Enormous Grief Series

Enormous Grief


This project will not be linear. It will likely not make sense at points. It began (creatively) ten years ago and (personally) when I was nine years old and discovered that the family I had grown up in was not my family of origin. Writing about adoption has been a very unpredictable tide in my life. Sometimes I get close to the shore, and others I’m pulled out to sea.

The spirit of this website, however, is found in the subtitle. “Figuring it Out as I Go” is a truth, not a slogan. Very little of what I share here is particularly planned out. These writings are how I make sense of the world. Only making sense of adoption is a whole lot messier for me than making sense of habits or environmentalism or building a new personal framework. And so, these writings are likely to be a whole lot messier as well.

I’m making a few decisions up front that may change later. But, for now, I’ve decided not to update my age whenever it appears in these writings. If I originally wrote it at 41 or 46 or yesterday and felt the need to mention my age, then that’s what it will still say. Like I mentioned, this project will not be linear.

I’m also going to let this be messy. There may be times, for example, when I refer to my mother without directly translating which mother I mean. Hopefully, the context will help clarify if I’m speaking of my biological mother, adoptive mother, or stepmother. Having three mothers that played various roles at various times is complicated. For now, I’ll let the complication stand.

At some point, I’ll add a legend that should help with the various family members mentioned as well as a glossary of terms.

It’s time now. Let’s jump in.

This could be it

3/9/2022 at 8:12 PM.

Message sent on Facebook:

Hello James,

I’m searching for an old friend of my mother’s (Keven Ann McKelvey circa 1970 in St. Louis). Any chance you knew her?

Sorry to bother you if this isn’t relevant or welcomed.



Now we wait.

Enormous Grief, Adoptee

It’s the grief of a child, of a baby, who has been waiting 9 months to meet somebody who they are not going to meet…(Sunderland 4:51)

This project began with the title Seeking JW3. After watching 5 minutes of Paul Sunderland’s video, I realized a better name would be Enormous Grief: Coming to terms with being relinquished. [Which turns out to be a good shift since JW3 is not my birth father. I got it wrong.]

I’m 42 years old and for the first time in my life, I’ve heard someone talk about the “enormous grief” of the very act of adoption. Can an infant, a newborn, experience grief? Sunderland lectures on the biology of gestation and childbirth and how a newborn baby can, within 24 hours of being born, distinguish their mother’s milk from 9 other samples of breast milk. Their sense of smell is keenly attuned to the woman who has been their entire world during gestation. And for the last two months in the womb, the fetus can hear the world outside of the mother’s tummy. Children who were read a specific story every day for those last two months showed a greater interest in hearing that particular story after they were born. And an even greater interest in hearing it read by their mother.

The transition from womb to world is not a singular moment. The fetus is biologically preparing for that event months before it happens. They are prepared to bond with their mother differently once born. They do not expect that the nourishment they have received for 9 months will suddenly not exist. They do not expect to be permanently separated from their mother.

With such an enormous loss and change, how can an infant, a child, not feel grief?

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