Truths about Loss in Adoption

Our International Adoption Coordinator Megan Montgomerymeganmontgomery offers helpful suggestions on how to deal with adoption and loss.

The truth is that LOSS is deeply intertwined in the adoption journey. For the adoptee, loss is how they came to be adopted – they lost the opportunity to grown up in their birth family to start. Also, they may have lost a connection to their heritage, culture or race. And ultimately they have lost control.

Another truth about loss is that sometimes those of us who are not the adoptee, forget that loss is the route of adoption, as we are focused on what is gained through adoption.

It is important for adoption professionals and adoptive families alike to never forget the important role that loss plays in the life of the adoptee. When losses are acknowledged and addressed, healing becomes possible.

Whether they openly talk about it or not, all adoptees have feelings about adoption. Various environmental and innate factors influence the way loss impacts their life. Additionally, the role that loss plays changes over time as the adoptee goes through different life and developmental stages. For example, oftentimes children grieve in spurts, and in adolescence the normal separation that occurs as youth search for their identity; a parent might find that they are looking for external clues that their child is struggling.

A chart that demonstrates Life Stages in relation to Adoption, can be found: Life Cycle Adoption Issues

There is no timetable for grieving. Opening up the conversation about grief and loss beginning at adoption and continuing it throughout life, creates a safe space for communicating the tough emotions of loss. Also, by looking at our own self and recognizing how we grieve and process loss we will be more successful at supporting a child who has experienced loss.

Something that really hit home with me was when I heard another Adoption Professional say: "In order to support our children who have been adopted we need to be comfortable with helplessness". I think this is so important for parents to hear, because as parents we often want to "fix" our child’s problems, wipe away their tears and of course for them to be happy. Recognizing that we cannot fix the loss a child has experienced can take some of the pressure off. Leaving us the emotional strength that we would have spent on "fixing" it to validate and confirm the feelings of loss, which is what is really needed.

Read Megan Montgomery blog series What to Expect:

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