Helping Adoptees and Foster Kids Identify and Describe Hidden Loss

The problem of hidden losses is exposed in this post with the answer of parental understanding and intervention to help the child grieve.

How do you react when your adopted or foster child peels wallpaper off, makes holes in the drywall, is verbally and physically rebellious, and then tears up his room while he collapsing in a pool of tears?

First, you take a breath, right?

As an adopted person, I believe your child is reacting to a deep sense of loss. It’s been triggered and his brain is taking him down the familiar path of rage or depression.

As a parent, I trust that you’re informed and know the latest research. You know about the highways in the brain that were formed in trauma. You may even know what triggers that awful pain.

How we wish we could plow over those highways, right? We can’t do that, but we can build bridges across them that will enable your child to discover new choices.

Here are thoughts that invite bridge building. They are drawn from adopted adult support groups over the years.

Identify Loss with Facts


An adoptee’s wounds are hardly ever talked about.  Dr. David M. Brodzinsky and Dr. Marshall D. Schecter, a psychologist and psychiatrist specializing in adoption, say in their insightful book Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self, that loss for the adoptee is “unlike other losses we have come to expect in a lifetime, such as death and divorce. Adoption is more pervasive, less socially recognized, and more profound.”

Parents, please don’t hide this truth from us. Don’t be afraid to tell us.

Fact: Adoption is more pervasive, less socially recognized, and more profound.

Validate loss, and we’ll know we’re not nuts. By the way,  many adoptees believe they are totally weird. When I wrote 20 Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make, I interviewed nearly 100 adoptees, from age 7 to 70. After we were done, they all expressed their initial fear of revealing how they felt inside because they thought they were weird.

That is an adoptee mindset…and because we don’t talk to one another and learn that we have common struggles, and because we don’t talk to you or counselors, you can assume that is our shame-based mindset.

The result of the group sharing was that all realized that they were not alone.

And, don’t let adoption or foster care loss be the proverbial pink elephant in your living room. Everyone knows the elephant is there. He’s stinky, noisy, and troublesome, but no one talks about him.

Nine-year-old Jamie illustrated adoptee loss in a conversation with his adoptive mom after an acting-out episode. It was during a time period when he was asking about finding his birth mother someday. When his adoptive mom asked him what was the matter, he said, “I don’t know.  All I know is that something inside doesn’t feel right.”

Words and phrases that will help identification:

  • “You’ve been through a lot in your life.”
  • “You’ve come from a very hard place.”
  • “You lost a lot when before you were adopted.”

Describe Loss with “Adoptee-Friendly” Words

So, how can you help the adopted or foster child, teen, or adult identify and verbalize the profound wound they’ve experienced?

Adult adoptees have expressed it in the following ways. You might want to use these as “ice-breakers” with your child, teen, adult, or client:

  • “It’s a vague feeling inside that something is wrong.”
  • “It feels like a part of me is missing.”
  • “It’s an intangible battle between heart and soul.”
  • “I have spent my whole life roaming and never felt stable.”
  • “I search for answers I am never sure I can find.”
  • “I look at life through a lens of rejection, expecting it at every turn.”

That’s it, parents. Remember that beneath our masks is lots of shame (I am weird) and fear (maybe if they find out how bad I’m hurting, they’ll reject me.)






How Can I Celebrate Valentines Day With A Broken Heart?

This post deals with broken hearts on Valentines Day that don't feel they can celebrate. The answer for the broken hearted comes from a very unexpected place...from the Greatest Lover.

Everywhere you look on social media, you’ll see lovers, flowers, and chocolate…in celebration of love.

But what if you don’t feel loved this year for Valentine’s Day? What if your significant other dumped you? What if you’re suffering from a chronic disease and feel marginalized? What if your expectations of what others would do for you today fall on ears that are “absent?” What if your “date” with your birth father got cancelled, or he didn’t show up?

There still is a way…a greater way…that you can survive this day.

Let me introduce you to the greatest Lover of all times.

It’s based on John 3:16: “For God so love the world that He gave His one and only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”

Here is why He is the greatest:

God (the Greatest Lover)

So loved (the greatest degree)

the world (the greatest company)

that He gave (the greatest act)

His only Begotten Son (the Greatest Gift)

that whosoever (the greatest opportunity)

believes (the greatest simplicity)

in Him (the greatest attraction)

should not perish (the greatest promise)

but (the greatest difference)

have (the greatest certainty.

everlasting life (the greatest possession).


Credit: THE GOSPEL OF JOHN,  VOL. I, by James Montgomery Boice)

Five Social Media Landmines for Searching Adoptees and Foster Kids

This is photo of adopted woman searching for birth family on social media. She's not aware of how she may be hurt. This post provides five landmines for her to be aware of to keep herself safe.


I believe all adoptees are searching for lost relatives, even if subconsciously.

With the growth of social media it is commonplace to find a lost relative. Facebook was my means of finding my birth brother, Jon.

Connections may occur, creating an emotional high, But often there are landmines for which no one is prepared.

Here are five landmines for adoptees searching for lost loved ones:

  1. Euphoric reactions.Adoption experts say that the need for adoptees to have connection is like a starving man looking for food. Many of us of been looking for a birth relative for a lifetime, And once that connection is made, euphoria sets in.This is a time to harness emotions.This surely is a blood relative, but we have no history or relationship yet.
  2. Impulsive decisions. Yes it has taken a lifetime. Be patient.
  3. Headed for your birth relatives home.But don’t rush into it! It is wise to take things slowly, get to know the person through photos, phone calls, and Skype.
  4. Unrealistic expectations.Most of us adoptees are famous for having fantasies about  birth relatives.We need to leave behind the fantasy that our  birth mother is a queen living in a castle. Or, that the birth father is a night coming to the rescue on a white horse.
  5. Overconfidence.We may consider ourselves emotionally healthy.Yet meeting members for the first time usually sends us back to the time of separation…the original separation.
  6. Intensity and lack of self-care.Because we have looked for a lifetime, we are on a mission to get that hole in our heart filled with this missing person.We would do anything for this person…to the extent of not taking good care of ourselves.

And some good questions we need to ask ourselves is

  • Do I really want to share my personal details with the whole world on Facebook?
  • Am I aware that people can present themselves anyway they decide on social media and that it is possible to be deceived?

Am I approaching this search like I would literal search? Is there an intermediary involved so birthmothers are shocked? Have letters of intent been sent to family that we want nothing just to meet  them?Wait for replies even though you are anxious to hear back.