Adoptee Rejection — It Hurts Like Hell

I cringe every time I hear about an adoptee who is rejected by her biological family.

For all the happy Hollywood-worthy reunions, there are many sad stories of adoptees who get the cold shoulder from their bio families. This comes after many spend months, even years, looking for relatives. I don’t know how frequently it happens but anecdotally, I hear the depressing stories on a fairly regular basis.

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It’s a shame. How can people be so cavalier toward their own flesh and blood? We are not black sheep. Many adoptees just want to fill in the missing pieces in our history. We want names, faces and a few anecdotes. We are not looking to turn somebody else’s life upside down.

Fellow blogger Claudia Corrigan D’Arcy attempts to explain why birth mothers in particular turn away their long lost children. I imagine for a birth mother it must be like opening an old wound.

Adoptees are outsiders. We didn’t grow up with our biological families. Without that experience, we approach our kin as strangers. We are at a disadvantage. Relatives may associate us with a dirty secret from the past, the child who was given up for adoption, the child who was not supposed to re-appear ever again.

Of course, that’s baloney in the 21st century. Anyone with Internet access can dig up facts and faces from their past. It’s hard to hide in today’s world.

Personally, I don’t need a warm and fuzzy reunion filled with hugs, kisses and tears. My yet-to-be-found paternal relatives don’t have to welcome me with open arms or even send me a card at Christmas. Just answer my questions, please.

Adoptees go through life with questions about identity, relationships, family history,  medical history….so many questions and so little information.

Being adopted can be a challenge. In families with biological and adopted children, the adoptees sometimes are treated like second-class citizens. Fortunately, my parents bent over backwards to treat Melissa and me, their adopted girls, the same.

Some adoptees struggle with depression and low self-esteem. Given all these challenges, adopted adults don’t need to be treated like garbage by their newly found blood relatives.

I am fortunate. Since I began searching for family this year, I have not encountered any jerks among my kin. I’ve had friendly phone conversations with my half sister, Sissy, and her daughter, my niece (or half-niece), Chrissy.  They’ve answered my questions and shared stories about my birth mother, Lillian. They’ve welcomed me. We have even found things to laugh about, not easy to do considering all the pain in our family.

But knowing how common rejection is gives me pause. I hesitate to pursue my bio dad’s family too aggressively. I don’t want the door to be slammed in my face and I don’t want to go where I don’t belong. Now I understand why adoptees don’t bother to search for their kin.

I’ve made a promise. If some adoptee searching for family calls me out of the blue, I will take the call, be nice and answer questions as best as I can. After all, I’ve made those calls and know how difficult they are to make.

Who the hell needs rejection anyway? What purpose does it serve?

39 thoughts on “Adoptee Rejection — It Hurts Like Hell

  1. My 2 cents worth and you heard plenty the last few days. HAD I stopped after finding my mom and brother killed tragically, found and lost them same day. Had I not had millions of people of different religions praying for me and encouraging me that maybe my dad was alive AND keep looking. Well I found my daddy dead but have 3 bonus half brothers, nieces, nephews, Great nieces and nephews who are TV stars, a president in my geneology (President Tyler) had I stopped that morbid day having never seen my mother, but looking at a picture in a newspaper archive of the car her and my brother drowned in when I was 18 months old. Say I STOPPED right there, did not look for my bio dad .. I would have remained the child whose mother hid, the one rejected by all that side of the family. Heck no, do not give up!! This God of ours has a sense of humor and a purpose. It ends when GOD says it ends it is no mistake that I was born nor to these 2 particular people 🙂 and I found all the gold there is in the WV hills, my REAL family who accept me.. those who don’t, it is their loss .. I know I am a good person ~~Love you and sending prayers and positive thoughts

  2. Your story inspires me and brings tears to my eyes, Sherry. Thank you! I am so fortunate to have friends on Facebook – people like you – who keep me motivated to continue my search for bio dad. It’s tough and it’s not fun. The truth can hurt. Rejection hurts. But knowledge is powerful and worth the effort. Thanks for sharing your story 🙂

