memoir, adoption
Skip to content

On Motherhood, Daughterhood, Adoption & Grief

by Laura on August 22nd, 2013

My five-year-old recently told me that when she dies, she’d like to have a grave next to my husband and mine. Of course, this is not a subject I bring up with her (except when necessary).  Apparently, it was something she’d been contemplating; since she recently visited the grave of one of her (very old) extended family members here in Serbia (it’s customary to visit a loved one’s grave on the anniversary of his or her birth or death, or both, each year).

Even though I was taken back a bit, I thought it was a wonderful sentiment.

Of course, my little girl will have many other people in her future life with whom she may choose to be buried. Her husband/wife/or love-of-her-life. Perhaps her own children, although I would never wish upon her the unique and devastating grief of passing before one’s offspring.

My relationship with my (non-adopted) daughter is complicated, talk-y, and full of love. She is a high maintenance person, and she demands a level of attention that I thought was unique only to myself. My husband can attest to this. (The apple doesn’t fall far from this tree, huh?).

“I love you”

Our serious conversations don’t happen every day, but most days she gets mad at me for one thing or another. I know, I’m such a bad mom for requiring that she sit on her bottom and feed herself at dinner. It’s terrible.

And so, I was gratified when we had when I told her, randomly, “I love you,” and D replied,

“Momma, I know that.”

How amazing is that? Just a normal everyday thing, for her to know deeply, intrinsically and yet totally normatively … that her mommy loves her.

Love that girl.

Relationships in adoption

The thing is, with adoption, so much of that is completely … well, complicated.

Today, although I began by writing about my relationship with my daughter, I will not be talking about my own two moms. I want to talk about adoption, first moms, relationships and grief in context to a dear friend who recently lost her mom. In this particular post, my friend, Deanna Doss Shrodes, referred to this woman simply as “she,” and referenced other family members including (but not limited to) “sister.”

Someone in her Facebook feed needed to clarify: Is this your mom?

My friend’s reply: Yes, it’s my natural mother [who passed away].

I know, I know, many of you are dying to ask … did you real mom die? Yes, she was real, in the physical sense. Yes, she did die, she was/is a real mom.

When a first mother dies, the adoptee must mourn not only the death of a mother, but the death of what wasn’t was and what could have been.

There is nothing straightforward about grief and managing it. But add in adoption and reunion, and you’ve got a tricky mix.

Complete the recipe with decades-held secrets, adamant denials, and layers of lies on one side … with reality-seeking and truth-telling on the other side, and well … the cookie batter just went nuclear. Laura, could you mix metaphors more randomly?

Yes, my friend’s first mother recently passed away. Her real mother—a real person who was cherished and who deserved to be found, died surrounded by loved ones. Including the daughter she didn’t get to raise. But a daughter nonetheless. A first born daughter, if you want to be accurate about it (and I do!).

Yet, I have very little I can do from so far away to help my friend. It got me thinking about grief.

I know a lot about adoption grief and loss. I know very little about grief from death.

I know a lot about missing out on time with my first mother. I know very little about what it would be like to lose her again. Permanently.

Compared with Deanna, I’m in such a different place. Thankfully. But you know that good ol’ adoptee resilience? Well, Deanna has got it in spades. Life just keeps on throwing more at her, and she keeps on keepin’ on. She’s juggling, she’s managing, she’s grieving, she’s crying … and yet.

She’s strong.

She’s resilient.

She will survive this.

As will all of us; all of us affected by adoption, all of who grieve in our own personal ways. Big and small. Tragic and every day. Whether it’s as devastating as the death of a loved one, or as petty as ignorant people running their mouth at the wrong time.

We are strong.

We are resilient.

And together, by sharing our stories and lifting one another up, we will survive.


From → Adoption

  1. I know double loss of my firstborn. And I know many on the adoption community whose search for a parent or a child ended with a grave and so they never got to meet their kin. It is incredibly sad.

  2. Gaye Vale permalink

    Have just recently lost my mother – grieving the lost years and her passing. But celebrating and growing from finding her and my siblings. Never knew the pain could be so intense and all encompassing. Having to finally deal with all the hurt will make more more complete and heaven knows what a "complete" me means for the family!! Deanna is lucky to have a friend like you -:). Thanks Laura. And strength to Deanna.

  3. lisaanne119 permalink

    Interesting how those of us "touched" by adoption become experts in dealing with grief. __And I loved your line " But you know that good ol’ adoptee resilience? Well, Deanna has got it in spades. Life just keeps on throwing more at her, and she keeps on keepin’ on."__That Deanna has a strength that seems super human. God filled that woman with amazing strength.

