For many years, I believed you. Orphan. Abandoned. Unwanted. Adopted. These words defined me and my worth, grief’s long-lasting imprint on my heart. Over time, this grief has also come to serve as a beautiful reminder of how much I deeply love my first Indian family regardless of why or how we separated. In the sadness of separation, I also lost a foundation that comes from having access to and understanding of the culture of my birth.
As I processed this loss in young adulthood with the emotions being a first-time mom stirring in my soul; I began to actively search for others like me, and now have the gift of two decades of cherished connections to other adoptees. Across multiple moments of tears and laughter, we hold space for each other as we uncover the layers we are peeling back of our lives and ourselves. I continue to learn and grow on the journey; I also listen, encourage, mentor and coach. As adoptees share their deepest secrets and stories unfold, I offer from a place of quiet knowing and truth: “You are loved. You belong. You are enough. You are worthy. You matter. You can be whole.” Although it is hard, constantly evolving work to heal our souls; we can bravely reclaim our voice, rewrite our story and redefine who we are on our own terms.
And so, as a New Year begins and in the days to follow, I offer this Manifesto for the Adoptee’s Soul.
I embrace the known and unknown.
People and places from my past
that influence who I am in the present.
I risk my heart again for authentic connections.
I deserve to experience life and love,
all of its beauty and imperfections.
When I encounter heartbreak,
my loss reminds me of my courage
and what to value most.
I nurture my body that carries me
and connects me to future generations.
It holds memories, rhythms of my mother’s heartbeat
or my father’s voice from years ago.
My body knows the truth of who I was born to
and links me to lineage centuries old.
I rise from sleepless nights of heartache and setbacks.
I pray for guidance on the soul assignment only I can fulfill.
I give to others sharing strength, love, courage and light.
I remind those I know of their radiance
when they are unable to see it in themselves.
When I am struggling or vulnerable;
I trust someone will remind me of the beauty I possess.
I lean into the longing and quiet ache of my heart;
the still, small voice within whispering and pushing me to grow.
I travel boldly, deep within for discovery,
or crossing miles and oceans to places I once belonged.
I pause when I find answers;
because with new knowledge,
other questions undoubtedly unfold.
I forgive, myself and others,
for failures and shortcomings that being human holds.
I live my truth,
creating something beautiful
out of broken beginnings and imperfect pasts.
I am more than what happened to me
or labels that others placed upon me to define my worth.
I am brave for myself. I am brave for others.
I am brave for the generation that follows.
You underestimated who we would become.
Brave is who we are.
© 2017, Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter, Ph.D., M.S.W.
Reprinted in entirety, full credit: Stephanie Kripa Cooper-Lewter and DearAdoption.com (original publication).
DR. STEPHANIE KRIPA COOPER-LEWTER IS A SOCIAL WORKER, LIFE COACH, SPEAKER, AUTHOR AND PHILANTHROPIST, STEPHANIE KRIPA COOPER-LEWTER, PH.D., M.S.W., CAME TO AMERICA THROUGH INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION FROM AN ORPHANAGE IN INDIA GIVING HER TENDER HEART A DEEP DESIRE AT A YOUNG AGE TO UNDERSTAND HER “WHY.” BELIEVING A PERSON’S PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES NEVER DETERMINES THEIR ULTIMATE DESTINY IN LIFE, HER LIFE’S WORK IS TO UPLIFT, CONNECT AND INSPIRE. SHE IS CO-FOUNDER OF LOST SAREES, ALONG WITH FOUNDER AND NATIONAL CHAIR OF ROSHNI, LOST SAREES NATIONAL WOMEN’S GIVING CIRCLE. SHE HAS WRITTEN FOR SEVERAL ADOPTION-FOCUSED PUBLICATIONS, INCLUDING A CHAPTER CO-AUTHORED WITH HER DAUGHTER, BEAUTIFUL, IN PARENTING AS ADOPTEES AND THE FORWARD TO AN-YA AND HER DIARY: READER AND PARENT GUIDE, “DEDICATED TO NIKHILA AND THE NIKHILA’S OF THE WORLD.” SHE HAS ALSO WRITTEN FOR LOST DAUGHTERS. COACHING AND POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY INSTITUTE GRADUATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT/CEO OF BIG BROTHERS BIG SISTERS OF GREATER COLUMBIA, SHE CAN BE FOLLOWED AND REACHED HERE.