  3. So true Lynne…I am a first mother who found my son two yrs ago and both of us are soo thankful and blessed. It’s been a bittersweet journey because of trauma that goes with adoption and loss and his and my troubled past but we are healing together and I’m not ever gonna walk away because my son needs me in his life and I Love him so much! He turned to me the other day and said ” your a strong mother and I Love you”! I never thought in a million years that would be something I would hear from the son I lost to adoption. I tried to contact his adoptive parents before I contacted him when he was 21 but I was told not to call back! When I was young I had visions of his adoptive mom loving me without condition but they turned me away multiple times when i found them and it hurt soo much to be rejected by them! I sooo wanted their love…. I gave it God and am working on forgiveness and to remember how blessed I am to have my son and daughter who love me. I never stop hoping that someday with Gods healing his adoptive parents will choose to love and accept me!……Never fear rejection……tackle the fear and pain head on and continue the search! Miracles happen everyday and you may find sooo much more then your history… you may find more family that love you! i love his adoptive parents because they loved my son and that’s why it hurt for them to turn me away, but I’m a survivor!!!! …….a first mothers search

  4. How wonderful that you and your son found each other, Tara. Such an accomplishment.I don’t relish the thought of rejection but realize it may come at some point. i continue my search for information about my bio father knowing this could all blow up in my face some day. Wish me luck! 🙂

  5. Wonderful article, so true in so many ways. I am a adoptee who recently was united with my biological family. Unfortunately I’ll never have the opportunity of meeting my birth parents since they have passed. I have had nothing but positive feed back & acceptance from my new found siblings, nieces, nephews, aunt. Even from my b- dad’s wife, meeting her was a true blessing. I wish everyone could have a happy reunion with good closure. Best of luck to everyone still searching….

  6. You’re so lucky, Tina. You hit the jackpot with your family reunion. Of course, it would have been good for you to meet your parents. I never had the opportunity to meet my birth mom, who died long before I learned I was adopted. Who knows what I will discover if I ever track down my father? Thanks for sharing your story. Very uplifting.

  7. You go girl, that is the key, pray for those who hurt you .. you have such a crown waiting for you in heaven .. I wish you were my mommie, I know she would have looked for me, she couldn’t she was dead. I feel she has been with my all these years though, all the times I heard “someone up there is looking out for you” yep sure is 😉

  8. My birth mother didn’t like me. Apparently I was supposed to come to her house with my doctor husband and two kids (none of which I have) in our red convertible.

    It’s sad because 25 years later when she was very old–had me lateish–she wanted to reestablish a relationship with me but didn’t reach out. I would have seen her.

    My birth father died when I was 13 but he left four other kids. The oldest refuses to tell his brothers and sister about me as he’s older than I am. Had I been older he would have been for it.

    I believe I have to respect his wishes so….

    My birth cousins on my birth mother’s side want a relationship with me but their 90something parents want nothing to do with me.

    I had incredible adoptive parents who I consider my true and only parents. They stayed up nights with me. They were–well you know.

    But it’s complicated as you know also

  9. I certainly understand your position, but…it works both ways…the birth family being not only rejected but also victimized by the adoptee, particularly in a libelous book.

  10. What a wonderful article. I am an adoptee who has been searching for bio dad for 30 years. I was raised by my birthmother and her new husband who adopted me when I was just a baby. I always felt like a black sheep. My mom died from cancer at the young age of 57 back in 2002 and my adopted father died in 2010. my half siblings who I grew up with will not even give me the time of day. It hurts like hell. but I am very thankful for my husband and his wonderful loving family. I will never give up my search. good luck.

  11. These searches are very risky, Tara, but I think the key is to keep your expectations low. I have no expectations of my bio dad, whoever he is. For all I know, he may not know of my existence. Does your father know you exist, Tara? I can’t believe your half siblings won’t give you the time of day. How cold! Good luck with your search and thanks for reading 🙂

  12. Agree with Lynne they are very risky. As the two people who knew my story are deceased as close as my half brothers can figure out my bio dad must have been told I died. He made an effort to visit every one of his children when he realized, like me, that he had a genetic heart disease and his days in Earth were drawing to a close. He had a bevy of marriages and affairs. He was a womanizer, an abuser of women but he did one good thing. He made me and my brothers and we are good people. My brothers told me if dad had thought for one moment I was alive he would have found me. That was one of the first questions I asked the first half brother I found. Did daddy even know about me?

