for the rest of their lives, gives me an even more restless feeling. Not only in terms of my adoption story but also in terms of many of my peers who are still looking. The realisation that many of my fellow adoptees had a similar story. Realising that often we have a not-so-kosher start to adoption. However, I’m also happy and grateful that I had the opportunity to grow up with my 2 sisters who are my support!

25 Years in the Netherlands

by Jowan Kooijman, adopted from South Korea to the Netherlands. Jowan’s website provides other poems and writings about being adopted.

Jowan

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.

Pain of Loss and the Joy at Seeing her Reunified with her Family

by Jessica Davis, American adoptive mother of Ugandan daughter, successfully returned to her Ugandan family; co-founder of Kugatta which brings families together who are impacted by Ugandan intercountry adoption.

Namata with her siblings

Every year I think I will not cry and it will not hurt as deeply as it once did. But each time I see all that was almost permanently taken from Namata, the pain returns just as deep (if not deeper) than the first time when I realized what I had participated in — and what needed to be done. I still have extended family members who refuse to admit that reuniting her with her Ugandan family was the RIGHT and JUST thing to do.

There are many people that believe it is okay to take children from LOVING families if these families are poor, living in the “wrong” country, practicing the “wrong” religion, or for a number of other irrational reasons. It is incredible how much money, time and resources contributes to the separation of families who should never be separated in the first place.

I will never stop speaking out against the wrongs being perpetuated within the intercountry adoption system. I won’t stop fighting for those that have been exploited by this system and I will certainly never forget the amazing little girl that came into my life and taught me to do better. As much as I miss her, my heartache pales in comparison to the joy I feel seeing her home with her family and thriving.

We did everything “right”. We used a highly rated adoption agency, followed all of the proper protocols and procedures and reported everything that was wrong as we discovered it. In fact, even though it has been proven our adoption agency was corrupt, Namata’s paperwork was fabricated, the Ugandan judge was bribed, the embassy interview showed Namata’s mother did not understand what adoption was and we were not told this at the time, our adoption of Namata from Uganda was and still is considered LEGAL. What does this tell you about intercountry adoption?

Namata didn’t get to go home because it was the right and just thing to do. Serena’s rights being violated and Namata’s best interests ignored were irrelevant by those that should have cared. The reason Namata got to go home and be reunited with her family was because Adam and I refused to accept that this was all okay or “for the better”.

Countless families have been needlessly ripped apart via intercountry adoption just like Namata’s.

Rarely do I hear anyone express concern for these injustices or what has been lost, rather people use good intentions gone awry to ignore these realities and press on as if nothing wrong has occurred. If people won’t listen or can’t understand the problem at hand, maybe they will SEE it when they look at this family and realize all that was almost lost and there was literally NO reason for it at all.

Namata and her family

Read Jessica’s last post: Does Justice or Accountability Happen in Illicit Adoptions?

A Vigil for Christian Hall, 1 Year On

On 30 December 2021, 7-9pm CST we gathered in social media application, Clubhouse to participate in an online vigil, created and led by Vietnamese adoptee Adam Chau. The event was organised in conjunction with Christian Hall’s family who created the physical in-person vigils at various cities around the USA. The purpose of the vigils was to honour Christian’s life, raise awareness about and bring the impacted communities together in solidarity to seek Justice for Christian Hall. You can read their latest articles here and here.

A number of adoptee guests were invited to share our thoughts for the online vigil: Kev Minh Allen (Vietnamese American adoptee), Lynelle Long (Vietnamese Australian adoptee), Kayla Zheng (Chinese American adoptee), Lee Herrick (Korean American adoptee).

I share with you what I spoke about in honour of Christian Hall.

My name is Lynelle Long, I’m the founder of Intercountry Adoptee Voices (ICAV). I’d like to thank you Adam Chau for organising this online event today in honour of Christian. Thankyou Nicole, Christian’s cousin who is on our call, for allowing us to join in with this vigil. I’m so sorry for your family’s loss! It’s a privilege to be able to speak. I am a person with lived experience of intercountry adoption and like Christian Hall, I am of Chinese descent … except I was born in Vietnam and adopted to Australia, whereas he was born in China and adopted to the USA.

The common thread that unites me with Christian Hall is that we both experienced abandonment as an infant. No matter what age we are, for an adoptee, loss of our first family as abandonment/relinquishment is a raw and painfully traumatic experience. It stays with us throughout life in the form of bodily sensations and gets easily triggered. When this happens, these sensations flood our body as fear, panic, anxiety.

