I've seen two kinds of "dear birthmother" letters -- those written by hopeful couples wanting to adopt, and those written by hopeful adoptees to a possible found birthparent.
I wanted to write a completely different "dear birthmother" letter today. I actually did write it, but then I deleted it.
Instead, I have chosen to write about forgiveness. Or at the very least, a "dear birthmother" letter masked as an essay on forgiveness.
I've posted my sister Vicki's story in bits and pieces here on this blog and elsewhere. I'm not sure the parts of it that she and I have written together even begin to cover the depth of what happened to her as a child.
I've seen different responses in families to abuse. Sometimes the victims draw closer to their victimizers, in some attempt to finally receive approval and love from the people who have hurt them so badly. I've seen victims lapse into hatred, drug and alcohol problems, and sometimes perpetuate the abuse cycle.
There's another thing that happens, rarely: The abuser admitted their wrongs, made amends, and their victim forgave them and they were able to reconcile their relationship.
Its possible to forgive someone, even if they never acknowledge the nature of their wrongs. That kind of forgiveness doesn't actually require you to let the person know you've forgiven them. You make a choice to let go of the past in order to save your own soul, and you move on. It doesn't make things right and it doesn't absolve the person of guilt, it is simply a way to stop being poisoned by what was done to you. Very often, especially when the person who has hurt us is in denial over what they have done, this is the only way for the person who was harmed to remove the toxic bitterness from their lives and find healing.
But in order to offer the kind of forgiveness that leads to reconciliation, the offender needs to accept responsibility and makes amends for what it is they did to cause harm to the other.
I have held my sister while she sobbed uncontrollably, wracked with the remembrance of yet another incidence of abuse from her mother or her stepfather or from one of the friends my birthmother traded her to for a weekend for a rack of BEER.
I'm not sure how one begins to forgive that kind of thing, or how one might make amends for such horrible abuse, but I do know this: Forgiveness itself may not require amends, but I'm pretty sure that reconciliation does.
And that's all I have to say about that.