Rejection. It is a common fear of anyone. When we are young we fear being rejected from the “cool crowd” at school or rejected if we ask out our secret crush. As we get older, it may be fear of being rejected from a job. Rejection is part of life. However, for someone who is adopted there is an even deeper fear of rejection; being rejected from the two people who gave you life.
Over the years I have spoken with and worked with many individuals who have decided to search for their birth families. As an adoptee myself, I have mentally battled with whether or not I want to complete my own search. When making these decisions there are so many emotions that run through you: excitement, curiosity, trepidation, and fear of the unknown. Many adoptees have fantasized or dreamed about what their birth family is like or what their reunion will be like. There are shows on TV about it and there is always a happy ending. The reality is, not all searches end with a happy ending. Oftentimes they end in rejection. I know for me, one of the greatest fears/insecurities I have when considering searching for my birth family is being rejected. We all want to think that this is not an option but in reality, it is a very real option.
So, how does one deal with the fear of rejection? I don’t know that there is any magical way to do so. Each person is different so every person is going to cope differently. That being said, I think there are some ways to prepare to help make the sting of rejection less. I think it begins with preparing yourself ahead of time, prior to searching. I think it is starting out with a mindset that “okay, I am going to take this step and I have to be okay with no matter what happens.” It means mentally preparing yourself beforehand for the rejection that may come afterward. If you go into this with a realistic perspective, hopefully, it will help normalize feelings along the way.
Secondly, you need to remember that it is not all about you. This was a decision that a birth parent made a long time ago (or had made for them). It may be something that they have not fully dealt with emotionally themselves. They may never have told anyone about their adoption decision. While birth families who do make the decision to not meet may feel like rejection to you, the adoptee, it is often just them protecting themselves. They may not be ready to deal with the emotions of reuniting or having to explain to their family about decisions that were made in the past. Remember, it is not a rejection of you, the adoptee, but a protection for them. Just as you have the right to try and search, the birth family has the right to say that they don’t want to be found our reunited.
Finally, I think that it is important to have a support system around you as you go through this journey. It may be one or two people, it could be a village. You need people around you to talk with, shoulders to cry on, someone to yell at in frustration, and those that will hold your hand and remind you that decisions made are not about you personally. Don’t do this alone. I know that it is a personal journey but make sure that you have at least a handful of people who can be there to hold you up when your disappointment may be realized.
That being said, don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from searching if that is what you want. Mentally prepare before you start and be prepared for the worst. Remember that there are a lot of emotions involved for all sides and while you may be ready for this next step, your birth family may not be and that is about them, not you. Have a support system. Trust me, you will not regret it and it will be a lifeline as you handle all the emotions that come with searching, reunion, and (possibly) rejection.