Can you lose something you never had?

Baby and mother

As an adoptive mother I’ve struggled for years with the feelings of loss that come from not being able to give birth to children.  Today though I started to re-think my feelings on this whole subject.  Unlike people who experience the devastating tragedy of losing a child to death, or having a miscarriage – when you go through infertility – how different is the loss you feel?  For some adopters they can say without a shadow of doubt that they felt, and still feel, the grief and loss of not having a birth child – even though their adopted child has all their love and attention – the inexplicable feelings of loss are still there and are difficult to understand at times.

In some ways we all experience loss in different areas of our lives.  Those when we have physically lost something we had – like a job, a relationship, an opportunity to develop something in our lives, and other losses are more about the expectations we had of something that has not come about – the potential of something not realised.  Is it more painful to have something and then lose it, or to never have experienced something we desperately want to?

Of course loss is not a rational emotion.  There are many times when I still feel the pang of jealousy and loss when a friend tells me excitedly of their pregnancy, or when someone talks of the joys of babyhood. Even though I was never really desperate for a baby – I wanted a family – those feelings still creep up on me.  Maybe it is the fact that it’s something out of my control, or that there is a deep sense of loss that will always be there.

But what of the gains of adoption?  Whilst I may never know the highs and lows of babyhood, I know too well the pains and joys of the adoption journey.  There may be times when I can’t honesty say our kids have our genes, but there are many times I can see our traits in them.  Whilst we may never be able to pass on our family line, my kids will have all we can give them – now and in the future.  There may be losses that we will never be able to heal from, but the gains outnumber them in so many ways.  I can’t fully understand the loss we feel and may feel in the future, but I can certainly notice and appreciate the gains we have right now.

Maybe for you today – wherever you are on the loss journey – whether you are acutely aware of your loss, it’s hovering under the surface, or well hidden even from you – you can acknowledge the gains – name them if you can and hopefully they can help in negating the loss you may feel.

 

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