Council of Natural Mothers' Library
and Recovery: Solving the mystery of reunion
The introduction to this book sets the context for it: this is a qualitative study, arising out of the author's interactions with a variety of natural parents, persons adopted and others in her homeland and on her travels. She defines her terms and situates what she says. Following this is a statement by her son about what adoption meant to him and how adoption and reunion have affected his life. He describes his surprise and disappointment that his mother had tried to contact him two years before their reunion, and that his adoptive parents had warned her never to contact him again. There's a message in this for all adoptive parents.The book proper is divided into three sections:
Robinson begins the second
chapter with the statement that "In one sense, every adoption is
a tragedy, as it means that a child has been separated from his or her
parents and families." This chapter goes on to explore how disenfranchised
grief affects mothers and families. For example, she describes how mothers
may repeat patterns learned after the loss of their child at other losses
in their lives. This hit home for me, as I felt the same numbness at my
mother's death that I felt after the loss of my son. I did repeat exactly
the pattern I had learned. Robinson also notes that some mothers and persons
adopted may choose to avoid close relationships after their adoption loss
to avoid that pain again. Her description of Worden's stages of mourning
is helpful in seeing the course of mourning in the loss of our children,
especially for those of us who only begin to mourn openly at reunion.
These stages are
In Chapter 3, Robinson discusses personal recovery work for adults who were adopted and their parents. She discusses feeling entitled to grieve, and general methods that can assist in grieving and moving on from grief.
Robinson makes the point that many people have no clear understanding of why they are seeking reunion until after they experience it. Furthermore, she believes that such seeking does not require an explanation. Asking people to justify or explain why they want to reunite with family members gives a subtle message that this is suspect behaviour. Rather, reunion represents the closing of the circle of separation which began at adoption. In exploring the dynamics of reunion, Robinson makes the point that the primary parties to reunion must be the mother and the adult adopted. Other family members may wish to be involved, and hopefully will be in time. Adoptive family members, however, are bystanders and supporters, and it is rarely helpful for them to be actively involved at beginning stages of reunion.
Robinson also discusses why some parties refuse reunion, based on their perceived inability to deal with the pain of the separation. Sometimes, mothers or adults adopted may feel or be told that to seek reunion would be to interfere with the other's current life. However, that 'interference' is really the result of the original interference with the natural family--separating them at the time of adoption. Without that original interference, there would be no need for re-connection to close the circle of separation later.
In the second chapter of this
section, Robinson discusses anticipatory grief, normal grief and complicated
grief reactions. There are four types of complicated grief reactions,
all of which can play out at reunion:
Robinson also explains Worden's
four tasks of mourning and how they apply to reunion:
In the third chapter of this section, Robinson makes the analogy between the maternal alienation caused by abusive partners and the strategies used to separate mothers from their children for adoption. For example, the constant verbal and emotional denigration of mothers by abusive fathers is compared to the strategies for convincing mothers that they cannot suitably take care of their children, even when they have (these days) manifestly been competent at raising a previous child or children. Similarly, separation of mother and child allows fathers and adopters to create a view of the mother as incompetent or dangerous to her children without the mother being able to contradict this view through word or action. Robinson discusses how these types of strategies affect adults adopted and their mothers at the time of reunion.
In her conclusion, Robinson notes that since adoption is a legal creation by governments, it is also the government's obligation to minimize and rectify the damage caused by separating parents from their children. She notes each individual's responsibility for personal recovery and how each person can move from this to interpersonal recovery.
Robinson's book is a landmark in setting the dynamics of adoption reunion within the framework of grief. In doing this, much that was inexplicable is made clear. I found this to be personally true. I have been almost 10 years in reunion with my son at the point of reading this book, and as I look back over this journey, I see that its stages are marked with the signposts that Robinson has laid out. In my interactions with those affected by adoption separation, I have found many of the patterns Robinson describes. I can only think how much it would have helped me at several points to have had this information to help explain what my son and I were experiencing.
This book will be most helpful for adults adopted, their parents and counsellors working to assist them. I can envision that professionals involved in adoption would want to understand the effects they create, and that therefore this book might assist them to know the damage that they do. I would have difficulty personally understanding how they could continue their work if they read this book, however. I believe they and prospective adoptive parents would have to find ways to deny or discredit Robinson's work in order to continue what they do. Either that, or they would simply have no conscience.
This book is a
must read for any mother contemplating the loss of her child to adoption.
You may contact
Evelyn Robinson through:
or via www.clovapublications.com
© The Canadian Council of Natural Mothers