Acknowledging and Working Through Loss

By August 12, 2021 Parenting

Darcy, Post Adopt Coordinator, shares tips on working through loss with your adoptive child:

Acknowledging and Working Through Loss

Adoption is a beautiful blessing, but with this blessing comes a tremendous amount of loss.  Youth experience loss of birth family, culture and first home environment.  Loss follows youth throughout their life, and a youth may be triggered by loss through various tasks, senses, and memories.  Youth may need to readdress their losses at different developmental milestones throughout their life.  It’s important to help youth acknowledge and grieve their losses, so they can begin to heal.  Below is a list of a few ways you as a parent can assist and support your youth with the losses in their life:

  • Give your child permission to grieve the loss of his birth family without guilt.
    • Suggest times and places where your child is welcome to express their grief, and ways in which they can grieve.
    • Talking, journaling, drawing, or venting feelings through exercise are just a few options.
  • Create a “loss box.”
    • The youth can put items in the box that represent the different losses they have
    • By creating this loss box and putting items in it, it allows the youth to create and partake in a ritual that acknowledges their loss.
    • The youth will have a tactile object that allows them to revisit their losses in the future when they wish to do so
  • Redefine what creates a family.
    • Families may continue to change over time
      • Families may grow larger, and in certain circumstances, the members of our family may leave and our family may become smaller
    • Continue to have conversations about what family is, what it means, as your child may need to address this throughout various stages, and as the family dynamics may change
    • Be open to what your child has to say, as the child may have a great, broader view of what family is
  • Include birth parents/birth family members in pictorial representations of the adoptive family tree.
    • One option would be to depict an orchard where trees grow side by side.
    • The birth family, former foster families, or other significant people in the child’s life can be other trees in the same family orchard.
  • Keep your expectations reasonable.
    • A child’s need to grieve over their losses will not be fully cured, fixed, or resolved in any predetermined time frame, if ever.
    • Let your child know that feelings related to these losses will come and go at different times in her life.
      • Help your child find a safe person to whom they can express the feelings associated with their loss (this may be a therapist, a teacher, a coach).
    • Model normal, healthy responses to loss.
      • If you or your partner suffers a loss, share your feelings openly.
      • Let your children see you mourn, so they can learn how you express sadness and anger about loss.
      • For male children, seeing an adult man cry can be especially instructive.

This blog post was written by Post Adopt Coordinator, Darcy Solem, LBSW

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