Thursday, January 12, 2012

Let's talk about grief

I am going to be doing a few posts on post adoption, adjustments, how you can ease things, etc.  I'll talk honestly about where are kids are, what they did, how they reacted to each other etc.  These are going to brutally raw, honest posts.  You don't have to listen if you don't want to.  I want to show people that yes, adoption sometimes can be very, very hard.  BUT, it can also take wonderful turns and progress can be simply staggering.  You seriously won't believe my kids in the next few posts and the photos.  But, more on that.  For now, Let's talk about grief.  Every single child leaving an orphanage must go through it. I don't care what people say. I am a very, very firm believer in this.  How can they not go through it?

Think about it for a moment.  A child is leaving w/ strangers.  Yes, you are still a stranger to them.  I don't care if they called you mom and dad the first day.  You are still a stranger to them as you are new.  They may have been told who you are but they don't grasp the concept yet.  This is uncharted waters for them.  They are about to suffer the greatest loss of their lives and they must, must grieve for that loss.  What do I mean by that.  Glad you asked.  Again, keep in mind, these are my opinions, based on my kids and my experiences over the last twelve years.  I am not an expert whatsoever.  I have learned from others along the way as well as from my own experiences.  So, here goes nothing.

When kids leave an orphanage, the majority of the time, it is the only life they have ever known.  They have 'family' there.  Yes, it is their family in their eyes.  My kids even called other kids brothers and sisters.  Imagine leaving your family behind today and hopping on a plane across the world.  No one speaks your language.  No one uses your name any more.  the foods are different.  The smells are different and even the sounds are different.  It is enough to rock anyone's world upside down.  You want to express your feelings but you can not.  For no one will understand you.  You become angry.  You start expressing your anger to these 'strangers.'  I fully believe the majority of kids leaving an orphanage go through grief. 

There are five stages of grief.  DABDA.  Yeh, I remember something from school.  LOL.  Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  Now, not saying all children from orphanages go through all 5 stages, but I can almost bet they'll go through at least a bit.  You've torn them away from everything in their eyes that they hold dear.  It is the only life they've known.  Doesn't matter if it was a good or bad orphanage.  It was an orphanage and it was their life.  You took it from them.  How's that for being honest?  Sorry, I think it is important for people to hear.  So many go into this from a standpoint of "rescuing" a child.  I know there is controversy in the use of that word.  I understand that & it is an entirely different post.  Whether you believe you are rescuing them or not, you must understand you have destroyed their world they hold dear.  They have lost their culture, their friends/ family, their foods, their familiar surroundings, their routine, their name most times, and many other things.  It is a tremendous, tremendous loss.  I don't care what you call it or how you slice it.  It is indeed a loss and these children must grieve in order to move forward.

Now, I have had all kinds of grievers in this bunch.  Some grieved right away.   Others took months.  Some were angry grievers.  Some, depressed.  Some would literally sob in our arms for a few hours at a time.  Irina did this one night.  It hit her hard.  She climbed in Warren's lap.  She was 6yo at the time.  Started to sob and he held here there for 2.5 hours straight.  Sobbing.  All you could do is comfort her.  Remember, she was our first kiddo.  We had no idea what was going on.  After that, she was a totally new child.  Life was breathed back in that girl.  Yana was an angry griever.  Very angry.  She was 8.5 when she came home.  My mistake was not taking her "life" from her.  She would get mad, go to her Russian icons/ pictures.  She needed to know that WE were the ones there to comfort her now and assure her safety.  We took those things away from her..the icons, pictures, etc.  Put them away.  She was forced to come to us and that was her turning point here.  Summer was a depressed griever.  She did most her grieving in Bulgaria.  Alyona was more all over the map between angry and depressed in her grief.  Reni is more of an inward griever.  At times, I see glimpses that she still is going through a little of it. Not much but a little.

Now, I think Logan took the cake and took DABDA to heart.  Much denial in the beginning.  When we were in Sofia, he decided he would NEVER learn English.  Never.  Then the anger came on.  And boy did it ever come on.  He took a lot out on his sister.  In the apartment, we tried to keep them separated for the most part.  I wouldn't let him go near her.  Try doing that in an apartment or on the street.  I know most on here have read some, not all, of the things he did while in Sofia w/ us.  I can not tell you how that last day did not come quick enough.  It was hard to live through.  Having 2 RADishes prior to this I think helped prepare us for all his anger.  Then came bargaining.  He did quite a bit of that.  If I'm good, can I do such and such.  Then comes the depression.  This pretty much hit once home.  It was an eye opener that all was gone.  He had a whole other life to start living.  He stayed in the sad state for a  bit of time.  Then now, we are just now entering acceptance.  He has realized he's not going back.  He is here to stay, new family, new country, new foods, new name, new life. 

All my children grieved in a different way and in their own time.  That is the trick, to let them do it at their own pace.  Do not rush grief.  Yes, it's hard to see  your child like that but it is normal in my opinion.  They have lost a great deal.  Once they are ready to rebuild though, you see a change in that personality. 

I know many will not agree w/ what I said and that is okay.  There are quite varying opinions on this subject.  I'm just saying it from my viewpoint and what I've personally experienced.  I know everyone's journey on this is different.  Even Alyona who was extremely malnourished when we brought her home still had to grieve her loss.  I have a few kids that came from not so great places.  You'd think they'd want to get away & not grieve a loss.  Yet, all of them did.  I know some of this is choppy as I've written it in pieces.  I have heard of others discuss this and just wanted to put my two cents worth in that probably is worth less than that.  I feel for new folks adopting, it is a part that many agencies seem to fail to recognize that the kids might experience grief.  And to discuss it w/ future parents.  It helps to know that it can happen and it is normal.  I think it's normal. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post. Rex is just now, at six months home, going through something we think is grief. There are moments now from time to time where his face suddenly becomes utterly sad (even if he had been happy a minute ago) and real tears stream down his face. We've seen some angry rage tears, but this is pure sadness. He looks pitiful when it happens. All we can do is hold and comfort him and we talk to him about it because I think he understands much of what we say even though he himself cannot speak words to us in response.