  13. I like your attitude, Sherry. Just as you’ve heard bad things about your dad, I’ve heard plenty of negative stuff about my birth mother. However, she did a good thing by bringing me into the world. I thank her for that.

  14. You raise a valid and interesting point, Gertmcqueen. Of course, I can’t speak for all adoptees but personally, I have no desire to hurt my biological father, if he’s alive, or any other blood relative. I’m a peaceful person. All I want is to fill in the blanks in my family history. I know quite a few adoptees who would probably say the same thing.

  15. Thank you Lynne for accepting my comment.
    Yes, I would agree with you, as you say here, that the majority of adoptees want to fill in the blanks and are sensitive to blood relatives. I don’t believe it is right for anyone to vilify either the blood or adoptive families. The birth family only wanted to fill in those same blanks. But, some people are plain insensitive to others due to being blinded by their own pains and hurts and sometimes are convinced of their own self-importance/rightenous. If they would just accept what ‘is’ instead of creating more pain and hurt, all would benefit.

  16. Thanks for your perspective, Gertmcqueen. I think we all need to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes for a moment and try to imagine how they would feel. Personally, I am being very careful with my search for blood relatives. It’s risky business.

  17. Great article. I’m half adopted as my dad took off but mom kept me and remarried the best man. I accidentally connected with my bio dad’s sister via Talk about opening a can of worms!! So far my bio dad’s siblings, my cousin and my great-aunt have been amazing! We have even vacationed together. But my half siblings won’t respond to me. It seems my bio dad thought I would never resurface. He wasn’t honest with them. So here we are-all in our 20’s and 30’s and they just learned about me. It’s terrible. On one hand I’m hurting so much for getting rejected again and on the other I’m praying for patience because my half sisters have had such a shock. The rest of my support system doesn’t know how to react since “half adopted” doesn’t seem as tough as being “fully adopted.” Most are amazing but some have even become jealous as I’m getting to know my new family. It’s tough- no way around it, but every connection I make is a blessing and the overall experience has brought me so much healing. So here’s to hoping we all find what we are looking for even if we don’t find who we are looking for.

