Today’s topic is a challenging one, not only for adoptees, but also for adoptive parents. It is extremely hard to recognize someone else’s pain when we have not looked at our own. If we have a tendency to shut down our own hurts, for whatever reason, we will probably be struggling with sitting together with our adopted child and their pain. We may want to repress it, ignore it, minimize it or fix it.
However, the deep grief that adopted children and teenagers often feel regarding the loss of their birth family cannot be fixed quickly. It is a long process and a whole journey. And as much as we would want to, we cannot make their pain go away with a magic wand, nor can we protect them from feeling the pain that comes with losing their first family.
What adoptive parents can do, though, is be aware, acknowledge and recognize their adopted children’s emotions. They can be with their adopted child, be emotionally attuned, be willing to listen with an open heart, and be ready to comfort and console them when needed.
Most importantly, adopted children need to trust that their adoptive parents can regulate their own emotions when the topic of adoption and birth family is brought up. If they sense that their adoptive parents get triggered, uncomfortable, angry or sad, they may stop asking questions or talking about their feelings concerning their adoption in order not to upset their adoptive parents. In other words, they may choose to sacrifice their own needs and feelings in order to make their parents happy. They may also start feeling guilt or shame about “hurting” their adoptive parents by talking about their emotions about adoption. This eventually becomes a cocktail of complex emotions and beliefs, which may cause the adopted child to feel even more pain than she is already feeling.
By being able to support your adopted child deal with her grief, you are implicitly letting them know that they are unconditionally loved and accepted, no matter what they wish to talk about and no matter how they feel. What a beautiful message for your child!
Last but not least, remember that feeling sad about losing or missing their birth parents does not mean that they don’t love you! Their heart may still be small in size (depending on their age), but I promise that it holds space for loving more than one or two people. It is important to always remember this!
Keep up the good work! See you next month!