Grief is an emotion experienced by all who are involved in the adoption journey, most noticeably birth parents, adoptive parents, and adoptees. The reasons for, intensity of, and the ways of coping, all change over time. Nevertheless it is a common emotion and a way to connect with others who have been through this journey.
Here are three critical things to remember when experiencing grief or supporting someone through their grief.
The first is that it looks different for everyone. There are no “shoulds” when it comes to grief. Shouldn’t she be crying? Shouldn’t she be past this by now? Shouldn’t she be talking about her loss more? Shouldn’t she be talking about her loss less? All these “should” get in the way of healing. Emotions just exist, wanting them to be different than they are does not help anyone deal with their emotions.
The second is that grief may look like another emotion: anger, apathy, forgetfulness, etc. When someone is grieving it can often look like a different emotion. It is important to recognize this so that you can address the grief in a more productive manner.
The last thing is the importance of showing up. Showing up means making time for someone in whatever way is appropriate. There was a terrible tornado in Alabama in late April. President Obama had never visited Alabama during his campaign or his presidency. After the tornado, he went to Alabama and sat and visited with a woman who lost her son in the tornado. She was overwhelmed with emotion just by the fact that he showed up. His words were not as important as the fact that he showed up. She expressed that his presence was something meaningful that she will never forget. Showing up is a way of communicating to others that they are important. When dealing with grief it is important to show up for yourself and show up for others. The act of talking and being with other caring people is both meaningful and important to the healing process.