What’s the difference?
To someone who has been abandoned ... nothing.
The pain adoptees feel around loss, and grief is just as deep of a feeling as the pain of being abandoned.
When you ask a child who’s been abandoned where their mother is, most of them will respond with, “she’s dead.”
As a child, you can’t believe there’s any other reason why she’s not there. The only reason that makes sense in a child’s mind is they can’t come back because they’re dead.
In my world, death was abandonment, and to allow myself to love someone would only bring me pain.
When I was 18 years old, my grandmother died suddenly from a massive heart attack. My grandmother was the only person in my life who had the ability to love me wholeheartedly and unconditionally. My grandmother was my safe space.
She didn’t have any barriers some of my other family members had. Barriers that saw me as “not real family” or “not blood-related.” She loved me with her whole heart and soul and never gave up on me despite not being able to love her back.
My grandmother would bear hug me with every ounce of love she had in her (and she was filled with it)! I couldn’t bring myself to hug her back. I couldn’t love her back. I would hang my arms down by my side, annoyed that she loved me so much.
None of it mattered to her; she understood me, and I’m sure she knew why I did what I did. That is why she never let me pull away from her, and if I tried (which I did every time), she only pulled me in tighter.
No matter how much I wanted to let my wall down, no matter how much I wanted to let her love in, no matter how much I wanted to feel her love and for her to feel my love back, I couldn’t do it, I physically could not embrace her back.
I couldn’t love her back because I loved her so much, it hurt. For most of my life, feeling love only brought on pain. To love someone meant I would be abandoned, and I couldn’t allow myself to feel that level of pain again.
I didn’t know that my deep love for my grandmother was different from pain.
I didn’t know you could love someone so much that it could make your heart hurt.
I didn’t know feeling that level of love could bring healthy, happy tears to your eyes, not sadness.
I spent most of my life protecting myself from the one thing that has helped me heal, and that is love.