  4. Just sitting here crying reading this. I love you, Laura. So much. <3 And seeing your comment, Lisa… "That Deanna has a strength that seems super human. God filled that woman with amazing strength." The past two days have been really hard. Don't feel super human, don't feel amazingly strong. I feel like a survivor today, not a thriver. But I know the thriving is coming. I just don't feel it in this situation…yet. Please just know there are days I lay on the floor in a heap and don't know how I'm going to get up. I have times like that too. But eventually I stand back up. I'm on a leave of absence for a while, taking time away because this blow was so much stronger for so many reasons. Grieving her loss but also grieving the reality of the secret kept, and some days it's hard to breathe with the reality of that. Right now I feel like God has me on a supernatural breathing machine. When I can't breathe, He breathes for me.

    Love you all

    • We are resilient and strong and together a force to be reckoned with. When it comes to grief…we have been to the depths unknown by regular folk.
      My birth mother died 9 mos after I moved across Canada to get to know her and I was crippled by the grief of finding and then losing my mother in one quick sweep. I know the place where you lay Deanna. That fetal position with soul pain so intense you wonder if you will survive it all.
      I feel blessed to have found this community that is full of understanding , love and support.
      I wish I had it then..and grateful I have it now because it is a lifelong journey.
      When you feel you just can't possible get up one more time Deanna….know we stand in the wings with hands extended.
      Laura..thank you for this post…your little one brought up a subject that is so important to discuss

    • Lavender Luz permalink

      I hadn't heard, Deanna. I am so sorry for your very real loss. Abiding with you.

    • Janie permalink

      Thank you, Deanna, for reminding us that God will breathe for us when we feel like we can't even go through the motions. Profound grief such as losing our first mother, again, is bound to floor us. I am grateful for your reminders that God is holding us in the palm of his hand, and Laura's reminders that we are a resilient bunch, and eventually we will not only survive, but thrive. I'm at the point of barely surviving, with what's going on with my first mom, and can't even imagine thriving yet, but posts and comments from others who are going through secondary first mother loss are bolstering me up. I like thinking that God is at least breathing for me…that's a good visual. Many hugs.

  5. Your beautifully-written "I love my dear friend" post touched a chord with me today, Laura. Recently, I was telling my therapist, the first one I've seen in over 20-plus years, that my late mother who gave birth to me, is the only one who makes any sense to me in life and my beginnings. But it's times like this when I hear another adoptees pain in the loss of their first mother that I can touch my own grief of searching for a part of me and learning she passed away when I was a little girl. My heart goes out to you Deanna…a friend of Laura's is my friend too. Take care ♥

  6. eagoodlife permalink

    Condolences and the best of wishes to all who have known the suffering of the second loss of a mother.I have long believed we have more than our fair share of loss and the grieving that goes with it. My own mother died many years ago now and eventually it gets better when we come to accept it and allow peace to find us.

  7. Beautiful post, Laura! You are such a good friend to care about your sisters' pain. Grief is a constant companion on this journey of adoption. Most people don't recognize that instead of "lucky", some of us feel grieved over so many aspects of adoption. Not knowing your mother for your entire childhood and then losing her after not being able to get to a certain place in the relationship is painful. We missed out on our mothers growing up. There is something inherently damaging about that reality. Hugs to you, Laura and Deanna!

  8. Lynn permalink

    I'm confused though. What about all of your Mothers? The women who raised you your whole life. Where are they in this picture? Aren't they there for support and love to help you through this?

    • If they do not recognize that we have a first MOTHER, then no, they are not much of a help. To love and support someone through such a loss you would have to recognize, affirm, validate that the person actually has two mothers, not one. And, understand why the loss is so devastating. Anything less than this actually adds more grief to what is already a traumatic situation.

      • "The only other (painless) way is to never know love. That's always an option. If you don't get close to nobody, if you don't love nobody…you don't ever have to feel like this. But, then you never get to feel love either."

        Deanna, I'm sending you kind thoughts eastward. I hope that your pain is meaningful and brief and that you are surrounded by love on all sides. cs

  9. Laura, you are so wise and so kind. Yes, also strong and resilient, but in this post, mostly wise and kind.

  10. Thank you for sharing the story. So beautiful.
    html color picker

Leave a Reply

Note: XHTML is allowed. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

CommentLuv badge

Notify via Email Only if someone replies to My Comment