We all love a beautiful reunification story, right? It feels good to see adoptees finding their long-sought after birth families, then the first glimpse as they throw their arms around each other, finally reveling in the joy of reunion. And truly, it is beautiful.

But all reunions–even those we see that capture the extreme emotion and cause us to tingle–aren’t filled to the brim with only happy moments. In fact, most reunions include a lot of pain. Why?

  • Some reunifications don’t continue into a relationship. Curiosity gets satisfied, information is shared, and then one or the other party realizes that life has gone on. It’s no longer an issue and they want to move on toward their own goals and ambitions. They choose to not make room for another person or family in their lives. Complications are too much, and interest wanes. This is truly painful for the person who desperately wants a relationship. It feels like rejection all over again, and, indeed, it is.
  • Expectations are not me. Whatever the adoptee or the birth parent has been imagining for “all these years” is almost never the reality. The expectation is dashed all to pieces when reunification happens and very little of the real truth has been previously conceived. Disappointment, anger, irritation, and sometimes despair fill the person with high expectations. It’s not the fairytale they expected.
  • The past becomes present again. What was once worked through and set aside as simply a part of the birth parent’s past becomes all to present when a birth mother lays eyes on her son and sees the birth father; or when painful remembrances of relinquishment are relived. Sometimes the pain is greater than the joy of reunification. Sometimes it’s unbearable and just too hard to deal with.

How can these things (that don’t hit the news) be avoided, or at least diminished? For those who are preparing for reunification:

  • Be sure you’ve worked through your feelings of the past. Whether you’re an adoptee or birth parent, work it in whatever way is most effective. Let go of feelings of abandonment as much as you can. Talk to a professional, if necessary, to be sure that you really are able to leave the past in the past so you can move forward–however the future will look.
  • Try to let go of expectations. Expectations almost never lead to positive outcomes. Plan, yes. And prepare. But try to void your mind of expectations. Expectations are a set-up for disappointment.
  • Realize that reunification may lead to a relationship or it may not. If you have strong feelings one way or another before meeting, share your feelings with the person with whom you will be reunified. That way you’re both on the same page.
  • Keep communication open. Be real. Share honest thoughts and feelings. Encourage the other to do the same.

As you do these things, your happy, news-worthy reunion may be what it appears to be! It’s possible to eliminate most negativity and to thrive in your newfound situation.

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