20 Nov The Holidays & Adoptee Blues
The holiday season is upon us. For adoptees, this time can be challenging. Advertisements are all around us that send messages about the importance of family and of being grateful. There are worse messages to bombarded with to be sure, however, the topic of both family and gratitude can be triggering if going through life adopted.
An adoptee friend of mine, who worked in the field of adoption, said that the agency would get a higher than average amount of requests for information from adult adoptees in November and December. It’s a time of year that we are primed to think about family.
In reflection, my own search that spanned over a decade, took place mainly from October to December. In fact, I clearly remember being hunkered down on Ancestry.com at 2am on a Thanksgiving weekend. This is when I finally got the break that led me to my first mother. Apparently, I too was driven by a primal need for family during the holiday season.
So we adoptees end up dealing with first family yearnings along with the normal family stuff of the holidays from the end of October to New Year’s. It’s a lot! Therefore, I’ve outlined some strategies for dealing with the season as an adoptee. I hope it’s helpful.
Holiday Self-Care Strategies
Connection: Reach out to friends and family members (adoptive & birth) who nurture and inspire you. Isolation is a breeding ground for rumination and depression.
- Cards or Letters
- Phone calls
- Coffee, lunch or dinner
- Social media messaging or face time
Write a Permission Slip: Write a permission slip for yourself. If there are events you would prefer to skip or family members that cause undue stress to be around, allow yourself to bow out this year. Write out your permission slip because it’s powerful to see it in print.
Be Present: This means being aware of the events and people you do choose to include on your calendar. It also means being mindful of your own feelings so that you can take care of yourself when necessary.
- Notice your surroundings
- Actively listen to your children, partner, friends
- Notice feelings in your own body
- Savor holiday traditions and rituals your family partakes in
Speak Your Truth: Based on your level of healing, speak your truth or voice your beliefs about adoption. You don’t have to perpetuate the secrets by sticking to an adoption narrative of gratitude or by keeping secrets. Do what feels authentic to you. Remember, you never signed any adoption contracts.
Take a Break: If a party gets too loud, Aunt Mary says again that the cousins all resemble her, reunion brings up feelings of grief, or you just feel overwhelmed, take a break. Excuse yourself from the table, party, or whatever and take a few minutes to get out of your head. Bathrooms, outside, or a spare bedroom work well.
Space for Grieving: Adoption at it’s core is about loss. Loss of the connection to your first mother, the fantasies you created about your family, your genealogical roots, and so much more that is unique to each adoptee’s experience. Welcome all the feelings. If you feel heavy and sad, try not to get busy or push it away. Let yourself grieve. Be still. Cry. Journal. It’s so normal, but takes many adoptees by surprise.
Therapy: An adoption competent therapist or at minimum an adoption-friendly therapist gives you a place to process all the contradicting feelings. Therapy is an hour of kid-free and family-free space that’s just for you. You deserve it.
I wish you a holiday season of peace, healing, and joy. Call or email me to discuss therapy, support groups in the area, search angels, or refer to other adoption competent therapists if you’re not in my area.
Kate Murphy, LMSW
Kate Murphy, a therapist in Berkeley Lake, specializes in helping you decrease stress and anxiety. You can live a more balanced, connected, and meaningful life. Kate works with individuals and couples over the age of 18 to support healing, communicating, and experiencing joy more often.