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dear abby

Dear Abby Misses the Mark on Adoption Question

Dear Needs Help in Indiana,

It must feel like walking on eggshells for an adoptee to live in an Either/Or world. If you even think about your birth mom, some will judge you as disloyal to the woman who is raising you.  Because, y’know, there is room for only one set of “real” parents in Either/Or world.  About the anger you’re feeling toward your birth mom, you’re told — by Dear Abby, no less — to wait until you’re older to search for her, and in the meantime to just get over it (which is not all that helpful unless the advice also includes how to do so).

dear abby

I wish for you and my own similarly-aged daughter to instead grow up in a Both/And world. In this world, we don’t need to negate one mother in order to legitimize the other. In this world we acknowledge that both biology and biography have value in making a person who she is. In this world we encourage our kids to claim and be claimed by both their clans. In this world we strive to give our teen access to all her pieces (even if that means just wondering and talking about those missing pieces) as she does the hard work of building her identity.

It’s my belief that allowing for healing that split will, in itself, ameliorate some of the intense emotions you’re feeling.

I’m sorry that you are struggling and feeling angry. I wonder if being able to talk openly about your anger would ultimately help you release it. You are wise to see that unresolved anger can spill over into your relationships with friends and family members. Instead of stuffing down your feelings until some later date when you search for your birth mother, my advice would be to enlist your parents’ help* now to find an adoption-competent therapist.  To start your search for one, check with  Brooke, Judy, or Sherrie, all in Indiana.

Bring this book to your first therapy appointment and ask your counselor to read it, if s/he hasn’t already.

Come to think of it, maybe I should send a copy of Adoption Therapy to Dear Abby.

Being 13 is hard. Being 13 and having complex feelings about adoption and no one to process with is super hard. Please. Find someone to talk with you about it. There are people who know this path and can help you along your way.

Best wishes,
Lori in Colorado

* If you think they might not be open-hearted about this, ask them to read this book first.

Image by Benmckune at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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34 Responses

  1. Today’s post from “Dear Abby” really left me disheartened. To tell this young woman that she ” stop blaming her — and you, your friends and family will be happier,” is incredibly dismissive. I hope that young woman sees your response. And hopefully Ms. Phillips does too.

  2. “Dear Abby” knows nothing about adoption. “Her” answers are always outdated, at best. Yours is much better! If you haven’t posted it as a comment on the original, you should.

    1. I did, and it’s part of the sea of comments now. The link wasn’t allowed through so I mostly re-posted. Too bad it couldn’t include the links to the Indiana people who could help.

  3. A really good answer. I’m not sure how telling someone simply to stop blaming someone is truly advice. HOW do you stop blaming them? Why does the search need to wait? Dear Abby’s advice leaves me with more questions rather than resolution. Thank you for writing her something more concrete to work with.

    1. If we were to take Abby’s advice about adoption and change it to infertility, it might read something like this:

      You’ll need to put off much of your processing until a later and unspecified date. But in the meantime, stop blaming your failed reproductive system on God/Fate/the Universe — and you, your friends and family will be happier.

      True, but unhelpful.

  4. Yes! Yes! A thousand times Yes! One of my teens leaned over to me during our Mother’s Day service at church and said, “I have two Moms, don’t I?” I leaned over, kissed his head and said, “Yes, you do. ” And he snuggled in closer in the pew. Complete permission to process…validation for his shared love for his Moms that day… Saying outloud what is going through his mind is essential during this “identity defining phase” – which I have learned lasts a lifetime for many adoptees. What better safe person to process all that with than his Mom. Thank you for writing this, Lori! May it be found by all those hearts that need to hear it!

  5. That did seem so incredibly dismissive of that girls feelings. I was impressed by her maturity in understanding what was going on. I hope she reads your answer. Wish so many emotions going on at that age, I hope she can find someone who is understanding.

  6. I’ve been shocked by the way the commenters ignorantly hold forth when it’s obvious they know nothing about adoption. Have left two comments. Your comment was absolutely awesome. I am not as capable of holding my temper as well as you.

    1. I get the sense that here in my little blog, I’m used to dealing with readers and commenters that are much better versed in the nuances of life and in kindness and empathy toward others.

  7. I’ve left about 5 comments at this point and I’ve now officially given up. In response to my last comment that the adoptee deserves to be listened to in a non-judgmental way, someone accused me of “stoking resentment” against her original mother. Gah.

  8. The published question could well have been written by somebody in an open adoption, if so the DA answer does not start to make sense.
    How would you have answered , if The Battle Call of Riverdale, US (where there are no closed adoptions) subtitled “Death to Cons!” would have had you sit in to ghost write Dear Abby on this question?

    1. Hi, ThW5. I’m not sure I understand your references to River City and Death to Cons, but if you’re asking me what I would have said in light of this question being asked about an open adoption (and I think this is a terrific insight I hadn’t noticed before), I would say something like this:

      Congratulations, Needs Help, for you are already launching your healing. Therapists are fond of saying, “If we can feel it we can heal it.” Buried feelings are what get us into trouble, so by feeling and noticing your anger, you are already on your way in this process.

      You may find that other emotions underlie the anger. That’s something I suggest you explore with an adoption-competent therapist. Currently, adoption grief isn’t always taught in counseling or social work programs, so make sure you look around until you find someone who specializes in adoption counseling.

      Maybe your birth mother is available to you to process your emotions and maybe she isn’t. Either way, a good therapist will help you untangle the mass of emotions you have going on inside you and help you do the Reinhold Niebuhr thing: change what you can and accept what you can’t. It can be done and you already have a good start. Best wishes on your journey to YOU.

      1. Riverdale, USA, the hometown of a certain Archie Andrews of Archie comics, just an indication that the setting is fully fictional, though the issue might not be 🙂

  9. Wow, what horrible advice from Dear Abby. I think that you should take over, since your take on this issue makes so much more sense. In any other circumstance would you tell a 13 year old to deal with her feelings when she’s older? I love the idea of a Both/And world. I hope to give the same to my FutureBaby, wherever he/she is right now. Great post, I’m just sorry it was warranted by the dismissive advice of the columnist.

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