Saturday, June 14, 2008


Jeni brought up a very interesting topic the other day on AFC, and it's had me thinking long and hard about the subject ever since. Its' about forgiveness...and how, and should, we forgive our mothers for the pain they've caused us?

Now Jeni's situation is different from mine. Her mother rejected her in a really, really bad way upon reunion. So in Jeni's case, I'd say she has a really good cause to say, hey Ma, f-you and the horse's ass you rode in on. But at the same time, holding on to that anger is not a fun way to live, and I'm not speaking FOR Jeni here, I'm speaking for myself and any adoptee who has had a hard time letting go of their anger at being relinquished, being rejected a second time, or any variation or combination of events in between.

How do we do it?

How do we forgive someone for doing us SO wrong?

I guess I've always been a forgiving person, so for me, forgiveness came easy. But I see a lot of my online adoptee friends struggle with this issue, and I've really begun to take notice.

It was this statement by Katmandu that really got me thinking:

I don't really know what it is. Sometimes when ppl say to forgive, what they seem to mean is just get over it.

I mean, wow. What exactly IS forgiveness, really? What does it really mean? Is it as she just get over it? Like we as adoptees have heard, over and over, our entire lives?

That gave me reason to pause.

When my mother called me on my birthday, a year into reunion, and told me she didn't have time for me in her life, I was hurt. Hurt, and in time I became angry. I couldn't accept that she would DO that to me. It was a horrible feeling...of having a mother I loved so much and wanted so desparately in my life yet I had no recourse, no possible way to resolve this. She was just gone and it was her choice, I was left to deal with these feelings of love, loss, longing, and unmet needs from my childhood, and it was like someone holding my head under the water and I could not draw breath. That is how it felt for a very, very long time.

How could I forgive her for doing this to me?

And what would that mean for me...would I just get over it? How does someone just get over that? CAN they?

I suppose for me, it was easier. I knew that she also loved me, and that her reasons were emotional ones. For adoptees like Jeni, the reasons are less clear. Her mother hasn't given her any reason to think that there is guilt or love on her end.

So I am struggling with this. What does it really mean to forgive. I think I take it for granted to know "how" to forgive, but what does it really entail? I couldn't begin to tell someone like Jeni how to do it, how to reach a place of forgiveness.

But I know that for me, personally, living with a lot of anger inside is like living with a dangerous toxin in my veins. I can't be myself, at least not a good version of me. I HAVE to forgive in order to protect who I am and those I love around me, or I become a very bad version of Lillie.

If it's not "getting over it", is it acceptance? Acceptance that the person who wronged us will not change, and that we can never do anything to change the situation? Is it saying, "Ok, you did this, and I'm not going to let it affect me anymore"?

But how do you NOT let it affect you when, for Jeni, it affects her SO much?

This is so hard.

Adoption is so hard.

I wish there were easy answers, I wish I could find the answer for her, and for so many adoptees in her situation.

Just how does an adoptee forgive?

Alibris, Inc.

6 wisecracks:

Suz Bednarz said...

Hmm, can you expand on this? I am curious what you specifically want to forgive your mother for? A hurtful act that occurred in reunion (birthay topic) or for surrendering you to begin with?

I see alot of adoptees feel they needing forgive their mothers for giving them away. To me, as a mother, that implies that their mother did something wrong that she needs to be forgiven for. Moreover, that she did it with intent and full knowledge of the damaging life long consequences of adoption. We know that is simply not the case. It misses the obvious point that mothers were not solely responsible and if anyone needs to be blamed (and therefore forgiven) it is the industry, the natural grandparents, the agencies, the churches, etc.

I struggle when I see adoptees putting all the blame on their moms. BUT you may have been referring to a specific act in reunion versus the adoption itself.

Ugh so hard.

Dont know your friend Jeni but hope she finds a away to resolve her issue with her mother. Not for her mothers sake, but her own.

"Keep caring that anger, it will eat you up inside"

(Don Henley, Forgiveness)

Lillie said...

