7 Core Issues in Adoption & Permanency: Grief

Jul 26, 2020

The profound losses that created feelings or fears of rejection, which led to the emotions of shame and guilt, must be grieved.

Adoption and permanency losses are too often left unnamed, unacknowledged, and ungrieved. The losses may be difficult to acknowledge and mourn in a society where these forms of family building are seen as problem-solving events that benefit everyone. The culture perceives these families being formed as a solution to several individual’s problems; a child needs a family, a parent can no longer parent and new parents are created.

This may be perceived as a “gain” for everyone, rather than an event to which loss is integral. Because of this point of view, it may be difficult to accept, discuss and express the emotions connected to grief.

Acknowledging loss and making room for the “work of grief ” is essential to any healing process. In today’s culture, there are few models for healthy grieving. People live in a “quick fix” society where individuals are expected to get over things rapidly and simply move on. Children are not taught how to cope with loss. Grieving is important because it allows people to speak their truth and express their feelings.

Grief is universal.

However, it is experienced as a personal and highly individual process. A person’s grief process depends on many factors including: personality, gender, culture, temperament, religious and/or spiritual beliefs, coping styles, life experiences, the age the loss occurred, the nature of the loss and an individual’s support system. Everyone grieves according to their own timeline and in their own way. There is no recipe or prescription to shorten the process or make the suffering go away. It illuminates a truth in an individual’s life. Grief is about acceptance, patience, adaptation, forgiveness and endurance; it changes you.

Grief for constellation members is complex as they have experienced a profound loss that changed the trajectory of their life. In the rearranging of family trees through adoption and permanency, parents are grieving unborn children, children are grieving as their understanding of what happened to them unfolds and birth/first parents are grieving the loss of their baby/child that they hope is alive and well.

Constellation members may experience grief when:

The original separation occurs

Anniversaries of the loss or crisis occurs

Subsequent losses that require more adaptation occurs

Someone asks a question that triggers the feelings of loss

Memories surface in connection to the crisis, loss or person lost

A child/teen’s understanding of adoption and their story unfolds

Search and reunion occurs