Did you know that when making the choice to adopt, you are signing up to partner with your child on a journey through the ups and downs, twists, and u-turns of grief towards a place of hope, joy, and ultimately healing? Wow, what a job! This is a journey of healing from deep, relational wounds that are often neglected due to the lack of their physical manifestations.
A grievous loss is a prerequisite for an adoption agency to exist. An adopted child has endured loss in a way no child should prior to coming into your home. This may come in any of the following forms: relational loss-- even if abandoned as young as 3 days old, the loss of their friends and home, loss of their culture, loss of their language, loss of trust in human nature (a trusted caregiver may have abused/neglected/abandoned the child), loss in security, and sometimes a perceived loss of innocence. But because of the incredible act of redemption, there is hope for the most hopeless situation. Hope is our lifeline through some of the most challenging and uncertain circumstances. As adoptive parents, you will be used as a prominent and powerful tool in this hope-instilling, redemptive pilgrimage. As an adoption agency, we believe it is equally as essential to prepare families for this journey as it is to place children in loving homes. One is not more important that the other.
It is critical to note that children are frequently unaware of their own grief. This often causes it to emerge via unconventional forms (explosive emotions, regressive behavior, or socially unacceptable acts). As a first step in becoming aware, we encourage families to grant your child permission to truly feel and express what he is feeling. Let him be mad, sad, happy, depressed, scared, lonely, bitter, elated, frustrated, angry, or even feel enraged. Once he knows it is okay to feel, even negative feelings, he can start to deal with them. When we ignore our feelings, they lurk over us ready to explode at the next triggering event. The video below goes into more detail about the importance of allowing your child to process his feelings. You do not choose your feelings, but you can choose how you respond to them. And as parents and caseworkers, it is our job to aid children from hard places in dealing with these in a healthy way.
Grief is not an event
The next step is to be a listening ear and to remember that grief is not an event. It is a process, and is often not sequential. In the five stages of grief created by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, we learn that grief passes through multiple stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. But for those who have encountered a deep loss, you know that rather than getting from point A to point B, grief is more like an unorganized cycle with no system or timeline. You may consistently cycle through all of the stages, get stuck in one stage, or bounce back and forth between two stages. But each part of the process carries paramount significance en route to healing. And each part of the process should be accepted and respected. Therefore, as case workers and adoptive parents, we need to be there ready to empathetically listen when these children choose it is time to tell their story.
See the Treasures Found Within Your Child
With the beauty and loss that comes with adoption, America World feels it is important to not just place children, but also to set families and children up for success in order that they may thrive once home. We are not here to show a child our riches or for our riches to be their savior. We are here to aid them in discovering the riches found within themselves. And when you see a child with a broken past become empowered with hope while persevering against the odds, that is when you see the miracle. That is why these children are my heroes.
Adoption, like becoming a believer, is not for the faint of heart. But do not be mistaken, it is a wonderful and rewarding gift. And what an honor to take part in such a redemptive story.
Caitlin Edwards, Ethiopia Assistant Director