Adoptive and foster parents, would you consider the possibility of phantom pain in regard to your adopted child’s relinquishment wound? A great example of an amputee with phantom pain is Amy Purdy, the Olympian whose legs were amputated from the knees down. The location of pain for an amputee is the body, brain, and spirit. The amputee’s pain feels like shooting, stabbing, cramping, pins and needles. Just recently, Amy underwent another surgery and vividly describes the reality of phantom pain that feels like it’s coming from her lower legs. It’s like they’re still there. Imagine yourselves approaching Amy? What would you say? Would you ask if she could still feel them, even though they’re gone? What questions would you ask?
Like Amy or wartime amputees, your child lost a living part of herself–the living, DNA connection to the beloved First Mother and Father. First Mother was the Sun and the Moon. The First Father was the safe Home we always would long for. Even though we’re mad as hell at them for going on with life without parenting us, we still love them. The adopted child’s pain shoots like pins and needles on birthdays, entering new situations, and feelings of not belonging in the adoptive family.
Even though adopted or foster children may not act like they miss the First Mother or Father, somewhere, deep down, they do. It is there, parents, even though you can’t witness its presence or influence. Many adopted children believe the First Mother and Father are still there, living in a castle far away. These fantasies may serve as transitional objects, just like a binky or little blanket. They help the adoptee stay connected with the First Mother, who then stays alive inside that fantasy. (Please check out my book: FOREVER FINGERPRINTS: An Amazing Discovery for Adopted Children. (https://www.amazon.com/Forever-Fingerprints-Amazing-Discovery-Children/dp/0972624430)
Take a deep breath, parents. What if you shared the concepts from this post about adoptee phantom pain with your adopted/foster child? Not right now, but when the time seems opportune? Would you be too scared to share? Would you be able to self-regulate into new awareness of your child’s relinquishment pain?Would you be tongue tied? Remember, that your child is already suffering, even though he may not realize it or speak about it. Your child suffered this amputation long before you laid eyes on her. You see, most of us adoptees literally ache for reunion with First Parents, if only we could see their faces, maybe we wouldn’t feel adopted anymore, or maybe all life’s issues would disappear?
I am going to make this bold statement and you are welcome to disagree. ALL adopted and foster children have amputee pain, even though it may not seem so for many decades. Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. helps us to understand how shutting down in the present comes about in his epic book, THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma. He states, “…trauma is expressed not only in fight or flight but also as shutting down and failing to engage in the present.”
Your child is delicate and defensive. Is it any wonder? If you’d suffered amputation, you would be, too. Yes, you may have suffered the loss of unborn babies and infertility…but this different, and even if you did suffer those losses, we expect you’ll do your own work before you meet us. That’s the least we can ask of you.
Parents, I’d like to propose these ideas for recognizing your child’s amputee pain:
- Remember your child suffered amputation before you ever entered the scene.
- The First Parents are much alive in your child’s brain, soul, and body.
- Your child is defensive because the pain is unapproachable.
- Your child is a hero for living with such pain.
- Bring a rose in honor of your child’s First Parents when child is feeling the pain.
When you meet adoptees, we’ve just come from a funeral. (Credit: Rebecca Vahle)…And you want to celebrate?