  18. I agree that this is an awesome article! I have made the exact same statement about helping anyone that needs help too! I am not an adoptee, but I am the “kept/raised sister”. My sister and I share the same bio/nat mom. I did not know anything about my sister’s existence until Jan of 2010. I don’t know how to even explain the emotions that I felt as my mom, who actually could have totally lied and even though it would have remained in the back of my head, was totally honest. Now my mother is an pretty ill woman. She suffers from some major health issues and also some psychiatric issues. I have taken care of her now for over 10 years.
    Now I do not think that I ever felt so betrayed, hurt, angry, ect when I sat and listened to my mom tell me about my sister. I remember sitting with a pen and a pad of paper writing ever single thing that was known about my sister! I also then called my aunt and she filled in some of the blanks for me. Adoption was something that I knew absolutely nothing about. Its actually very sad when I look at the “notes” with all of her info, which I thought to be a lot! I mean come on, how hard could it be when you have a date of birth, a “birthname”, hospital, city, state. I learned very quick that the info that I had was almost useless in my state, which is Michigan. I had immediately contacted Catholic Social Services, and to this day I sometimes wonder why the Post reunion supervisor never hung up on me or blew me off. I probably spoke with her at least 2 times a day. It is so hard to articulate it, but I had a huge need to know that my sister was alive and ok. I wanted so bad to find her, but so many things went thru my mind such as what if she didn’t know that she was adopted?? My daughter had set a fb page up for me and my sister was born in 1966 and I was terrified, but also besides the fact that I was extremely worried, I also wanted to know who my sister was and where she lived ect…I also wanted her to know that I existed and wanted to know who she was! This went on for a little over a week, and again, I really can’t believe this woman did not hang up! I would sometimes just call and cry. I was a very confused woman. Well after one of my convo’s with the supervisor we ended the call. About 10 mins later I received a call from CSS and when I spoke with the worker she told me that my sister had came to the agency in 1990 and received her non id. I knew that she wouldn’t and couldn’t reveal much, but I begged her to please tell me if at the time she came to the agency if it appeared in her paperwork if she was healthy, and how was her childhood. She gave me enough info to atleast put some of my worries at ease. She strongly suggested that I search and I began the CI process, which actually went very quick, as I was reunited at the end of Marcn.
    Even though we lived fairly close to each other and our children ironically did the exact same sport, just at different gyms, I went with her pace, which I thought was fair. I invaded her life. She had no desire to reunite with her (our) bio/nat mother and I totally respected that also. There was a tense time because she felt that it wasn’t fair to ask to many questions and I didn’t want to bring anything up that could potentially hurt her. It finally came to the point where we just layed it on the table and I told her that I wasn’t offended, ask away…I gave her all medical info, and there is some interesting stuff in our family such as a great great uncle was a “famous” physician and the family donated his items to a museum, which I made sure that her and her children were able to gain access to whenever they wanted. We finally met after about 2 months and then we began to introduce out immediate family, husbands, children. Many people wondered why it didn’t bother me that she did not want to meet our shared mother? First I felt that it wasn’t my decision to make and also she knew that the door was always open if she decided differently. Things just seemed perfect.
    One day out of the clear blue I received an email from her. I read in and was so confused??? She had flipped a complete 180 turn on me. I realized that I was a secret in her life, that she did not tell her aparents that I found her. Basically, she told me that she spent the first 40+yrs of her life with all these questions and issues and it was now my turn! I responded with a very generic email and set out to figure out what the hell I did wrong? I felt as if I was paying for my mother’s decisions. She didn’t want to cease contact, but wanted less??? We really didn’t spend a lot of time together. So for about 2 years I read so many books, sat in chat rooms, trying to figure her out! The one thing that I did refuse to do is reject her! I just became very guarded and it was uncomfortable.
    A wise friend of mine sat and gave me some great info and I began to look at things differently too! I had spent so much time and dedication into trying to figure her out, deal with what people’s opinions were that I totally forgot about myself and my feelings. I began to deal with my emotions, anger, ect…that I felt towards my family ripping me off of a sister. That how I felt. I felt that us siblings whether we were the adopted ones or the raised one’s were the “Collateral Damage” that the future generations become. I also never felt as if anyone understood me! I didn’t seem to fit into any type of support group. I had to learn to grasp from individuals and try and piece myself together and realize that my feelings were valid!
    Our reunion has just passed the 4 year mark and we take baby steps, and I realize that it’s ok for me to feel the way I do sometimes. Hopefully one day I wont be a secret, but I am still here!
    Sorry such a long comment:)

  19. What an interesting story, Claudette. It’s especially interesting for me to hear from a non-adoptee who wants to connect with the sister who was given up. At least you and your sister have gotten to know one another a little bit. I think it’s hard to make up for lost time, for all those childhood years you and she spent apart. Good luck to you and thanks for writing. 🙂

  20. Claudette,

    I’m so glad that you are open to a relationship with your half-sister. I still haven’t heard from my half-sisters. Keep hoping and praying. Time heals all, right? It’s too bad you and I aren’t long lost siblings! 🙂

  21. Even the best reunions carry some experiences of rejection it seems. Reunion has been a great teacher in how to handle rejection and move on. I was born in 1957 and found by my birthmother (Jackie) in 2007, just after my 50th birthday. We had what many would call a fairytale reunion but that has not extended to all members of her family. When neither half-sister wanted anything to do with me, I was terribly hurt. With time however, I discovered that my relationship with Jackie was the most important. I also came to learn enough about the offending sisters to know that any relationship with them would have been a lot of “work” on my part. Eight years into this reunion, I have close relationships with 2 of 3 half-brothers and nothing with the sisters. I have also managed to alienate an aunt and uncle. . . . .

    About 5 years ago, I undertook to find birth siblings on my paternal side. I was not too interested in meeting my birthfather but sent him a letter, expressing my interest in meeting any of his kids. I suggested that the news of my existence might be better coming from him than me. When I didn’t hear back from him for about 10 months, I went ahead and contacted one of his daughters. Oh my!!!

