Although I went into reunion cold, with little or no preparation, I figured out quickly it was one relationship I did not intend to mess up. Here are the top tens ways I believe reunion has succeeded for my son and me:
1. Getting the Support Needed – It did not take me long to figure out that I needed a lot of help to wade through the murky and treacherous waters of reunion. Not only did I figure out quickly that I had to tell my husband immediately, I also sought out some professional help quickly as well. I called a psychiatrist who worked in the same building that I do, then began a quest to find an adoption therapist in my area. Luckily, I found an adult adoptee who counseled triad members. I also joined an adoption therapy group and a support group.
2. Allowing Myself the Time to Grieve – After so many years of not thinking about or facing my adoption loss, I realized it was time to do so. I allowed myself the time and space to grieve hard. For a solid year, I cried at least once a day and grieved my guts out. My all time record was one day in which I cried on three separate occasions. Instead of trying to stop crying when I felt the urge, I allowed myself the luxury of crying when necessary. This was not fun, but somehow I knew it was what I needed to do. My therapist agreed; my husband was skeptical and worried that I cried as much as I did. I got it out though, and it helped to do so.
3. Learning Patience – By nature, I am patient with children, but not so patient in other scenarios. I hate to wait. When I want something, I want it then, not later. In reunion, I learned to be patient with our relationship, understanding that to build a good one would take time.
4. Learning Persistence and Determination –I already had some of these qualities prior to reunion. However, at reunion, I found that our relationship became really important to me. Nothing else mattered as much, and I became resolute that I needed to figure out a way for our relationship to work. As hard as the initial struggles were at first, I knew that I could not give up. Our relationship was too important for me to blow it.
5. Face Reality – After 32 years of tapping dancing around the truth and expending vast amounts of energy in protecting my “secret,” I learned how to face the truth and finally deal with it. Denial had been my faithful companion and coping mechanism and it worked fairly well. Until I was found, and then my cover was blown. Some mothers still cannot face reality at reunion. I knew I had to find ways to face and survive dealing with my loss.
6. Listening and Watching for Clues – My therapist told me to listen and watch for clues from my son. Those clues helped me understand what was acceptable to him and how to proceed. I could not always tell where he was coming from and what he wanted or did not. At one point, I felt as though I got many mixed messages from him. However, that is to be expected. As we delicately danced around each other, I tried to keep up and yet not step on his toes. Although I did not always succeed, I tried to follow his lead.
7. Never Giving Up – There were brief moments when reunion seemed so difficult that giving up looked somewhat attractive. However, I knew that if I gave up on our relationship that I would regret it. I told myself over and over no matter how hard it got giving up was not an option. Mostly, I had no intention of doing so. I feel proud that I had the strength to persevere.
8. Curbing my Impulses – In case no one has noticed, I am an emotional and passionate person. Some might consider that being impulsive, or maybe not. There were times that I was upset and hurt and wanted to fire off an emotional and angry letter to my son. Sometimes my feeling were hurt and I wanted to lash back. Although I did send him some pretty emotional letters, I mostly wrote the angry letters but did not send them. I was used to giving my emotions free rein, but decided that in our reunion it was not always the best approach. This was a tough one for me being the emotional creature that I tend to be.
9. Opening My Heart and Taking the Risk – After so many years and trying to pretend that my son did not matter in my life, it was scary to drop the façade. Allowing myself to love him was a huge risk. Not embracing him fully was not an option. It came naturally and easily. Although I made some feeble attempts to protect my heart, I mostly went with the flow and allowed my motherly instincts to take over.
10. Accepting and Appreciating – Early in reunion as much as I tried not to have unrealistic expectations, they surfaced despite my best efforts. I had to keep revisiting this issue, and my son and I discussed it as well. He wanted to just go with the flow, and see how things went. I wanted/needed a different approach. Eventually, I relaxed and was more able to not be as needy. I embraced the idea of appreciating whatever relationship we were able to forge together. Part of what helped me was realizing that any relationship was a gift and more than many people in closed adoption are ever fortunate enough to receive.
Even in reunion, I made plenty of mistakes. To err is human, right? Luckily, I was mature and strong enough by the time I was found to do some things right. My son was extremely sensitive and patient with me as well. He deserves a great deal of credit for hanging in there with me!