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  Page 162 David Kirschner

seems to come from nowhere else except the separation trauma, from the birthmother. It lies so deep that one is lucky if it comes to life and can be unearthed.

If loss is not recognized, how can grieving and healing take place? It is only when the losses of adoption are addressed, that the gains of adoption can be more fully realized. Kubler-Ross (1997) has identified five stages that are worked-through in normal grief and mourning. Recognizing these stages of grief can reassure adoption triad members that they are experiencing appropriate feelings, even though grieving in adoption is different in some distinct ways from mourning a death: With death, there is at least a concrete ending that initiates the rituals of grieving. In adoption, there is no death, and no clear ending, but rather a kind of limbo, which has been described as similar to mourning a loved one who is missing in action.

  In a landmark double murder case in 1986, 1 testified for the defense that 14-year-old Patrick DeGelleke had killed his adoptive parents (by setting their bed afire) as he felt that only by their dying could he be freed to search for and find his birth mother. When I suggested to Patrick that his birth mother, Barbara, might not be alive, his response was "but if I found out for sure that she was dead, at least then I could see her grave." Young Patrick, incidentally, was obsessed with fire, and with the story of the Phoenix, the mythical bird that is consumed by fire, but is reborn and rises in beauty from its own ashes. Patrick acted-out his festering adoption issues, but many adopted children internalize their pain and curiosity, rather than hurting the adoptive parents' feelings, or risking another feared rejection. Consequently, it is not uncommon for adoptees to remain stuck at the first stage of grieving, denial, or the second stage, anger, or the fourth stage, depression.

  Adoption loss has been described as the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful. Psychologist/author Betty Jean Lifton, a mother figure of adoption reform, has called the secrecy based adoption system, "the game of as if." She wrote:

Everyone pretends as if the adoptee belongs to the family raising him or her ... The adopted parents embrace the child as if it were their own blood and ask the child to live as if this were true ... Inherent in this process is the expectation that the child regard the birth parents as if dead, if not literally, then certainly symbolically.
(Lifton 1988, P. 14)

  Many adoptees, in fact, have even been told the lie that their birth mother was dead. One notorious/high-profile example of this kind of lie was David Berkowitz, the so-called "Son of Sam" serial killer, who terrorized New York City in the 1970s by shooting and killing young women in parked cars. Berkowitz, always told the lie that his biologic mother had

 

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