And that's the truth

This morning I read a post where a non-adopted blogger discusses adoptee obituaries, how not including in the obituary the fact that the subject of it is adopted renders the obituary an untrue story. "Case closed".

The blogger goes on to say that by not including adoption in the obituary it relegates the adoptee's biological mothers to "uteri passing by". Seems to me if this is a concern for a mother it's a problem easily solved. Include the child you gave up for adoption in your own obituary.

I've decided to write about this here for two reasons, one being I have quite a bit to say and the second is that the blogger asked adoptees to allow birth/first/natural mothers their own emotions and feelings on her blog. Fair enough.

See, what the blogger seems unable to grasp is that for some of us adoptees our adoptive parents are in fact our parents. True story.

The lack of adoptive status in my obituary won't be an attempt to feel "more" a part of my family. I couldn't possibly feel any more a part of my family than I already do.

If I were to drop dead tomorrow and my obituary read that I am predeceased by my brother and father, survived by my mother and sister, son and husband, it wouldn't be a "fairy tale version with white-washed facts". That's what these people are. My parents, my family.

Why would I in death start to preface what they are to me with the word "adoptive" when I never did in life? Not only would it not be something I'd have to "request" be left out, it wouldn't even occur to anyone to put it in my obituary.

I agree that the dead often give up the best clues in searching, in fact I've taken advantage of the dead in that way myself and the word adoption wasn't mentioned in any of the obits I've found helpful. If after I'm dead someone searching or doing genealogy is interested in knowing if I'm adopted, they are more than welcome to ask my family and friends. My being adopted is not a secret to any of them.

Not mentioning being adopted in my obituary will not obliterate the reality that I am, and it doesnt say that being adopted didnt make a difference in my life. What bigger difference could there be than having an entirely different group of people than I am biologically related to named as family in my obit?

My not saying I am adopted in my obituary has absolutely nothing to do with original birth certificates nor does it feed into an idea of "sacrosanct right" of "privacy" and "anonymity" for mothers from the children they gave up for adoption.

I can understand adopted people who want to address their adoptedness or biological family members in their obituaries. I can think of numerous scenarios where it would make sense and the blogger's I've referenced scenario is just one of them. If my sister asked me to be sure her bio family was mentioned in her obit, I would do everything in my power to ensure it happened.

The truth for me though is that my parents are my parents and my brother and sister are my siblings. In my obituary, there will be no need for the word "adoptive", just as there is no need for it in life.

If your son or daughter is adopted and you tragically outlive him or her, don't just "say so" in their obituary, as the blogger referenced here suggests.

If it's not something you've talked about, go with your gut. If its not been your practise to refer to your child or yourself as adoptive, why would you start now?

If it's something you've talked about and you know your son or daughter wants their adoption addressed in their obituary, do all you can to make it happen.

Perhaps it's one of those things that people should talk about with their loved ones, especially if one feels strongly either way.

Personally, I am strongly against using the word adoptive when describing familial relationships or connections....unless it's necessary in order to differentiate or is what the adopted person wants.


  1. I was placed for adoption as an infant and my thoughts are that if my first mother wanted to be included in my obituary then she shouldn't have allowed all record of her to be sealed away from me by placing me for adoption.
    Choices have consequences.
    I feel no obligation whatsoever to include her in my obit when I die and I hope she feels no obligation to include me in hers.
    The ink dried on those papers too long ago for us to start feeling obligated to each other now. At this point we owe each other nothing.
    As far as that other blog, once again the first mothers want to take ownership of the children they gave away. It is absurd.
    I am not saying I will not include my first mother in my obit. I'm just saying that I do not feel obligated either way.

  2. Very interesting post. I have never really given this any thought when it comes to my daughter's obit. Maybe, it's cause I would hope I wouldn't be around to see it. I do wonder if the same people who would choose not to disclose their biological ties would be upset if they were not included in their biological families Obit. All in all I agree that it's all a personal choice to decide to mention adoption in it all.

  3. Once again, demanding people use language to satisfy a personal agenda backfires. In situations where people are fully capable of deciding for themselves who's family, who's hyphenated family, and who ain't family at all, it's best to leave decisions up to the people involved. The hens can cluck all they want about "fairy tales". . . it won't make it so.