Hi Suz,

I have forgiven my own mother for her second rejection.

I know what you are saying about relinquishment...and a LOT of adoptees understand that most moms were treated horribly and given little or no choice.

The ADULT us understands this, but the INFANT us does not. It's a concept that's difficult even for many adoptees to grasp, I think...and that's why, in my opinion, so many adoptees are angry with their n-mom's for giving them up to begin with.

We can understand, as adults, but that baby inside still doesn't.

I don't know if I am making sense, lol.

But anyway, at least for me, my post centers not around the original adoption, but her rejection after the reunion.

Anonymous said...

Hey - I'm Victoria, a 19 yr old adoptee. I've been lurking here for awhile, but this really struck a chord with me, so I want to add my thoughts.
As a Christian, I try her like Jesus does...which is with complete unconditional love. Recently, I visited her and she came out and told me what she named me...I didn't just came up. And she told me the wrong name. She DIDN'T KNOW WHAT SHE NAMED HER OWN DAUGHTER. I was hurt and angry for the apparent lack of meaning I and my name must have to her. But I had to forgive.
It's a constant struggle which I have to make intentional.
I don't think I'll ever "get over" it because that would imply adoption being "okay" in my book...and it's not. It's so not.
But the reality is that it happened, for whatever reasons, and this is where I/We are right now. We have no choice but to deal with our relationship in the present, because everyone knows, the clock doesn't rewind.
I've talked about this subject a lot on my blog. But recently, I've made a choice to love her even when she hurts me. Because love is love and I want her to know that I love her.
Unforgiveness jeopardizes her realizing that, and it's not a risk I want to take.
Still, some days are harder than others.

L said...

I think there are many firstmothers out there that DO have a lot to apologize for and not just to the children they relinquished. Not all of them were coerced and not all of them were victims.
While I do believe that many were coerced and I have read "The Girls Who Went Away", I can not nor will I put anyone in a general assumption simply because of a certain label either way.

My firstmom btw as apologized to me several times and I have forgiven her mostly. There is one point that is touchy but I'm working on it.

Lillie you are entitled to your own experiences and it sounds like you have much to forgive.

Forgiving is not an act of defeat. I believe there is much power in forgiveness. But it really only works if the person you feel has wronged you actually apologizes.

I found this out in therapy when talking about my adoptive mom. I kept telling the therapist that I forgave my mom long ago for the way she had treated me as a child and I didn't know why it was even an issue anymore. My therapist asked, "But has your amom ever actually apologized for anything she did?"

Well, no.

"That's why there is no forgiveness. How can you forgive someone who doesn't think they did anything wrong?"

Good point, eh?

I don't know Lillie, your firstmom has been cruel to you in the past. And she managed to take control of your reunion by rejecting you all over again. It frustrates me that she seems to get to call all the shots in this while you walk on eggshells hoping she won't shut you out again.

It's not fair.

I wish you the best in this. I wish I had more answers.
You can email me privately if you like.

I heart you.

L said...

And BTW, the therapy I received did lead to me confronting my amom and over time, we did find a resolution and forgiveness.
Forgiveness isn't easy and it can feel like an admission of defeat. But for me, it isn't about that, it's about trying to move forward and leave the past where it should be. Obviously, this is something, that I struggle with myself often.

I would write more but I have to go play checkers with my kid.

Like I said before, email me.

Sunny said...

I have forgiven my mother, because I know she had no choice. She does not know I have 'forgiven' her, and she's probably be pissed if she thought I felt she needed to be forgiven by me.

But you know what would be nice? That once, just once in the 22 years that I have been reunited with her, she could say 'I'm sorry'. I'm sorry that I had to give you away. I'm sorry that I didn't have the pleasure of raising you. I'm sorry you had to be raised by strangers who did not appreciate you. I'm so, so sorry I didn't have the honor to be your mommy. Because she'll be my mother, but never my mommy.

Why can't they just say they're SORRY?! It'd be a lot easier to forgive.

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