Attachment, bonding, transition, grieving… so many terms and stages. Just when we think we’re past one phase, we enter another. Though we’ve read about it, until we’ve been slapped in the face with full-on grief, we have no idea what it looks like. And it will look different for each child!
Understand, I’m not an expert. I’m a mom. I spend more time raising my children than reading about how to raise them, and I’m still learning, after 21 years of parenting! There are tons of resources at our fingertips now, thanks to technology, but the search can be overwhelming, so when I find something that is applicable to us, I focus on it. I also am thankful for others walking the same journey who are willing to pass resources along. We may not always be able to offer advice to one another, but we can certainly relate and share our own experiences.
When I think of the expression of grief, I think more of mourning, which is an outward expression of loss such as weeping; whereas grieving is to experience deep mental suffering, often alone and in silence. I found it very helpful to understand the difference between the two, especially since our son was showing no obvious signs of mourning, but his behavior was changing.
There are a lot of authoritative writings on the subject, but I found this link most helpful for us regarding the stages of grief:
1) Shock and numbness
2) Yearning and searching
3) Disorientation and disorganization
4) Reorganization and resolution
Because this is the pattern our child followed, I refer back to this site, as well as the hyperlinks within it that lead to a lot of helpful information. It’s amazing what a little knowledge and a lot of prayer can do! Now that we fully understand where we are, we can respond appropriately.
And that leads to the next topic ~ expectations. Whether we realize it or not, we have expectations for our newly adopted children. Perhaps I expected my 14 year old to act his age. Maybe I expected him to understand that he would have struggled without a family in his birth country. Maybe, just maybe, I thought he would be somewhat grateful (did I say that????) for two parents and seven siblings who have turned their world as they know it upside down to meet his needs.
Though I never vocalized these ideas, they are likely among the many subconscious expectations I had placed upon my child. To get a fresh perspective on expectations, please see this site for short video clips by Dr. Karyn Purvis. Co-author of The Connected Child. These clips, regarding parenting children from the hard places, are amazing and perfect for busy parents because they are short, to the point and full of insight.
Another thing we’ve found helpful is starting a teen life book. We’ve chosen the one by Beth O’Malley, titled For When I’m Famous. It has been great for connecting with our child and memorializing his past, as well as dreaming for his future.
Though we’ve been attending worship services, youth group, having family devos and praying with our child, even since we were in China, he cannot fully understand the reason for this because of the language barrier. A friend recently shared a site that has been an answer to prayer. It’s the video Story of Jesus in every language, told by children! We’ve watched it in Mandarin and English, and it has spurred many questions and led to meaningful conversations.
We have sought and followed the advice of professionals who recommended doing such tests as hearing, allergy, blood work, a non-verbal IQ, and have scheduled our post-adoption assessment with a reputable international adoption team. We also cherish the friendship of families similar to ours and want to thank them for their unending prayers and for providing some of the links above, as well as other valuable resources!
While our son appears to be in the final stage of grieving and is doing so much better, perhaps the biggest change has been in us, his parents. We have recognized our unrealistic expectations, causing us to take a new approach to his unpredictable behavior, allowing him to re-live the childhood he never had and learning to love him out of the hard places.