Grieving Children: How Can Parents Help?
In considering our children's new life with us, intellectually, we understand that our children may not have that same sense of joy that we do about being adopted, especially during the first weeks and months. Practically, though, do we allow and even create enough opportunities for adopted children to grieve their losses and their past?
In Helping Children Grieve and Grow, Donna O'Toole and Jerre Cory write, "Especially for children, a loss may be based on safety, comfort, and familiarity, rather than on what adults speak of as love or affection." Additionally, O'Toole and Cory write, "When children feel over-whelmed by intense feelings they may naturally make their world safe by distancing themselves physically or emotionally, by pretending or by denying the reality of the loss."
Nine-year-old Hannah, adopted at age six, said, "The hardest part of grieving is learning to say good-by. We have to say good-by to things that are in our hearts but sometimes these things in our hearts gave us bad habits... habits that we can't let go of easily." As adoptive parents, we must not overlook our children's grief because it is not easily seen or noticed. We need to listen, watch, discuss, and comfort, even when the grief is not easy to identify. Our children have left familiar surroundings... people they know... school... food... language... routines. Attending to their grief is a critical element to integrating them into our family.
The materials for this course have been reprinted with permission from the book Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox Building Connections, edited by Jean MacLeod and Sheena Macrae Copyright © 2006 EMK Press, all rights reserved. The complete 520 page book covering all aspects of becoming and being an adoptive family is available at Amazon.com.