    Ultimately I have met him twice now and there will be no more. I am OK with that. One of his children now knows of my existence and perhaps one day, she will contact me. In the meantime, while I don’t like rejection, I am much better at dealing with it and moving on.

    There is so much more I could share but this message is plenty long already. I will say that it was my pleasure to see a birthfather from the 1950’s squirm a little over a burden that many birthmothers carried for years, the burden of silence and secrecy.

  22. Hi Katie. I’m so glad you were able to reunite happily with your birth mother and bond with two of your half-brothers. Do you have much in common with them? How often do you see them? It must bring you some satisfaction. It’s too bad the sisters are difficult. Maybe you’re better off not having them in your life. Did your birth father know of your existence? At least you got to meet him even if it wasn’t a fairy tale reunion. I would like nothing more than to know my bio dad’s identity, occupation, and a few basic facts about him. Would love to find out if he had other children and get my hands on photos. But I have no burning desire for a relationship with him. My adoptive father was a good dad – bio dad would not be able to fill his shoes. Thank you for reading my blog!

  23. The title “It hurts like hell” is an understatement…I recently reunited with my birth family after 47 years and I come to find out I have a half sister and brother…My half sister and I have been getting along pretty well she drove 45 minutes with her mom as she would have been my step mom had she stayed with my birth dad to my daughters bday party but now as of late she has been very distant and it is killing me…my family has welcomed me on both sides with open arms but out of all the relationships I now have the one with my sister means the most and it hurts she’s being distant and I don’t know what to do.. we have met twice and had been texting almost everyday so I don’t know why the sudden change…she did however not know I even existed until 4 months ago and I’m scared she will reject me for whatever reason and I don’t know if I could handle that

  24. I am in reunion with both. I only used Ancestry DNA.
    My Bio mother is not a good person. But she made 2 great decisions. She chose life for me, and she chose to give me a better life by letting go. For that I will ALWAYS be grateful. Her sisters and extended family have accepted me.
    My Bio Father… Well…. He is a most incredible man. Very very much like my Own Father. I have a sister, which I never had. And soon, we will be meeting face to face. Much like you, pur calls and chats end with “Love You”.
    Bio Dad met me AND my parents at the same time. It was important to him. <3
    Bless you and thank you for Sharing your journey.

  25. How wonderful that you have reunited with your natural family. Lesley, you are fortunate to have found your bio dad and soon you will meet your sister in person. Very exciting. DNA is a powerful tool for people like us. Thanks for sharing your story.

  26. Chuck, perhaps there’s something else going on in your sister’s life that has nothing to do with you. Is that possible? That would be difficult to reunite with a long lost sister and then have to deal with the cold shoulder. I hope she comes around.

  27. Gert, it is true that pain caused by rejection is part of everyone’s life. But I would argue that the hurt adoptees experience when they’re rejected by family is especially sharp and brutal. Take care. Lynne

  28. You don’t have to expect those wishes because those aren’t wishes, those are manipulation tactics. He can learn to grow a pair. You go on and tell your other siblings you exist. Siblings have the right to know they have siblings out there. Us adoptees are not dirty little secrets, we are not mistresses, anyone who thinks so should see a mental health professional. Asking someone to be non-existent to their own family is sickening.

  29. It is not our fault as adoptees whatsoever if we say we want a relationship with members of our biological family. They are our family. The hurt any members of our family feel is not our doing whatsoever but the pain caused by the initial separation of us from our families, entirely and only blamed on the adoption industry. The blame is being pointed at the wrong person here. Adoptees need to stop walking on eggshells with “oh I just want medical history” and “oh I just want to know XYZ”. The reason why it feels uncomfortable to members of the biological family now (mother, aunts, uncles, siblings) is 1) because society has a long way to go in learning how damaging adoption is and 2) because nobody got proper counseling with a therapist who specializes in trauma/PTSD/depression who has no affliation to the adoption industry.