  4. "Once again, demanding people use language to satisfy a personal agenda backfires." Yes! It's not all about the birth parents, and some forget that.

    The post you are referring to almost made me vomit when I read it. I recently wrote my a-dad's obit. There was no mention of which of his children were adopted, and which weren't.

  5. What a dreadful morbid topic, especially for mothers thinking about their kids. The very last thing I would care about is what the obit said and if were mentioned or not. There is something horribly grasping about the whole subject, getting listed as mom or expecting "adopted" in obits as a matter of course.

    All this started about Steve Jobs, a very private person in life who tried to keep his family life and adoption personal and private as well. Now that he has died the buzzards are circling, throwing bits and pieces of him out there to titillate those who will never know the whole story, but feel free to assume all sorts of things and criticize his choices from the viewpoint of their own story.

    What goes in obits is a private choice of the family of the deceased. It is not a lie to leave out "adopted" nor is it required to list anyone as a survivor. It depends on the relationship with the bio mother, she may be listed, but it is not required. It is love that matters, not titles or public words.

    If a mother has lost her child to death, the most awful loss there is, I can't imagine being listed or not in the obit would really matter.

  6. Campbell - I don't believe you need to state adoptive mother or adoptive father - you can simply state daughter of X X and X X (your parents names). The adopted as an infant can be part of the story part of the obit - if that makes any sense. It does nothing to negate who your family is. I have seen many obits where it is done tastefully without assuming the [adoptive] isn't the individuals family.

    It is a factual part of your life and very helpful in geneological research and that is also used to trace hereditary diseases including trying to find in some cases the founder effect (not sure I have the right word for that - but where the mutation originated).

  7. "The adopted as an infant can be part of the story part of the obit -"

    Sure could theadoptedones but if it isn't, it doesn't render the obituary untrue. If it isn't, it doesn't render the obituary a "fairy tale version with white-washed facts". If it isn't, it isn't an attempt to feel more a part of our families.

    There are many factual parts of my life that won't be included in my obituary. Does that affect the validity of my story. I'm of the opinion not.

    Again, anything anyone is interested in after my death, they'll get far more info from talking to my family than reading my obit.

  8. I don't think I said everyone had to do it. I was simply trying to show you didn't need to state adopted child of X and X as well as provide actual reasons for inclusion.

    Everyones obit is up to them to determine what is or isn't included. Just providing my reasons why I belive it is good to include and how to do it with sensitivity. I did not think I came off as telling you that you hard to do it - did I?

  9. No, you didn't make me feel like you said I had to do it theadoptedones. Did I come across like I thought you did? If so, not my intent.

    Thanks for sharing why you believe it's good and what you think is a good way to do it.

  10. First things first; the obit is not a "Factual acccount" of one's life, per se. There is no fact checking that goes on with an obituary to verify accuracy. What goes into it is what the deceased or family members want included.
    I could write my obituary and fill it full of lies, half truths and fairy dust and no one would know the difference.

    It should be up to the individual who's obit it is. I'm pretty sure my mother will include her birth mother in her obituary. This post has spurred me on to have this conversation with my mom to make sure her wishes are met.

    For me, I don't plan to identify my son as "adopted" in my obituary, as far as I'm concerned his (lack of)genetic relationship to me is irrelevant at that moment. He's my son plain and simple. However, if he chooses to identify hubby and I as as "adoptive parents" I am ok with that, it's his obituary.

  11. Just goes to show these things need to be personal choice.I certainly wouldn't respond well to being told how to have my obit written, especially at this moment in time by a mother.Or anyone else for that matter.It is a private, family matter unless you are a amongst the famous or infamous.

  12. I have spent my entire life trying not to broadcast the fact that my mother gave me up for adoption. Why in the world would I ever want to broadcast it once I am dead?

  13. It's definitely something that should be left up to the individual. There's really no right or wrong way to do it. As long as you don't feel the need to tell everyone else what to do. Campbell - I love your solution for the adoptive mother to include the child in her obituary. :)

  14. I agree with above posters that what goes into an obit is completely personal choice. If there is a relationship with the natural parents you could just list all of the parents (natural and adoptive) as parents of the deceased. I am sure this is done all the time in step-parent situations. The people listed should be up to each person and will probably be whoever was important to them in life.


