The challenge that often occurs in adoption and certainly more so during the 80’s and 90’s when I was growing up was you weren’t supposed to acknowledge your loss. You were supposed to just be grateful all the time. As if you now had a perfect life, as if you hadn’t experienced one of the greatest traumas of all time, losing your biological family. Stop and think about this for a moment. Imagine leaving everything and everyone you know. Every smell you are familiar with, the sound of your mother’s voice, that specific way you were held, your favourite blanket all just gone one day. Depending on your age your level of understanding will be varied, but the majority of those who experience this loss will feel sad. We allow people to grieve for the loss of a loved one, a pet, in sports, for every other occasion imaginable however, big or small but when it comes to grieving over a biological family it’s not accepted.
When you lose someone close to you there are generally stages of grieving that people go through; Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance (some will experience all of these stages other will not and in no particular order). An adoptee needs to be allowed to experience these stages and the person they need reassurance from that this is okay is their adoptive parents. As their new family your opinion means the world to them and they are desperate to please you and don’t want to disappoint you or appear ungrateful but they will most often feel very torn inside. Despite the manner in which they came into care, the fact remains they have lost all that is normal to them, whether it is healthy and appropriate or not, it is their norm and although they may be very happy to be safe and secure the sadness they have at the loss will also be very real and very painful.
Provide them with permission to grieve, acknowledge their losses and let them know you are there for them. When appropriate you may grieve with them your solidarity providing the reassurance they need at a challenging time. The healing time will be different for each but the journey will be much smoother when they feel supported, loved and accepted.
It’s so important to acknowledge the loss and gains for all of those involved in the adoption triad and we will take a look at the adoptee’s gains next week as well as the perspectives of the birth and adoptive families.
Posted originally on The Adoption Arena website www.adoptionarena.com May 28, 2014