What We Ask of You

Understand that we do not ask you to hear our voices because we are grieving.

We ask you to hear our voices because we are exhausted from grieving.

Biologicals cannot fathom the experiences of adoptees – the depth of our losses, the ways these losses permeate every part of our being, every experience, every decision. Even we do not always comprehend how ingrained these losses are within us, but they are nevertheless persistent in their impact on every millisecond of our lives.

We can distract ourselves from their impact. We can find other ways of defining ourselves. We can be human without constantly considering what it means to be adopted.

But it is always there. Its influence is always present. Some part of us is always grieving.

And we learn to live with it. It becomes a part of who we are. We can fully embrace it without celebrating it. We can make space for its presence while still loathing it. It is a familiar anguish, despite the unfairness of its roots. It cannot be changed. We know this. We accept it in our own ways or deny it when we need to in order to survive.

Feeling this grief does not make us weak or vulnerable.

Quite the opposite: The fact that we carry it with us every second of every day signifies unimaginable strength.

But it is a double-edged sword. Because being eternally resilient is exhausting.

Adoptees are not asking you to understand us, because if you are not adopted, it is impossible. We are not asking you to pity us, because our losses cannot be changed. We are not asking you to resolve our grief, because it is irreparable. We are not asking you to loan us your strength, because we are already stronger than you.

We are asking you to stop testing our strength because of your own weaknesses. We can handle our grief – but can you? Do not push our tears aside because they are too painful for you to witness. We are already testing the limits of our capacity each day by living with the presence and permeation of our grief, and to have to defend the presence of that which pains us is simply salt in the wound. Our capacity for resilience is vast, but not infinite.

Understand that we do not ask you to hear our voices because we are grieving.

We ask you to hear our voices because we are exhausted from grieving, and you bear the power to ease or worsen it. We are not asking you to take on our grief – we are simply asking you not to take it from us.


*This post is a culmination of my experiences and many conversations with other adoptees, but it does not represent the experiences of all adoptees, because our lives and opinions are just as varied as biologicals.

About Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker

Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker is an adoptee, adoptive parent, and psychologist who provides mental health support focused on adoption, trauma, and racial identity work. She is the author of the "Adoptees Like Me" book series.