  30. After 63 years, without really “looking” I have found my birth families (father and mother deceased). I have a total of 9 half siblings, and have been in touch directly with four who have discussed me with the others. Having varying degrees of acceptance, but only one displaying any kind of positive feelings about me. Generally a “cold” feeling from it all. Really really really feeling PTSD type flashback rejection emotions I recall from childhood (“why did she leave me???”). Also feeling a sort of guilt for upsetting the birth sibling’s familial image – apparently I was a deep dark secret that went to the grave. Father’s kids claim he must have never even known of the pregnancy and birth. We bastards seem to be baggage not wanted.

  31. I ran into your article after I googled “How adoptees handle rejection”. I have found (during my very long adoption journey) that only adoptees really understand that birth wound we call rejection and just how important it is to most of us to have some sort of connection to our birth family. Many of use have different reasons for wanting to contact our birth family, but most of us have that “rejection button” that is so easily pushed. Its this raw area on our hearts and even a casual oversight can be perceived as rejection. It hurts.

  32. Patti, I think it’s true that most people who are not adopted don’t understand why we adoptees need to make the connection with blood relatives. People who are not adopted take those connections for granted. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  33. Hi..a year ago, led by some leap of faith or fate, I had known I was adopted but never have i imagined I would find the truth. I found my biological mother’s people through my adopted family’s families. My biological mother died in 2000 but I found out my mother’s brother was still alive and a half sister in Germany. My Uncle did the DNA test and he is a match, meaning I am his niece. We have a great relationship and I plan to visit him. Everything was going so well even my new relationship with my half sister…up to a point. She slowly withdrew from the relationship with less e-mail and now hardly at all. I sent her 5 e-mails and the last was to ask if she was angry. Every since then, I felt a large hole in my heart. I am told to be patient and give her time. I plan to send her a quick hello in December just to keep in touch. She was also given a DNA test but never did anything about it. So I would like to be understanding and compassionate with her because I know it was rough living with our mom and then finding out she had a half sister. So I’ m not angry but what can I do about this sadness in my heart. I cry every so often because I miss our talks, letters and just having a sister was nice. How can I heal? How does one go on knowing there is a family that rejects you? Jean Beck

  34. Jean, I’ve heard that many adoptees initially experience a honeymoon-like period when they meet their blood relatives for the first time. The initial joy doesn’t last and the relationship doesn’t go anywhere. It’s very sad. You’re doing the right thing by giving your sister time and space and being patient with her. I hope she comes around. Try not to dwell on it. Sorry I don’t have any better advice for you. Thanks for reading my blog.

  35. Slightly different story, as my bio father was an anonymous sperm donor, but I relate to the ‘hurts like hell’

    I knew my whole life about my conception and searched for years to find out, I even went to court to try to get access. Last year I was matched with his sister on a DNA site. I found out he had died 15 months prior to me uncovering his identity. He didn’t leave a spouse or children of his own.

    My aunt was warm and engaging with me at first, and acknowledged me as her niece. It was a big surprise for her as she didn’t know that her brother had been a sperm donor. But then a big wall went up and now after finally getting health information out of her, she’s saying she can’t do anything else. I don’t understand how someone can be so cold – she’s known about me for 9 months now. I have recently reached out to my cousin, her daughter, and no reply. Where’s their compassion? I searched for years and found him dead and then the family treats me like this.

    I have yet to meet a single person from my paternal family and I still have so many questions. I have met some friends of my bio father and they have been lovely, but it’s not the same as knowing my paternal relations. I want their acknowledgement, respect and acceptance. I don’t’ know if that’s ever going to happen and if it doesn’t, I don’t know how I’m ever going to live with this.

    I can only assume it was shocking to them, and I’m sympathetic, and I know whatever issues are going on aren’t personal towards me, and are a reflection of the dynamic he had with them. But my heart doesn’t understand. I never knew how painful this could be.

  36. Sarah, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I don’t know what more you can do. In the future, you may connect with other DNA matches you’re related to on your father’s side who may be open to meeting you and getting to know you. Unfortunately, some people are just not open to new relationships with family members they discover later in life. And as you said, their response to you is most likely a reflection of the relationship they had with your father. Perhaps they are uncomfortable with the idea of your father being a sperm donor. I understand wanting to be acknowledged, respected and accepted. We all want that from our blood relatives. Take care of yourself. Thanks for reading.

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