  15. "See, what the blogger seems unable to grasp is that for some of us adoptees our adoptive parents are in fact our parents."

    Heh heh, that's not what I thought the whole issue was about. To me, it came across as saying:

    'Even if you consider your adoptive parents to be your true (note: only) parents, you should include that you were adopted in your obit, because otherwise that implies your birth-mother was nothing more than a passing uteri, and you being adopted was a part of her story. A story needs to include all the facts."

    I find this whole discussion kind of morbid actually.

  16. "The adopted as an infant can be part of the story part of the obit -"

    Sure could theadoptedones but if it isn't, it doesn't render the obituary untrue.

    -> The above I agree with so much. Just because an obit doesn't state adoption doesn't make it untrue or less real. I mean why does it need to be stated at all?

    Aren't there more pressing things to worry about regarding the deceased than whether or not the adoption is mentioned?

  17. "Aren't there more pressing things to worry about regarding the deceased than whether or not the adoption is mentioned?"

    I think so too, but it looks as if some people are more concerned about getting their names in the obit than the loss of a human being that they claim to care about.


  18. Mei-ling,

    For some of us who are tracing our family histories it is important. What is important to you may not be important to me - neither is more or less important.

    For medical researchers who are trying to find the genes for a specific disease - it is important, especially if you come from an isolated population where that disease shows up more than in the general population. Having clear concise records allows the "noise" to be eliminated from the research easily.

    We all have things that are important to us - why the need to negate and put down?

  19. Uh, for the record, people commenting here are welcome to have opinions and points of view that negate others'if they do it reasonably. In my opinion there was nothing wrong with Mei Ling's comments. She is as entitled to her say as anyone else.

  20. Geneticists are not going to be poring over obits. They are not reliable and there is no requirement for them to be "factually complete" whatever that means. Many obits do NOT mention the specific disease the person passed from. Relationships are fundamentally what the people involved want them to be, no more, no less. Nobody is owed mention in an obit.

  21. Here lies the body of our Anna
    Done to death by a banana
    It wasn't the fruit that laid her low
    But the skin of the thing that made her go.

  22. I did not see anything wrong with Mei Ling's comment either. Agreeing with anon who says geneticists are not going to be poring over obits because they often do not contain any medical information about cause of death. The further back one goes, the less likely that any helpful medical info will be in an obituary. They are not medical records, nor legal records, but what close family members want to say to honor the deceased. Also agree nobody is owed a mention.

  23. @ the adoptedones: The argument wasn't about those searching for their geneology. It was about whether or not mentioning adoption in the obit automatically indicated the birth-fammily was just a passing vessel.

    Even some commenters who have said repeatedy "No, you're wrong, I DO consider my adoptive parents to be my parents, to be *real* parents", they were told "But if you don't have adoption mentioned, then you're lying to yourself, because to NOT include isn't including the facts and is by default dismissing your birth family."

    That's not arguing about geneology. That's saying "Well if you don't include it you're lying about a fact and thus your obit is false."

    And I don't think that's fair.

  24. My advice to everyone adopted or not, your obituary is your story, tell it how you want. Don't let others tell it for you.

    Heck have fun with it!

  25. I don't think it's fair either Mei Ling. adopted ones is making a great deal of assumptions.
    We were left as babies, our records our sealed and yet, our lives are disingenuous if we don't include our birth family in our obituary? They didn't seem to give much thought to our needs for authenticity and yet once again, if the adoptee doesn't include the people who ditched us in the first place, we are somehow responsible?
    Don't we all have enough on our plates without once again feeling the need to please, even in our deaths?

  26. I have been listed in obituaries simply based on my familial relationship to the deceased without the word adopted being used. This is the way both myself and my a-family members want it. Obits reflect a person's social/family history they are not meant to be factual, legal records. Leaving out the word adopted does not render them untruthful or useless.

  27. I think another reason this bothered me is that it has the underlying assumption that only the bio-parents can be considered the child's "real" parents and that anyone else has to be qualified.

  28. Yeah Robin, it felt that way to me too.


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