Emotions that Surface at Reunion

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This chapter discusses many of the emotions that can surface at reunion and offers suggestions to deal with them. All the conflicting feelings that you may experience can be overwhelming and confusing. While reunion is different for each individual, many reuniting birth family members share the same feelings and struggles.

Here are some of the many emotions that often surface at reunion:


Where fear is present, wisdom cannot be. ~ Lactantius

One of the most destructive emotions present in adoption is fear. Although fear is a natural reaction to certain situations, we make unwise decisions if we allow our fear to control our decision making. Fear of a new situation is to be expected, but how we handle the emotion is more significant. Being educated about what to expect can reduce the fear level.

With an impending reunion, you may worry that your heart is on the line. You may be fearful about taking the risk to allow yourself to reconnect with your birth family member. No one wants to be hurt or rejected. All of these fears are 100% normal!

Guilt and Betrayal

For birth parents, guilt often surfaces at reunion, as does a sense of betrayal. At the time of reunion many birth parents may wonder if adoption really was the right choice for their child.

Some of the scenarios that reunion that may produce some feelings of guilt and betrayal may include:
  • When birth parents discover at reunion that their child was abused or neglected by those same adoptive parents who were “supposed” to be their saviors, the sense of guilt and betrayal can be enormous.
  • When birth mothers who were persuaded to relinquish in order to provide their child with a two parent family discover at reunion that their child was not raised by two parents.
  • When birth mothers discover many of the painful issues that adoptees often struggle with during their lives. Nancy’s Verrier’s The Primal Wound is a startling revelation and can be very painful for a birth mother to read. However, The Primal Wound can provide some valuable insight into the adoptee experience.
Nancy Verrier, the author of The Primal Wound, knows that her book can be painful for birth mothers to read. This link on her Web site offers some words of comfort for mothers who relinquished children to adoption.

It can be a devastating blow for birth parents to realize that the very act which was supposed to insure a good life for their child (adoption) may have created a lifetime of issues for them.

Some birth mothers feel a sense of having been betrayed by their families and/or society for the misinformation that they received before placing their children for adoption. Nothing that they were told about adoption may suddenly match their reality.

For adoptees at reunion, there are often concerns about betraying the parents who raised them. They may feel guilt for wanting or needing to reconnect with their birth family. Loyalty issues can present an extremely challenging dilemma for adoptees. However, wanting to reconnect with birth family is an instinctive need, and entirely normal. The need to know your life story is not unusual, and quite healthy. It is also natural to care about your adoptive parents’ feelings and not wish to hurt them.

As far as loyalty issues, it speaks well of adoptees when they are concerned about not breaching any sense of loyalty to the parents who raised them, i.e., their adoptive parents. However, it is not being disloyal to want to know your other family (your birth family).

If guilt serves as a reminder to slow us down and help us treat people in the best possible manner, it can be a useful emotion. When we allow guilt to paralyze us and freeze our actions, it can be a destructive emotion.

Credits: Jan Baker

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Note: Our authors are dedicated to honest, engaged, informed, intelligent, and open conversation about adoption. The opinions expressed here may not reflect the views of Adoption.com.

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