How Adoptees and Foster Kids Can Grieve Loss
Loss? My child hasn’t experienced loss.
This is what many adoptive and foster parent want to believe.
However, it is a reality of adoptive family living. Connie Dawson, Ph.D, an adoptee, author and speaker, and attachment specialist says, “Understanding how grief and loss affects adoptive relationships is an inoculation geared to prevent later problems.”
It’s one thing to understand that your child has experienced loss, but it’s another thing to know how to help him grieve it successfully.
Remember that it is appropriate for children, ages nine and upward. In reality, it can be used by anyone who has suffered great loss.
Constructing the Grief Box
- Invite child to do an adoption project with you. (Expect resistance! Hint: Explain that it will involve a treasure hunt.)
- Ask child to make a “sad list.” (Anything from past, present, or future that makes him sad).
- Go shopping and buy a box together. (TJ Maxx has a great and inexpensive selection. It should be big enough to hold several items.)
- Select Items at Dollar Store that remind him of each loss. (Example: one teen chose a small piece of rope. She was in an orphanage overseas and was tied to her bed daily because she was one of the “wiggly ones).
- Put purchased items in box and puts on lid.
- Child takes lid off box. Explain the need to grieve–to feel the sad and talk about it. (Perhaps, go back to the original loss of the first family and validate the profound wound. Tell child that there is nothing wrong with feeling sad…it is your body’s way of feeling really great. Possibly share that it is easier to get mad than sad, and that when we deal with the sad, there won’t be nearly as many meltdowns. Encourage the use of these four words: SAD, MAD, GLAD, SCARED.
- Pour out heart. Give permission for saying anything that comes to mind! Naughty, hateful words are okay. Parent validates: “If I were you, I would feel exactly the same way.)
- Forgive people who have hurt you. (Tell child that before he forgives, it’s like he’s carrying the person(s) that hurt him on his back. They are roped to him. When he forgives, he sets himself free…credit Beth Moore)
- Replace each item with thankfulness. (We can be thankful, not necessarily for the wounds, but because of the facts that God is good and He will bring goodness and growth out of the pain).
- Replace lid.
- Hold box up and give to God (This is an act of surrendering all of you to Jesus, or your higher power).
- Put box on shelf. (Child can learn that whenever a new hurt comes along, you and he can take the box down again and put a new item in it from the Dollar Store). Thus, grief is dealt with in an ongoing way. The child isn’t repressing anymore.
People often ask me if I get depressed when re-opening my grief box, I say absolutely not! I am reminded of how God can and will change grief into a gift. We only have to open our hearts.
If you’d like to see my grief box presentation, here’s the link: https://youtu.be/1nZCURhCDHU