Reunions - work best when they go at the pace of the slowest person.
Decisions and Feelings
Deciding to search and then, perhaps, eventually meeting relatives does involve taking risks. Some people who have searched in the past have likened it to opening the door to a locked room where you have absolutely no idea what is inside. Jigsaw is experienced and sensitive to the needs of everyone affected by adoption and, if you feel uncertain about your readiness to confront these unknown factors, it can be extremely beneficial to talk to us.
Many people affected by adoption who decide to search, see it only as a quest for information. They quickly find that it is a journey of self-discovery that unlocks a Pandora’s box of emotions. All people affected by adoption have a need for information and one of the best things to do is to acknowledge this need. Be aware of your feelings as you set out on your individual search – and the feelings of the people you are searching for, and their families.
Any preconceived ideas you may have had before commencing your search are best put aside.
Having some prior knowledge or idea of what could await you, is highly recommended.
Jigsaw could be the right place for you to prepare yourself...even before you make your decision to search.
There is always a 'dominant story' and an 'untold story'.
Preparing for Adoption Reunion
There is no way of knowing in advance how the first meeting with your relatives will unfold, regardless of the preparation. No matter how well you have prepared, how many books you have read, or how often you have listened to others share their experience of reunion, your first meeting will be an extremely emotional one for all parties.
Remember that you have most likely been thinking about and planning for this meeting for a long time, but the person you are approaching may not have had time to prepare himself or herself emotionally. Be sensitive to their needs and wishes, particularly any call for more time and space to adjust.
Some people will want to meet only once, perhaps to discuss relevant medical history. Others may be looking to enter into a longer-term relationship. Some will not express what they want out of contact because they fear rejection.
Exchanging letters, photographs or telephone conversations is a good way to break the ice in the early stages. A meeting can come later down the track when both parties are ready. When you do agree that the time is right, try to arrange the meeting on neutral territory, somewhere acceptable to both of you. Usually, people find that meeting in a public place, such as a coffee shop, affords some degree of privacy.
Meet each other alone the first time. While bringing a ‘support’ person along seems natural, it is hard to maintain neutral ground, and it can create an artificial situation in which there are imbalances of power and expectation. Later on you can arrange to meet other family members such as spouses, children, parents, grandparents, nieces, nephews or cousins.
Always consider the other person, remembering that your contact may have been a long time coming. You don’t want to ruin your chances of forming a relationship by rushing in without thinking.
The Stages of Reunion
Interaction or Honeymoon
Participants often describe an overwhelming experience with intense preoccupation between those reunited.
This stage is usually short-lived.
Sequence of Reactions
Those in reunion find themselves on an emotional rollercoaster.
This usually takes place one to six months after the reunion and includes relief, confusion and negative feelings that wax and wane before positive feelings peak at six months.
This involves a shift from preoccupation with internal states towards external realities, as the relationship reconnects with the demands of everyday life.
New roles and identities have been successfully negotiated and expectations clarified, or it may become evident to one or both participants that a close relationship is unlikely to eventuate.