John Fingland has struggled with feelings of abandonment all his life, and he traces it back to being given up for adoption as an infant. ‘It always sort of sits in the back of your mind — why someone would abandon you as a baby?’ (Mike Rudyk/CBC) This story is part of CBC North’s series Children of Survivors | Impact of residential schools. This week we’re highlighting the stories of several children of residential school survivors and the effect intergenerational trauma has had on their lives.
John Fingland says intergenerational trauma is different for everybody.
"You know, the grandparents might have went to residential school, the children might have been people from the Sixties Scoop — and then their children are the result of either alcoholism or violence or some kind of social problems," he said.
"So it’s a continuation of trauma throughout the family, that takes generations to actually fix."
Fingland was born in Whitehorse and adopted as an infant into a family in Ottawa. He grew up not knowing who his birth parents were, or whether he had any biological brothers or sisters.
"It’s one of those things that when you are adopted, it’s always in the back of your mind," he said.
"I kept wondering what this wonderful family must’ve been like, and it always sort of sits in the back of your mind — why someone would abandon you as a baby?"
Fingland, now 52, doesn’t want to mention his mother’s name or publicly identify his birth family.
But he’s ready to share his story of intergenerational trauma. Finding answers
Fingland’s decision, in 2005, to try to find out who his birth mother was, led to one of the hardest days of his life.
He had moved back to Yukon years earlier with his adoptive family and was then working for the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Staff there helped him start digging into the mystery of his birth and adoption. They contacted the Yukon government and eventually Fingland got some answers.
"I remember the day I was working, and it was lunch time and I got this package," he recalls. "But I also remember that there was a letter that was actually written the day that I was born, and it was just about my birth and everything like that."
The letter included notes, handwritten by a nurse at the time, describing how Fingland’s mother rejected him.
"Nurses had tried to get my birth mother to hold me, and they tried to get my birth mother to feed me, and they tried to get my birth mother to name me, and … she refused," he said.
One thing in particular hit him hard.
"They kept referring to me as ‘it’ — like the note said, ‘she refused to feed it, and she refused to name it, and she refused to hold it, despite our efforts,’" he said."It affected me greatly that day … I remember I was unable to continue working that day, or the next day." An undated school photo of Fingland. He was adopted as an infant by a family in Ottawa and enjoyed a childhood of ‘super-happiness.’ (Submitted by John Fingland) He still has trouble understanding his mother’s actions, in refusing him at birth."The strongest link on this planet, no matter what animal it is, is between the mother and the child," he said.Fingland believes he may be the product of an extramarital affair, and that his birth mother’s husband refused to accept him into the family.His biological older brother — who wishes to remain anonymous so his mother won’t be identified— was a young child at the time, and has faint memories of […]
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