grief


I don’t celebrate my birthday, or at least I don’t celebrate it the day I was born. Very few people in my life even know when my actual birthday is. But still when my real birthday comes around I am acutely aware of it and this year all I kept thinking was that the woman who gave birth to me is dead now. I hadn’t seen her for years, more than half my life, when she died and I didn’t grieve. I felt nothing about her death. It bought up all sorts of other adoptee and bio family related issues but her? I was cold, no grief no tears. I thought this was because I was done grieving her, because I’d let go of her. But things have shifted and changed in the couple of years since she died there is no loyalty or connection left for my adoptive parents and I have a lot more room and honesty emotionally. And I’ve started to notice a drifting, seeping grief for her, for her unlived, unsupported, unloved life, for the fact she still had serious untreated mental health issues when she died that no one ever diagnosed or supported her with, that it was partly those mental health issues that made her neglect herself so badly that death came so early for her. That she was always poor and always uneducated and no one cared about that.

I’m kind of broken so I dont always understand the world emotionally but I do understand it politically and my grief turns political. In the end the system killed her. poor uneducated women with mental heath issues get their children taken away and then get abandoned.

Whenever I read this poem I think of her

Death of an Irishwoman
by Michael Hartnett

Ignorant, in the sense
she ate monotonous food
and thought the world was flat,
and pagan, in the sense
she knew the things that moved
all night were neither dogs or cats
but hobgoblin and darkfaced men
she nevertheless had fierce pride.
But sentenced in the end
to eat thin diminishing porridge
in a stone-cold kitchen
she clenched her brittle hands
around a world
she could not understand.
I loved her from the day she died.

She was a summer dance at the crossroads.
She was a cardgame where a nose was broken.
She was a song that nobody sings.
She was a house ransacked by soldiers.
She was a language seldom spoken.
She was a child’s purse, full of useless things.

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I am infertile, my body doesn’t work. I will never carry a child and that grieves me deeply, it really does, I never envisioned a life without children but here it is. People suggest adoption to me frequently but I am not willing to partake in a system that is classest, racist, and misogynistic. A system that makes adoptees feel second best (because if you adopt because you can’t have your own children they are second best.) I have spent too much time exploring my feelings as an adoptee, listening to other adoptees and doing research on the issues around adoption to think anybody wins when adoption happens. Even the adoptive parents don’t win, not really, because they don’t get what they really want. They don’t get a child of their blood, their genes. they end up with a child who is an unknown quantity then they very often get frustrated and angry when it doesn’t turn out like them.

I thought a lot about being infertile and I realised that actually a lot of that grief came from not being able to carry a child, not being able to experience pregnancy and adoption won’t fix that, wont take that grief away.

But being infertile doesn’t mean my life is empty, doesn’t mean I can’t give to the future in other ways. I work with other peoples children. I’m a youth worker, a Brownie leader, a soon to be godmother I’m on the management committee of several community weaving projects. Being infertile means I can focus on these things, can support other people who are parenting, I can be involved in community weaving for people who dont have the time or energy because they are busy parenting. Doing these things softens the edges of my grief but still I will grieve not being able to have a child forever on some level and that’s okay

for some of us adoption isn’t a wonderful thing to be celebrated or encouraged, lots of adoptees do not see adoption as a good thing, as something to be happy about. It’s painful, confusing, identity annihilating. I am a colonised person, I lost my name, my culture, a language connection, a religious connection, my bloodlines. There are griefs that I cant even name.

The societies we live in are so invested in the lie that adoption is a win/win/win situation for everybody involved that it is totally ignored the two of the three parts of that triangle loose something irreplaceable. And its totally unacknowledged that we might grieve this forever, that it’s not always something we can or should “get over” or “work through”

I always thought Frodo Baggins said it best:

How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart you begin to understand there is no going back? There are some things time cannot mend. Some hurts that go too deep that have taken hold.

I’ve meditated on this quote a lot and come to the conclusion that some pain doesn’t go away, that for some of us who have been deeply and repeatedly wounded grief is not a season but a thread, a bass note in the structure of our lives and part of healing is coming to terms with that, of building something positive out of that grief and sadness, but also just living with it. I’ve learnt that if i don’t acknowledge it as part of myself, if i don’t honour it I get depressed I go blank, I don’t feel all the good sweet ,positive things about my life either, cutting of my grief cuts of all my emotions. Grief is part of the kaleidoscope of who I am, I wouldn’t be myself without it.