February 6th, 2007
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Categories: How to..., Reunion

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.

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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!

3 Responses to “How To Succeed at Reunion”

  1. John says:

    Jan, are there any posts for adoptive parents who will be helping their children search and go through a reunion?

    My youngest came home at 13, and would like to search for his mom when he turns 18 later this year. We have begun to work through some potential issues. He is adamant that I go through this with him. I feel a bit like a fish out of water.

    It will be somewhat challenging. he was abandoned, after 9 years of abusive situations.

  2. Jan Baker says:

    John, try here for several posts re adoptive parents and search and reunion. http://birthfamily-search.adoptionblogs.com/?cat=538

    If your son is insistent that you go through the search with him, he probably feels he needs your support. Search and reunion are unique experiences for us all.

    The abuse and abandonment factors will make the situation more difficult I would think.

  3. John says:

    Thanks Jan. We are fortunate to have an excellent psychologist who is experienced in older child adoption issues helping us. I do need the input though, from folks who have done it.

    He is very clear that he wouldn’t do it alone. I really do need some medical background that his mom would have. Thanks again.

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