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Adoption Grief: Understanding Your Child’s Mourning

July 17, 2014

Everyone has experienced grief at some point of his or her life. Yet, as adults we often find difficulty in accepting a child’s grief, especially adoptive children’s grief. We hear the following sentences all too often, “But you rescued him/her. They shouldn’t be sad. They should be thankful.” This is a misguided understanding of how adoption works.

One of our adoptive parents recently updated us on the status of her two boys from Poland. Although she said they are happy, the older boy still deals with depression. What we do not understand is that these children have already experienced loss, grief, pain, abandonment, and a vast array of emotions that a small child or young teen should ever have to experience. Don’t underestimate the grief over the loss of the little things. They could be missing the tree they passed every day on their way home from school, because that tree was the constant factor in their lives when family was not. This grieving period is normal, and it will vary depending on the child.

Understanding your child’s grief begins with understanding the stages of grief. Remember that each stage can happen at different times, more than once, or not at all. Everyone grieves differently. We will explain each step through the eyes of your child.

1) Denial: When children are faced with loss, especially small children, they have trouble accepting things as permanent. They are always expecting another change, and for most adopted children, they have experienced changes more than once.

2) Depression: Sadness, crying, and withdrawing are all common symptoms during this stage.

3) Anger: Although some children may act out through words or actions during the anger stage, but some will experience anxiety. Withdrawing is common during this stage as well.

4) Fear and Bargaining: “If I go back, I will be good. I will make the best grades and clean all of the time.

5) Acceptance: This is the final stage. The child realizes that this is a permanent situation.

You cannot erase grief. No magic remedy, perfect formula, or miracle cure will hurry the process. You can, however, try to help by loving your child unconditionally and showing him/her the love of God. Support, therapy if necessary, time and most importantly God’s love can lessen your child’s grief.

-Provide healthy distractions like road trips, museum/aquarium visits, arts and crafts, church, and other awesome things.

-Create a special place for memories like a memory box, quilt or shelf. You could also create a life book the chronicles the life of your child.

-Have them participate in a grief group or therapy.

– Most importantly, listen and support them in every possible way. Hugs are recommended.
We know that grief is one of the hardest things to deal with, especially when your child is the one grieving. We hope this information helps, and if you have any questions, please contact us at 662-842-6752.