Sunday, December 13, 2009

Nicole J Burton: The Primal Wound

Verrier offers some opinions on healing, such as language, reunion, and empowerment. Did you find her advice useful? If you have participated in any of the techniques, what was your experience like?
Reunion, for me, has been great for healing. Vital. Renaming myself and changing the terms I use in reference to adoption is also important. Therapy, with a licensed social worker familiar with adoption issues, was also critical to my sanity. I had so many wounds, from the original separation from my mother and from my adoptive mother's alcoholism. I also believe adopted people need to develop spiritual solutions for long-term happiness (more about that below).
I tried to read Verrier's book several times but it was so painful, I couldn't finish it. This time, I doggedly ploughed through, though it was like watching a video of my own open heart surgery!
I tried the technique of remembering and mourning that she discusses in the second part of the book, recovering from the primal wound, but I confess I did it wrong and it sent me into a tailspin of misery such as I've not felt in years. Of course, I didn't just walk back through one trauma, I revisited a whole bunch of them, and didn't do the ritual burning part of the mourning. I'm not likely to repeat that exercise again; it was painful.
My problem isn't that I can't remember; my problem, when I'm stuck in it, is that I remember too well exactly what it felt like when my mother left. And it's not just our mothers. At that moment of surrender, we lose both parents, all our grandparents, our uncles and aunts, our cousins, our ancestors, our siblings and siblings-to-be, our pets, our family friends, perhaps even our country, our language, our culture, and our religion. It's a veritable wasteland and yeah, I remember! It's a big hurt and it requires a big loving power, bigger than my self awareness, to heal me. The good news is that such a power can grow in all our hearts.
On the premise of open adoption and the book, The Primal Wound, how can adoptive parents and first parents work together to help their children through the separation and loss. Is merely acknowledging it enough or are there other important steps both sides can take to create an environment for a child to have a better understanding of some of the issues they may face through adoption?
My hat's off to adoptive parents; it's not an easy road. One of the most warming memories I have of my adoptive mother, Moo, is when she used to call me Pip. This was a reference to the foundling Pip in Dickens' Great Expectations but it was also a direct reference to me because my given name was Pippa. I loved her for doing that, for recognizing the real, first me. Any time she talked about my people, I listened. I would have liked to talk more with her about them but she was afraid, I think, of my curiosity. For example, she never took me to the city where she and I were born until the day we went searching together for my original father.
Barbara Raymond, who wrote The Baby Thief, described in a speech how she helped her 19-year-old daughter reunite (I'm paraphrasing): “As adoptive parents, we take care of our children when they're sick, we help them with their homework, we support them through their heartaches, we save for college... and we're not going to help them search for their original families?” I loved hearing her say that.
To adoptive parents, I say, educate yourselves about adoption, go to adoptee-birthparent support group meetings, and take your adopted young people. Make adoption a safe topic to talk about anytime. Really. If you made a mistake before you learned what the institution of closed adoption is, forgive yourselves. It's not our fault we didn't know the whole story of mother coercion and baby selling, etc., but now that we know, it's our responsibility to be informed and to advocate for something better. I'd want you, as the parent of an adopted person, to advocate on your young person's behalf for openness, social honesty, and legal reform. This will give her the space and permission to search when she's ready, to ask for your support, to expect to receive unconditional love from you, even as she reunites with her original people, which is her birthright, which will not hurt you, her other real parents. My adoptive dad says he didn't lose a daughter when I reunited with my sister, he gained one.
The author states that only you can be the judge of whether the primal wound in fact exists. How does the primal wound manifest in you? If you are in reunion with members of your birth family, did making that contact help with your healing? What, if anything, has helped you to heal?
Even the words, Primal Wound, send a shudder through my soul. Yes, it exists and I find it difficult to talk about because it still feels like a wound. I am in reunion with my family. Reunion was a huge step in healing the rootlessness I felt and in pacifying my voracious homing instinct. I still thrill when I see or talk to one of my siblings (both my original parents are now dead though we had happy years together), and I have a profound connection with my father's people through my Jewish faith – after I met my Jewish father, I converted to Judaism and raised my son as Jewish.
However, reunion itself isn't enough to heal the emptiness caused by abandonment. (Verrier correctly identifies that it's the abandonment and separation from our mothers that harms us, not adoption, per se.) Verrier touches on “the spiritual path” at the end of her book but I believe it deserves more discussion.
People can and will disappoint us, even after reunion. The only way I can recover from the primal wound is to really feel that I have never been and can never be abandoned by a loving power, whom I choose to call God but others might call The Good, the power of the universe, Nature, Buddha, etc.
This spiritual path is challenging when you're an adopted person. Every cell in my body feels as if it's tattooed (I use those words deliberately) with two words: She's Gone. Yet, if I really believe in a loving God who wants me to be whole, happy, and useful, I can't also continue to feel the emptiness of abandonment. I'm still on this path to spiritual recovery but I see glimmers of light and hope, and surely I believe I'm where I'm supposed to be, discussing it at this moment. Self-reliance and self-knowledge are not enough because there are days when I fail myself. I've found the rooms of 12-step programs to be very useful in developing a spiritual practice and a trust that things are as they're meant to be, no matter how mysterious.
To continue to the next leg of this book tour, please visit the main list at The Open Adoption Examiner.


OpenAdoptMomof3 said...

Thanks Nicole for sharing. Sounds like the book was affirming for you. I'm glad to hear your amom acknowledged your first family in some ways, but sad you had to wait to know them.

Thanks again!

Lavender Luz said...

I've begun reading YOUR book, Nicole, on your search and reunion, and I am very eager to read more about your path and how traveling it helped you with integration and self-realization.

"My adoptive dad says he didn't lose a daughter when I reunited with my sister, he gained one." I love it when the grownups in adoption can see it in terms of addition rather than of the spectre of subtraction.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your viewpoints, Nicole. Very valuable to me.

AdoptedGirlz said...

I love how you have been processing and found the need to know you are loved by a Higher Power. This is exactly where I landed about 8 months ago. That is when my real healing began. I realized that I was God's daughter first. He loves me. He never has or will abandon me. And my worth is given to me by HIM. You write with such grace in your honest expression. I am touched my your posts. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts and love that you are in a positive place.


luna said...

I really appreciate your comments to adoptive parents, nicole. and the Q about healing was mine, so it was wonderful to read your answers. thanks so much for participating and sharing your perspective here.