One of the tragic consequences of the trauma we experienced is the way it can destroy the heart and soul of a beautiful person. The very nature of trauma causes us to relive our experiences over and over, until we can come to believe we are our experience. Our story takes us over. Our world shrinks as we lose the ability to influence our own thoughts and behavior to gain a bigger picture and gain meaning from our experience. We begin to imagine there can never be meaning in anything anymore, and, in our isolation, we begin to lose the feeling of being connected to our own spirit, the very thing that sustains life. Thus, we are unable to feel connected to the spirit of others and to the beauty of the world around us. All that can nourish our spirit has less and less meaning.
In adoption especially, our trauma is most often reawakened years after the event, though it has been derailing us subliminally all along in a myriad of ways. So, when we finally become conscious of its impact, an essential part of the healing process is to own our story. But then, with the newly awakened awareness, being with others who “Just don’t get it” can feel like a threat to our very selves. This stage of protecting our selves from those who don’t understand can be an important one, as a mirror to the past when we weren’t understood, but it can’t be the final one or we have become our stories and lost our greater self. The key is to know that the more we get it the less we need others to comprehend all we’ve been through. But that takes time and the healing support of those who share our story, with whom tremendous bonds can be forged.
However, there is a danger in finding sympathetic groups that reinforce each other’s pain as if it were a sacred cow, instead of trying to move through it. Fear of triggers is one example of how we can keep each other stuck. A trigger simply indicates more healing needs to be done, that if we allow the trigger to remain it only festers and shows up in our relationships, or physical body or life situation. We can resent the need to heal, after all we were all victims, but then the opportunity is missed to gain a deeper understanding of oneself and one’s life – to find some peace within. Another indication more healing is necessary is the intense need to control how our stories are told and how we describe ourselves, especially it seems with the use of the word “birth parent.” Our spirit of connection with each other is lost over such intolerance, intolerance that seems justified but that actually is rooted in the fear of our own unresolved feelings.
For a long time, I was afraid of letting go of the pain of my story. I felt that if I did somehow I would no longer be connected to my son, or even to myself. I’d lived with it so long. But then I finally had to ask myself, is it sorrow that connects Jack and I, or love? Crazy as it seems now, letting go of the sorrow was difficult. I wasn’t sure what would remain. Not that I’m no longer hit by waves of sorrow, but it is no longer how I feel connected to my son or myself.
There’s nothing to fear in facing our pain. In fact, there’s the real opportunity to understand our stories from a far more profound perspective and to learn who we are beyond our painful stories, and maybe at a level most people can’t ever get to.
I’ve included one of the many stories of others I wrote about in Searching …, the sequel to The Other Mother, as an example of the rewards from taking the risk of seeing our stories in a different light. This one will be surprising.
“Morgan and I developed a workshop to facilitate healing. We wanted to help the mothers discover their memories, since the trauma of relinquishment had blocked so much. Our plan was to take the mothers through every phase, from conception through pregnancy, birth and surrender, using meditation and visualization techniques to guide them back. A friend had offered her house.
Everyone had arrived on time, and Morgan and I were still debating about whether or not to include conception in the visualization, since one of the mothers had been raped.
Betsy had only recently attended our support group, and we didn’t know her well. She came because she had been contacted by her son and his adoptive mother, both of whom wanted very much to meet her - something most of us could only dream of happening. Yet, Betsy was dead set against it.
At the last minute, Morgan and I decided to trust the process. If Betsy couldn’t handle going back to the violent conception of her son, her own mind would prevent her from doing so.
A surprisingly beautiful peace enveloped the group, as I guided them through the visualization. When we finished and I asked everyone to open her eyes, I observed Betsy to see how she was doing and was relieved to see she was all right.
We went around the room, each taking turns telling what insights we’d gained. Betsy was the last to speak, and I held my breath while she took a long time to gather her thoughts.
“I have to say I am in shock,” she finally said. “When I went back to the rape, I saw our three spirits hovering over us – the father, my son and I – and it was as if we had always known each other. We actually loved each other. How can that be, but it felt so true. In that moment of seeing, I forgave my son’s father. Now I can’t wait to meet my son!” That night, Betsy called her son and his adoptive mother, and two days later they had a wonderful reunion.”
If we can risk seeing our stories in a different light, we can find ourselves again. In my next blog, I will describe various ways we can do just that.