Friday, May 11, 2012

Pervasive Loss

If you are a parent, imagine this: you have loved and nourished your child. When your child is age 2, you are their only concept of safety, love, family, validation. They have no concept of self apart from you. And then one day, you drop them in a public place - Grand Central Station, or LAX - and walk away forever. When you walk away, so does everything your child knows of safety, love, family, validation, and self.

Maybe it seems like I dwell on my abandonment too much, maybe it seems like self-pity or whining. But from my perspective, that is the moment that has defined me so completely that it is the only key to taking the small steps to accepting the broken person I still carry inside.

Tonight I'm sitting at the playground watching my younger three children play. My oldest is practicing soccer on an adjacent field. It's a perfect, mild May evening and I'm a prosperous citizen of a free country. Career, friendships, family, and health are all in exquisite order. In short, I am living the dream.

Why then, is it in these moments of serendipity - when my world seems most pure and safe - that I feel most isolated? These moments when I should be happy, that instead I find myself guarded against the frailty of it all? I watch these golden days of happiness with a gratitude and fear borne from a primal knowledge of loss. There it is, then. Loss at the core and perimeter of all my perceptions.

I think of this as an emotional homelessness. A perpetual sense of losing, even when all leading indicators show that I'm winning. Of course, the reason is because I have already lost - family, country, language, name, identity. When your entire identity and life are predicated by loss, then a sense of loss invades and pervades, often in ways that we aren't even aware of. We spend our early lives feeling defective. We are sad when we should be happy. We grieve something we can't even remember, nor do we understand the nature of our grief.

I am by all outward definitions a successful person. You would never know that I am emotionally homeless unless I told you. I would not know unless I had a contemplative enough nature to realize it on my own. I can't say that all adoptees feel this way, at least not on a conscious level. But the fact is that the major defining event of my life happened at an age when I internalized without comprehension.

How can the same person write the previous two posts and this one? How can one be so seemingly serene and actualized, while being so sad and lost?

Because I am human, and emotions change. Because I am always walking forward, but sometimes I look back. Because I truly am transient and eternal, so the past and the future dwell inside the present moment.

This sense of isolation, latent fear, and emotional homelessness is not something that has to be fixed. It only needs to be understood, acknowledged, and accepted as the natural consequence of such profound early loss.


  1. I don't think I've read anything that expresses the loss of adoption as clearly as this does, Raina. It is a profound expression of your reality, truly sobering.

  2. I don't know how that experience could not be a defining moment Raina. We can't help but look back and to me it makes perfect sense for it to come to mind sitting outside on a beautiful evening while watching your own kids play.

  3. This is something I have gently tried to let a friend in on. They recently adopted a toddler..right now, it's about the parents, I have tried to also let it be about the child. She now gmhas to learn a different language and has been given a new name. I'm not adopted but adoption blogs are in my reading lost and I know enough to know that this WILL affect her the older she gets.

  4. Interesting that you say this.

    It is often during my most peaceful moments in Taiwan that the shadows come to the forefront of my mind, so that even when I know I've accomplished something, in the grand picture of things, I still feel like what I've accomplished is never enough because I accomplish things in the shadow of loss.

  5. And then one day, you drop them in a public place - Grand Central Station, or LAX - and walk away forever.

    Margie is right. This is the reality. How could they? How could any of them, whatever their situation was? There is absolutely NO excuse. They did it.

  6. I found this page idly following through adoption websites and their links, and as I started to read, I found myself thinking about Veronica Rose, a young girl who was recently returned to her biological father from her potential adoptive parents. They had to take her to a public place and leave her with a total stranger who is her father. And I wonder.... what could be done to make things easier for her? What should be done in situations where a person has raised a child but lacks the legal rights to the child and must return the child?