Family isn't just a name.
It is blood, shared traditions, similar features, common heritage, and so much more! When we look at adoption, it is a bittersweet reality for everyone.
This past weekend my family and I hosted our family reunion. Throughout the day we estimate there were about 300 people here. And many were not able to make it at all - I come from a big Irish family! It was a wonderful day. We were honored to be able to bring everyone together!
I felt so comfortable surrounded by people I have known my entire life. People that looked and sounded like me. People that I had celebrated with and mourned with as well. People that had passed down the stories of my ancestors and people I had handed down those sames stories to. People who share such great pride in our heritage. As I walked through my yard, I had such pride in being a part of such a big family and felt to my core that there was no doubt - I BELONGED!
However, as we prepared for the day and then walked through the actual reunion I was keenly aware that there were some that had to do it differently.
We've been getting ready for the reunion for a couple months and as we've worked on it, we have hit a few little bumps. We had to intentionally look at how all this family stuff was affecting the girls. Don't get me wrong they both say they do feel like they are family just like their brothers, but it brought stuff up for them.
On a normal day, our life is peaceful and they are flourishing and I forget that they were adopted. But I want you to know that 14 years later - it still brings emotions up! It is SO important we get this as adoptive parents. It is not that our kids don't eventually feel part of OUR family. It is that they don't know how to feel about their original family. That loss and confusion could be there, for many of them - ALWAYS!
My girls, along with my cousins who are also adoptees, had to walk through the preparation and the actual day of the reunion with their biological family, their cultural traditions, and their heritage in the back of their mind while working to find their spot in the family that was present. I am not saying it is good or bad or happy or sad, but it is about having to do it differently!
It did take my girls more or different emotional energy. We did have to talk some things through. I did acknowledge to them that it had to be hard for them. It did help them to be able to say it is BITTERSWEET - they feel blessed to be part of such a big family but it made them feel the loss of their original family more deeply.
We grieved so we could celebrate!
As parents of children who have suffered such huge loss, we really have to understand that Grieving Really Happens Over a Lifetime!
So, although my girls are part of this family by name it is not ALL of who they are...they have another name, they are part of another family and it is my job as their Mom to always honor the depth of the wound created by the loss of that family. To be able to give my daughters "permission" to say it or to say it for them if need be. It is part of our truth as a family....always will be.
Healing allows us to move forward, but the reality is that we never move forward without the scar. It is a part of us forever. It moves with us. The scar shapes who we are and how we do things for the rest of our life. I believe the key to living and flourishing in spite of our scars of loss, and what we as parents of kids who have suffered loss should teach them, is that it is important to honor those losses. The feelings are real. The sadness doesn't just go away. Talk about them - they are part of you and you are part of them. They MATTER! YOU MATTER!
What a great gift being part of a FAMILY is - I am reminded again of how important it is that I be an Intentional Parent. I need to make sure that my daughters know where they fit - I need to "see" their whole story all of the time!