All adoptee reunions carry emotional weight. Unfortunately not all reunions end in happy tears and warm embraces like on TV. Every adoptee situation is unique. For every happy ending, there is one that is not so lucky. Helping someone through that experience can be difficult and should be handled with care.
When you hear the term “failed reunion,” most often you think of a family member who was found, but did not want to be found. That is a complete rejection of communication. Well there are many other types of failed reunions as well. Sometimes a parent is excited about the reunion and then after a few meetings, decides to discontinue contact. In some cases, the parent is happy to be found, but doesn’t want to tell the spouse or other children. The relationship is forced to continue for weeks, months, or even years before the parent halts all contact without an explanation.
No matter what experience happens, failed reunions can be quite devastating. For an adoptee, it can bring about feelings of abandonment. They can be made to feel like they are being rejected for a second time. Sometimes those emotions can spiral out of control, and it can be good for them to have a friend to lean on. I don’t pretend to know why people do the things that they do. I know it can be quite a shock to have someone show up out of the blue after many years. I also know there are two sides to every story. I’ve heard more than one tale of an adoptee being too eager and moving too fast, too soon and not respecting boundaries. However the story gets to that point, there are ways to heal.
What you can do for your adoptee is BE THERE. More than anything, he or she needs to feel safe, accepted, and loved. You don’t have to understand or agree with the adoptee’s feelings, but you do need to provide support. You need to listen to them and be there during their difficult time.
If a reunion goes south, some satisfaction is still possible. Adoptees can still take away the answers that have long been sought after. Answers to their questions can be invaluable. Where did I come from? Why was I placed for adoption? Who do I look like? What is my medical history? Basic questions that plague an adoptee can be laid to rest. Some peace can be had.
They may find other family members through the experience. It’s not unheard of for an adoptee to keep a healthy relationship with a biological sibling, aunt, or cousin, even if the parent/child relationship doesn’t work out. It may not be the outcome they had hoped for, but can still be meaningful.
Whether to take the plunge to make contact is a very personal choice. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there is good amidst the bad.