Grief and Loss

I am a firm believer that loss is inherent in adoption, even infant adoption.  I also believe that children, even from the earliest moments, grieve and mourn these losses, not because they understand them, but because they feel them.  I do think that all children have different levels of resilience and feel these losses and cope with them very differently, not just at the time of the loss, but throughout different parts of their lives.

As a first time  parent, only three years into this gig, I also know that I can read things into a situation that aren’t there from time to time.  But I don’t think this is one of those times. My gut tells me that Woob is dealing with grief related to his adoption. 

  • He doesn’t like to be left behind.  Example:  we went out on a rare date Saturday night, and took Woob to the grandparents’ house.  He knew where we were going, he knew he’d be staying with the GPs, he knew we’d be back in a few hours and he’d be sleeping in his own bed.  But when it was time for me to leave him there, he freaked a little.  Then, when I was gone, he apparently parked at the front door looking out the window for awhile, and repeated many times, “Mommy is coming back.”  That is a common reassurance at our house, “Mommy will always come back…”  The following morning, he was all over us both and told us time and again that he missed us.  “You came back!  You went dancing and you came back!”  As if it was this miraculous surprise that we did so.  Makes total sense to me–he has another mom that didn’t come back…why should this one?
  • His feelings run VERY deep.  There are times when his anger, usually starting with something small, turns into something very…intense and focused.  I’m not talking a regular tantrum–we have those too.  We handle the two things very differently.  And after the intense anger episodes, he crashes and get SOOOO sad, as if he has said or done something shameful or unforgiveable.  He will sob and need a million hugs.  When we reflect on our feelings during or after these times, he denies he’s been angry…always identifies himself as sad.
  • Also, regarding his feelings, he seems to really identify with characters in his little movies that experience loss.  Seems every child’s movie out there has a theme of something happening to the mom or dad, whether the character is a child or a dog or something.  His little voice always pops up with a “what happened to his mommy?” or “she’s so sad her daddy is gone!” and he says it with such sadness in his voice.  I don’t know.

I do agree that pre-schoolers have a tendency to be clingy and emotional.  Their little emotional systems haven’t leveled out yet and they don’t know how to work their own wiring to keep things on an even keel.  I get that.  I also get that I might be more sensitive to issues of grief and loss as I carry on in my own role with the adoption.  But.  I can’t help but believe that he’s expressing things that are very real to him, very scary at times to him, and are over and above what the usual three year old is feeling.

So, tell me Adopto-mom friends…what’s been your experience with this?  AM I over the top here?  Do you have similar experiences?



Filed under adoptee, adoption, primal wound

11 responses to “Grief and Loss

  1. Very interesting post. It came up on my RSS feed on adoption. I wrote a post on a similar subject in my blog. I’m an adult adoptee. Rather than repeating myself, here’s the main post I wrote (it links to others I’ve written that relate).

  2. I’ve seen similar things in all of my kids–adopted and bio. Actually, my oldest bio son was the worst about separation. He actually made himself throw up a couple of times.

    That isn’t to say that I don’t think that adoption can lead to fears/sadness/whatever. I’m not a believer in the primal wound theory, though. I think that the struggles come from processing issues. For example, I’ve seen big differences between my son, who came home from the hospital with us, and my nephew who came home from Korea when he was 9 months old. The one who had lived a different life before coming home had reactions that wouldn’t be confused for “normal.” He was very angry from shortly after he came home. In contrast, my son is six and just starting to work through things because he is just starting to really comprehend that his birthmother chose not to raise him.

    As adoptive parents, I really think that it is important that we acknowledge that our children may have struggles related to their adoptions, but that we do our best to be “normal” parents raising “normal” children. Otherwise, we can create problems that don’t exist or ignore problems that do (I currently know someone who isn’t doing much to address the fact that her 2 1/2 year old isn’t talking at all because she thinks it might be an adoption issue–no question she would be getting intervention if this child weren’t adopted).

    It is a tough balance but, unless the behavior really seems different from normal behavior for his age, I wouldn’t assume it is adoption related. I would just keep reassuring him that you’ll come back and leave it at that.

  3. lcrusso218

    Hello, M.

    My POV is from that of a birthmother. I saw this post come across my google reader and thought it was going to be about the loss felt on my end re: adoption. It’s very interesting to hear about it in the way you’ve described. It makes me feel a bit sad and guilty to imagine the suffering an adopted child may experience, even unconsciously, though I guess I shouldn’t be surprised to hear that children need to work through many emotions as they come to terms with being “given up”

  4. I’ve adopted from the foster care system, and my 5 year old daughter has post-traumatic stress disorder with severe separation anxiety. She hates it when I go to the doctor because she’s afraid the doctor will say I’m sick and take me away. She injures herself when she’s really stressed so I often just take her along with me. This past Sunday, we had our first overnight sleep-over with Grandmommy and it went ok. She didn’t sleep until she got home, but she didn’t flip out either. Hopefully making more and more good memories will outweigh the bad ones.

  5. You know, MAM notices things too–very sad about the sadness in the movies (WHY must there always be parental loss/bad step parenting, etc??)but I don’t see it as more or less than any other preschooler I meet (and I meet ALOT). They are definitely learning the appopriate level of reaction to things. Lately she’s been over the top with “I love you mama” and spotaneously hugging/kissing and being the sweetest girl ever.

    But just from what you’ve posted about Woob, I think he may be more of a “feeler”. The girls are going to LOVE that about him. 🙂

    • M.

      Definitely a “feeler”. The girls might love it, but its gonna tear Momma’s heart out to see her baby’s heart get broken by those girls someday!!

  6. My daughter still keenly feels the loss of her foster mother (now five, she was adopted from China just before her first birthday). I know that she doesn’t have any true memories of her foster mother, but I also know that she senses something missing. At this point, she rarely speaks of her first family, but does often casually mention her Chinese foster family.

    She reacts quite strongly to other losses, whether it be in a book or movie or in real life (we experienced the deaths of two loved ones this past year). She also still struggles with some insecurity atypical of a child this age, despite over four years of attachment-style parenting.

    Do I think all adoptees are like my daughter? Gosh, no. But some are, including my daughter. Her latest? “You are my favorite momma of all my mommas.”

  7. The daughter that I gave up for adoption is now 10 years old and I have long been concerned that she suffers from adoption related issues. I have mentioned it to her parents several times but they have yet to act on it. Thank you for being concerned about Woob. I would definitely continue to be sensitive to how he acts just in case it is adoption related. You may not know until he can vocalize his feelings but even then, he may not understand what he’s feeling or why he’s feeling it.

  8. Kristin

    I was adopted and did feel some feeling of loss I guess. It was more a feeling of sadness due to the unknown and sometimes feeling unwanted. As per the movies hitting home, there is one Disney movie that hit home the most. Meet the Robinsons. Because of that movie, even though I have a great family and they were always there for me, I felt the need to find my Birth Mother. It wasn’t for anything other than solving the never ending questions of why and what is she like and what does she look like and what is my medical history. The situation turned out great for me and I not only have a new friend, I finally have the answers I’ve been searching for all of my life. Finally that bit of sadness is completely gone, not just repressed.

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