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Silent Struggles – Unveiling The Unseen Grief Of Adoptees

Sun Mee is an Advocate for Adoptee Healing, certified Holistic Coach, and the Founder of NUMARU—An international community and emotional support platform for BIPOC adoptees.

Executive Contributor Sun Mee Martin

Ever wondered about the hidden grief adoptees silently carry? "Silent Struggles: Unveiling the Unseen Grief of Adoptees" exposes the deep, often unrecognized sorrow of adoptees. Dive into this eye-opening article to uncover the complexities of disenfranchised adoptee grief, the need for societal recognition, and the path to emotional well-being for adoptees.

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What is disenfranchised adoptee grief?

Imagine carrying a weight that no one else can see, a silent burden that chews at your heart but remains invisible to those around you. This is the often-overlooked reality of adoptee grief—a complex, deeply personal form of sorrow that many adopted individuals endure, often in silence. I didn’t even know, for half of my life, that I experienced grief until I learned that it was covered up by secondary emotions such as anger, fear, and depression. For many adoptees, grief is disenfranchised—unseen and unsupported by the people around them.

Understanding and addressing this hidden sorrow is crucial for the emotional well-being of adoptees.


Disenfranchised grief, a term coined by grief expert Kenneth J. Doka, Ph.D., refers to a loss that is not openly acknowledged, publicly mourned, or socially supported. For transracial adoptees, this refers to the emotional pain and sense of loss that adoptees may feel, but that is often not recognized or validated by society. Transracial adoptees often face ambiguous loss, a concept introduced by Dr. Pauline Boss, which describes loss without closure or clear understanding. This type of grief can be especially complex for adoptees who struggle with identity loss, moral injury, and belonging issues.


The social stigma and unrecognized struggle

Adoption is repeatedly framed as a joyous occasion and happy ending without acknowledging the trauma that the child has experienced.

Adoptee grief stems from the primal wound—the initial separation from the biological mother—which can leave an indelible mark on an adoptee’s psyche. Even in the most loving and supportive adoptive families, the absence of biological connections can create a void, a lingering sense of loss. This grief is not about rejecting adoptive parents but about reconciling a fragmented sense of self.


The quest for belonging and identity

Without knowledge of their biological origins, lineage, and cultural heritage, adoptees often experience a profound sense of lost identity. Adoptees often grapple with questions like, “Who am I?” and “Where do I belong?” These questions are rooted in a deep-seated need to understand one’s origins. For many adoptees, the lack of a biological mirror—someone who shares their physical traits, mannerisms, and genetic history—can lead to a sense of disconnection and isolation.


The impact of unseen grief

This unrecognized grief can lead to long-term issues, including identity confusion, mental and physical health issues, and challenges with self-esteem and emotional self-regulation. It’s a lifelong journey for many adoptees to reconcile these feelings and find a sense of belonging.


How can we support adoptees in navigating their grief?


1. Societal recognition and validation

Recognizing and validating the grief of transracial adoptees is the first step toward healing. Listening actively without judgment is often all it needs to feel safe and seen.

2. Educational programs for adoptive parents

Adoptive parents should be equipped with the knowledge and tools to understand and support their child’s grief. Educational programs can provide insights into the emotional complexities of transracial adoption.

3. Offering resources and support for adoptees

Providing accessible resources such as counseling, support groups, and community programs can help adoptees feel safe and validated in their emotional complexity.

4. Acknowledging the power of the Mind-Body-Soul connection to healing

Encouraging adoptees to engage in practices such as somatic experiencing, mindfulness, yoga, spiritual grief rituals, or expressive arts deepens their self-understanding and emotional regulation.


Breaking the silence

Acknowledging and validating adoptees’ grief is the first step to truly supporting them. Creating safe spaces where adoptees can express their feelings without fear of judgment is essential. This might involve therapy, support groups, or simply open and honest conversations within families.


A call for empathy & support

Adoptee grief is a testament to the resilience of those who navigate this journey. Recognizing and addressing adoptee grief, we honor their complex experiences and enrich our humanity. It’s time to bring these hidden stories into the light and walk alongside adoptees on their path to inner peace and wholeness.

If you are or know an adopted person, feel free to reach out to me for emotional support and community connections. I’m here to help adoptees befriend their grief and offer a safe space and resources to navigate it.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

Read more from Sun Mee Martin


Sun Mee Martin, Trauma-sensitive Coach

Sun Mee is a Korean-German adoptee, certified Holistic Coach, and Founder of Numaru — An international community and emotional support platform for transracial/BIPOC adoptees. She was adopted at 3.5 yrs and raised in South Germany. NUMARU results from her journey of transforming her adoptee’s pain into purpose with a mission to create safe spaces and to offer a trauma-sensitive and open-hearted pathway to healing.



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