Adoption—What is the meaning of énouement?

“Enouement is the bittersweet sorrows of having arrived in the future and not being able to tell your past self how things eventually turned out.” Judith Land

“I was very eager to discuss my childhood experiences with my birth parents when I met them for the first time, to let them know what my life was like, and disclose the fact that everything had turned out okay in the end. This experience made me wish I could turn back the clock and go back in time to know them when we were still young.” Judith Land

Most adoptees experience feelings of enouement at least once in their life. Enouement occurs when we arrive in the future and wish we could turn back the hands of time and return to the past to convey our intimate thoughts to our younger self to let ourselves and significant others know how everything turns out in the end—to let everyone know what the future holds. 

One of my favorite movies is Somewhere in Time, staring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour. Christopher Reeves becomes obsessed with a photograph of a young woman at the Grand Hotel in Michigan and dreams of traveling back in time. He is approached by an elderly woman who places a pocket watch in his hand and pleads, “Come back to me.” Having died of a broken heart, Christopher is transported back in time and reunited with the woman in the picture who had died eight years prior on the very night she gave him the pocket watch. It is a mesmerizing story of enouement with an enchanting and romantic aura of the past.

Heartache and obscure sorrows may lead to despondency when aspects of the truth remain vague and indeterminate for many years; nameless, enshrouded and concealed, unknown except by rumor, allusion, and innuendo. It is not possible to time travel; we are only able to return to the past through our imagination, fond hope, illusion, fantasy, and daydreams.

Feelings of enouement overwhelmed me when I eventually discovered the identity of my birth parents, grandparents and extended family; the bittersweetness of having arrived here in the future, where I finally had the answers to how things turned out in the real world—the choices I made, the experiences I had, the person I became, and what my family was like—priceless intel that I instinctively wanted to share with anybody who hadn’t already made the journey, as if there was some part of me who had volunteered to stay behind, who was still stationed at a forgotten outpost somewhere in the past, eagerly awaiting news from the front. 

Calm reflection brought on by introspection means thinking about the things that happened to you with an attitude of curiosity and self-exploration to draw conclusions about yourself and other people with a sense of nostalgia and sentimentality. Introspection leads you to learn more about yourself and how you’ve changed over time and why you feel the way you do.

Reminiscing at length about the pivotal events in life and the feelings they evoked both then and now, and sharing those memories with our younger self and significant others is what we strive to do when we connect with persons we care about from the past—this is the feeling of enouement.

Judith Land


About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. She has reached readers in 192 countries. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
This entry was posted in Adoption, Children, Dear Adoption, Parenting and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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