Adoption Secrecy

1 Oct

Letterbalm Adoption TreeDear LetterBalm: I’ve known that I was adopted from an early age. My mom and dad were open and reassuring, and, with their blessing and guidance, I found my birth mother when I was 22. She gave me over for adoption because she was very young and not in a position to raise a child. We are in regular contact – I have a couple of half-siblings. I consider myself fortunate to have had a life filled with love and two great families. Recently, in a passing conversation with a co-worker, she told me that she has an older uncle who was adopted but was never told. She said the whole family knows, and her uncle thinks his adoptive parents are his birth parents. I didn’t say anything about my being adopted – I was too surprised. This seems to me so unfair. I want to say something, but what?

–Lucky in Life

You are certainly a fortunate person in many respects. And, you are in an excellent position to help your co-worker help her relative because you have intimate knowledge. He has a right to know his heritage, even if it will come as a shock. Ms. L.B. says that such vital, personal information should never have been withheld from him, especially since his whole family knows. Take your colleague out to dinner; you want to have this conversation away from the office in a relaxed setting. Take your time, don’t judge, be revelatory about your own life, and let your co-worker know you’ll help with advice if she decides to urge her family to reveal the truth:

Juana, I’ve asked you to dinner because I want to talk with you away from the office about something very personal. The other day, you told me you had an older uncle who was adopted and doesn’t know it, even though his whole family has known all his life. What you don’t know is that I was adopted as a baby. My adoptive parents told me early on, and they were wonderfully supportive when I started searching for my birth mom. I found her when I was 22, and we connected. I have a whole second family, including two half-siblings. Given how adoption experiences can go, I realize I’m very lucky. Juana, your uncle has a right to know his heritage – it’s not fair to keep this knowledge from him. You should talk with your family to urge them to tell him the truth. It will be a shock for him, and he may well be angry and hurt. But if it were you, wouldn’t you want to know the truth? I’ll support you every step of the way – I don’t deny this will be difficult for you. And, ask me anything about my own experience.

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