Adoptees hear it all. the. time.
“You should be thankful because you could have been a coat hanger abortion.”
“You should be grateful because you had a roof over your head when people in India are starving on the streets. That’s REAL trauma.”
Let’s say a woman, we’ll call her Sarah, has a husband named Jack, and four beautiful children: Justin (15), Jamie (9), Chloe (5) and Anna (3). On their way to their vacation, there is a horrible accident. Sarah is injured, and Jack, Jamie, and Anna die. Would you say to Sarah, “You should be grateful! You have two children left. You can remarry. This is a non-event. Stop crying! You’re being too sensitive. You could have lost all your children. You could have died. THAT would have been real trauma.” Who in their right mind would say that! OF COURSE losing her husband and two children in an accident was traumatic. No one tells her she should be thankful that she’s not starving on the streets of India.
Adoptees lose their whole family, their mother that is a biological and instinctual necessity for psychological safety, their name, their ancestry, their proper chemical and hormonal balance in infancy, their place in the family, physiological and psychological mirroring, often forced to fill a role that is impossible to fill, and to top it all off, they’re told to be thankful for it all. It’s trauma! And this is under the best of circumstances. Even if they truly are better off with an adoptive family (because of abuse,etc) it is STILL trauma.
Tell me again how losing a family member or two or four is traumatic but losing all that the adoptee does is not trauma?? Right, you can’t. You can only deny truth and change the subject.
Me: Adoption is traumatic to a child.
Random person: No it’s not. (denial) People starving on the streets of India. That’s REAL trauma. (changing subject, we were talking about adoption)
The person who hurts, hurts. Just because someone else hurts more, doesn’t make the first person hurt any less! If I carry around 70 pounds for an hour I’m going to be plenty sore and tired. If you carry 100 pounds you’ll probably be more sore and tired. That doesn’t mean my 70 pounds wasn’t tiring and difficult. It exists as it’s own entity outside of what happened to you or anyone else carrying a weight.
To quote Paul Sunderland from his Adoption and Addiction talk:
“It’s not so much what happens to you in life that throws you, it’s actually how secure your beginnings are. It’s a bit like the storm analogy: you know, in a storm, the trees don’t blow down just because the wind is strong, the ones that blow down, blow down because the roots aren’t strong enough to hold them up.
They did a lot of research with the Palestinian children in the refugee camps… the psychologists thought, ‘These kids, they’re going to be in a real state!’ and they’re giving interviews, and banks of psychometric testing, and really wholly expecting these kids to be really distressed. They weren’t. And they realized the reason they weren’t is because they had people around them who said, ‘This shouldn’t be happening.’ There was a secure base. There were people there who were saying ‘This shouldn’t be happening, this is not normal, we’re all in this together, we don’t like it.’
Think about that, and then think about being relinquished and adopted into a family that might not actually talk about it. Because talking about it might involve an enormous grief.”
It’s called empathy, and I wish people would learn it!
Reading that, I get the feeling that the hungry child in India has the possibility of being more psychologically sound than the adopted child in America, if the former has loving people in their life telling them “This is bad and it shouldn’t be happening, we’ll get through this together.” and the latter has people telling them, “Shut up. You don’t hurt. Be thankful you weren’t aborted. Be thankful you were taken in and not left to starve.”
And by the way, TELLING someone they should be thankful never leads to true thankfulness. It leads an odd sort of “pseudo-thankfulness” based on shame and guilt, not a true positive feeling of gratitude.