Worse still is that when our abandonment occurs as an infant, we have not developed a language as a way to understand our experience. We are simply left with pre-verbal feelings (bodily sensations). It took me over 20 years until I read the first book, The Primal Wound by Nancy Verrier which changed my life in terms of coming to understand how abandonment and adoption had impacted me. That book was the first to help give words to the experience I felt up until then, as an entirely somatic experience, as uncomfortable sensations in my body, that I hadn’t understood, which I’d spent my life running away from every time they re-emerged.

The other common thread that unites me with Christian Hall is that we both experienced suicidal ideation and attempts. For him, it tragically meant the end of his life by police officers who did not understand his traumas. For me, after numerous failed attempts and ending up in ER, it meant a long process of awakening to the trauma I had lived. 20+ years later, I have spent most of this time helping to awaken our society to what adoption is really about for us, the adopted person.

Being adopted never leaves us. We might try to escape and pretend that it has no impact but deep down to our core, our abandonment wires almost every aspect of our being – most importantly, how we connect or not to others around us and to ourselves. At its core, intercountry adoptees experience loss of identity, race and culture. Unless we have supports around us that understand and help us to overcome the trauma of abandonment early on, we stumble in the dark, completely unaware of how our abandonment impacts us. Many adoptees call it “being in the fog” until we become awakened. Today, decades after Nancy Verrier first wrote her amazing book, we now have many, many books written by adoptees who are THE experts of our own lived experience. These books are a written testament to the complexities we live through adoption and how this impact us.

In the past 2 months, I have worked with others to speak out about the impacts of abandonment and adoption trauma and the direct connection to risk of suicide. I acknowledge that Christian’s family do not relate his tragic death to suicide, but I suspect his feelings of abandonment were triggered as key events led to him being on the bridge that day. I hope that more adoptive families will educate themselves about the complexities we live as people who get disconnected from our origins via intercountry adoption. There are almost 2 million of us worldwide and we are speaking out en-masse to help the world understand it is not a rainbows and unicorns experience. We require lifelong supports from professionals who are trauma and adoption trained. In America alone, there are hundreds of thousands of intercountry adoptees – America remains the biggest receiving country in the world. Too many are struggling emotionally every day, yet in the USA, there is still no free national counselling service for intercountry adoptees and their families. There is also NO national post adoption support centre in the USA funded to help intercountry adoptees grow into adulthood and beyond. Isn’t it a huge shortcoming that the largest importer of children in the world has no lifelong supports fully funded, equitable, freely accessible – how can America expect positive outcomes for children who are amongst the most vulnerable if we don’t fund what we know they need?

I never knew Christian personally. I only discovered him through his death. I wish I had known him. From the many intercountry adoptees I connect to, I know we gain so much emotionally from being connected to others just like us. Being connected to our peers helps reduce those feelings of isolation, helps us understand we aren’t the only ones to experience life this way, helps connect us to sources of support and validation that we know has worked. I wish Christian had met our community. I’ll never know if it would have made the difference so that he wasn’t there that day on that bridge. As an adoptee, I suspect Christian most likely wanted help that day, help to ease his hurting soul, not death. 

Also, let’s take a moment to remember his biological family in China. Whether they ever truly had a choice in his relinquishment, we’ll probably never know but from my knowledge in this field, it’s most likely not. Christian’s adoption was likely the result of the 1-Child Policy era in China where thousands of families were forced to relinquish their children, many of them ending up intercountry adopted like Christian. Please take a moment to consider that through adoption, his biological family don’t even have the right to know that he has passed away. 

The travesty in adoption is that trauma is experienced by all in the triad (the adoptee, the adoptive family, the biological family) yet the traumas continue to go largely unrecognised and unsupported in both our adoptive and birth countries. We must do better to prevent the unnecessary separation of families, and where adoption is needed, ensure that families undertake adoption education, learning about its complexities in full and having free equitable access for life to the professional supports needed.

My huge thanks to his extended and immediate family for being brave and opening themselves up thru all this trauma and allow these vigils where his life and death can be honoured for the greater good. I honour the pain and loss they’ve lived and thank them immensely for allowing our intercountry adoptee community to join in with them in support.

Thank you.

If you would like to support Christian’s family and their push for justice, please sign the petition here.

If you would like to better understand the complexities involved in intercountry adoption as experienced by adoptees, our Video Resource is a great place to start. Wouldn’t it be amazing to create a resource like this to help educate first responders to better understand the mental health crises that adoptees experience.

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