Monday, April 21, 2008

When Should We Grieve?

After much discussion, usually most people will acknowledge that adoption, of necessity, involves loss. A child loses his or her first family. Adoption cannot happen unless that loss happens. So the adoptee, very early in life, loses something exceedingly important.

But even when people acknowledge this loss, they often still think the adoptee needs to get over it. It happened (in the case of adult adoptees) many years ago. It is time, so they seem to think, to move on and quit thinking about it.

But that misses an essential point. If adoption involves loss, and it happened when we were too young to grieve that loss properly, when were supposed to have gotten over the loss? When should we grieve? When we suffered the loss, we were, in most cases, too young to understand what has happened and thus too young to grieve.

For many adoptees, especially those adopted during the closed-adoption heyday of the Baby-Scoop Era, we were not encouraged to grieve during our childhoods. Now we're adults and we're expected to be over it. But when were we going to have a chance to deal with that loss?

It is simply disheartening to have the grief of adoptees minimized and denied. Some would rather believe that we have other problems and need to quit blaming adoption for them. But that ignores the real issue. I'm not blaming adoption for my loss. My adoption is predicated on that loss. And loss must be grieved in order to integrate it into the psyche.

When I see this refusal to acknowledge the loss inherent in adoption, and the refusal to respect the grieving process of adoptees in reaction to this loss, I worry about future adoptees. If those who are so supportive of adoption today cannot recognize the dark-side of adoption, inherent in the process, then how will today's adoptees fare?

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