Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Barbara Blomquist: 24 Years of Estrangement and a Repaired Relationship, Part 1

Barbara Taylor Blomquist is the author of “Insight Into Adoption” and “Randy’s Ride.” In the first of a two-part series, she relays the story of her relationship with her son and their 24 years of being estranged.

"Background of a failed/revived relationship

Our strained relations with our son erupted 32 years ago when he left home at age 16. We were devastated. We felt helpless. He had been into drugs for over a year and that put him on a downward path which only got steeper and steeper. He was doing all of the typical things drug addicts do at that age: lie, steal, cut school and more.

I won’t go into details of his life for the next 24 years (he came back to us after that time) because I don’t know a lot of the details. He called us every 6 or 8 months and gave us a phone number where he could be reached, but when we called it, it was always out of service. From the time he was age 33 to 40 we didn’t know if he was dead or alive. We had no contact at all.

Process of emotions

During this estranged period – a good many years – I had a lot of time to go through every emotion imaginable. First fear for his life, he was only 16. Then anger that he betrayed all we’d done for him. Then frustration that we couldn’t contact him to try to work things out. Then feeling heart sick at the thought he was throwing his life away. My thoughts were of him constantly. I remember vividly one Sunday afternoon when I was involved in a project for a community cause. I realized at 5:00 o’clock that I had gone 4 hours without thinking of him. This was a first in years. The worst times were waking up in the middle of the night wondering where he was, was he scared, was he in jail, was he cold or hungry, penniless, homeless. I found out later after we reconnected that at some point during all those years, he was indeed, all of those things.

We went on a journey through these years as did our son. Eventually, we ended up in the same place, together again.

Pervasiveness of unhappy years

I found that when my thoughts were of anger and resentment I felt very bitter. I resented my friends’ happy existence with their children. I’d see boys on the street that resembled our son and my heart would sink. I could never be completely happy. The thought of the trouble he might be in was always there to take away any joy that would come into my life. This went on for years and years. There’s a saying that a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child. That was true for me.

I knew our son felt he didn’t belong to our family because he was adopted. Even though he was deeply loved, he didn’t love himself so couldn’t believe that we could love him. In his mind, his birth mother had given him away and he internalized this to the degree that he thought no one else could or would love him. He set about to prove to the world that he was indeed, a worthless throw-away person.

Survival tactics

After a time, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t help him because we didn’t know where he was, but I had to help myself. We had other children who were being short changed by my attitude. My husband understood, but he could go off to work and get his mind on other things. After all, we had other happy, successful children.

In order to help myself survive, I came to the position that I had to think only positive thoughts about him. He had been a delightful little boy and I kept thinking of those years where his good qualities showed. I made myself believe that the goodness was still there, it was only temporarily covered up by bad behavior. All the loving qualities we had instilled in him must still be there. After a time that became easy to believe. I would send positive messages and affirmations out into space believing that somehow they would help him. They helped me.

I also in time came to see that his leaving our family was not done to hurt us, even though it hurt us to an extent I didn’t ever believe possible. He was the one who was hurting. He left, hoping to find a place in the world where his hurt would go away. Of course, it didn’t.

My last position was that he was doing the best he knew how to do. It was a terrible way for him to handle his life, but I came to see that he was hurting so much that he did a desperate thing in leaving and going out on his own at age 16. A feeling of sympathy took over my being. I could look at him in a loving way knowing that if he were ever to return I would welcome him wholeheartedly because I knew he’d been on a journey of self-realization. He, and only he, could do this. We couldn’t help him.

Survival therapy

During these years I started leading support groups for adoptive parents who were dealing with troubled children. I saw clearly that the core issue for our son and for all these troubled families was that the child didn’t know who he was. He felt he didn’t belong to his adoptive family, but he didn’t know where he did belong. He felt alone and lost.

The parents in the groups encouraged me to write about adoptive parenting issues because we discussed principles none of us knew about years ago when we adopted our babies. The book, “Insight Into Adoption”, was the result. I incorporated our own experience as well as the experiences of many families, and the invaluable experiences of adoptees who are now adults. They shed so much light on how they felt as children. Out of this came solid advice and insight for adoptive families. I wrote it hoping and praying I could save some families from going through what we were going through."

To be continued...

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