The subject of grief is definitely one for which I now have a deeper understanding.  Losing my mother was so extremely difficult for me.  I had never lost a family member before her, so the immediate grief process was extremely laborious and raw.  She and I were very close.  Her personality was so big, so when it wasn’t there anymore, the space left wasn’t just empty, it was a vacuum.  It threatened to pull me down into darkness.  Frankly, there were many moments when I thought that letting go and allowing that darkness to pull me down, drifting into nothingness, sounded like a good idea.

It’s about a year and a half after she left this earth, and my grief is not so raw anymore.  But it’s still here with me.  I carry it like an accessory I didn’t choose.

Anyone who has taken a psychology course will be familiar with Elizabeth Kübler-Ross’s stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Moving through these stages looks differently for each person, but if each stage isn’t visited, even briefly, the process will not be complete.

I had a wonderful relationship with my mom, but even so, I struggled with my grief process whenever I was reminded of the things about her that annoyed or angered me. She was opinionated, loud, stubborn, and a bit of a know-it-all, just to name a few things. So when I felt the absence of those things and realized how…nice it was to not have to deal with them, I felt horribly guilty. But in the end, I know who she was. I know what she meant to me, and I understood our relationship and I know how much I loved her, and how much she loved me. Our relationship was real and imperfect, but not confusing.

Tuesday night, I listened to a webinar as part of our education requirement for our adoption. The topic was attachment and how it may look differently in adoption. It was all really great information, most of which I was already aware of from seminars and conferences we had attended just because we are passionate about adoption and orphan care. But one of the sub-topics caught my attention. Grief, from the perspective of the adopted child. Because adoption does not exist without loss. It does not matter if the child was adopted at birth, as a toddler, or as an older child. That child has lost the chance to be raised by their birthfamily.

With loss, comes grieving. but if that child is in any way unclear about their feelings for or relationship with their birthmom/birthfamily, they can become stuck in that process. If they become stuck, attachment to the adoptive parent will be difficult.

As a child struggles with the loss of birthfamily, they inevitably think about the circumstances in which that loss occurred. Even in a family situation where a child does not feel safe (i.e. alcohol/drug use, physicaly/secual/emotional abuse), the child will still feel a sense of loyalty and love for their birthfamily. The juxtaposition between that love/loyalty and the fear for safety causes a great deal of confusion for the child.

“They’re my parents and I love them, but they let scary people into our house”
“She hugs and kisses me, and tells me she loves me, but when she drinks, she yells and throws things and it scares me.”
“Mom told me that my birthmom didn’t have money to take care of me, but I wonder if it’s because she didn’t love me.”

Confused feelings about birthfamily throws a wrench into the grieving process. It’s hard to deal with feelings when you’re not really sure what they are. Grief is difficult enough without throwing in the additional stress of confusion.

As we prepare our home and hearts for V, we need to be ready for her grief. not only will she grieve her family, but her homeland, her friends, and all that was familiar to her. I am well aware that there is no prescription to keep us moving through the process of grief. No magic potion to get us “unstuck”. I cannot make it better. But I can give her permission and encouragement to slog through the mire. Who knows how long it will take, but I have my slogging boots at the ready.