My father died unexpectedly last Friday. As I reconcile my feelings around this situation, I am faced with an ugliness that I cannot escape. As much as I would like to say that the grief and loss that I feel are a normal part of losing a parent, there is also much more that presents itself on a foundational level, that all ties back to my adoption. I am sure most are tired of hearing about mundane experiences that are adoption related, but what they fail to realize is that at the core of who I am, I am an adoptee. As such, it profoundly affects my experiences and point of view.

As I address the death of a parent as an adoptee, I am reminded of something that has often hindered me in many ways: my issues with abandonment.

Abandoned, yet Again

I’ve never handled death well. That’s not unique to me, however, I know how I grieve isn’t what most expect. I don’t find comfort in being around others, I don’t find comfort sharing stories that only serve as a reminder that the person is no longer alive. I withdraw, I grieve privately, and I process things in my own way. Extended family sees it as me being temperamental when in reality, it truly isn’t. It’s me as the adoptee, it is touching on the abandonment that I have felt throughout my life. The insurmountable feeling of being abandoned, yet again. If what you know on a foundational level is that people leave you, death triggers a cascade of emotions that connects more than just grief and loss.

Acknowledging the Pain

As someone who isn’t a crier, I have cried more in the past few days than I have in my entire life. The initial shock has slowly dissipated into sadness. While grieving and sadness are part of a normal process, I can’t help but feel like a prisoner to abandonment. While it is easy for me to acknowledge the pain that comes from the unexpectedness of the situation, it is far more difficult to unravel the layers of trauma from my adoption, and how it is all interconnected.

It has taken me years to re-program myself to believe that not everyone will leave me. Years to acknowledge how my abandonment issues have shaped many of my relationships. My 20’s were basically lessons in how abandonment issues can manifest in very self-destructive ways. So as much as I would like to think it is something that will eventually go away, the truth is that it will always be a part of who I am. A visceral feeling that will be ever-present, regardless of how hard I try to work through its existence.

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One thought on “The Death of a Parent and Its Enduring Impact”

  1. MK, I am so sorry to hear about your father’s passing. I so wish you could be surrounded by those who understand how traumatic this is to you, as you said, the adoptee. You are in my prayers and please know that if you want someone to just listen and understand and that’s it, no strings attached, I’m here. Thank you for sharing, you are so so strong and from one adoptee to another, your willingness share your vulnerability, shows that you understand what true strength is. Tears often come as gifts in the adoptee’s life and I wish for this to be the case now. You will get through this, because, I’m sure you always do. You will be wiser and filled with more grace. You will.

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