I watched a family dealing with grief this weekend; it reminded me again of how important it is for me as an Intentional Parent to never forget the impact that grief and loss had and still has on my adopted children.
It's a part of who they are. The loss of their biological family has impacted them at their core. The reality is that it doesn’t stop them too much anymore, but it used to. As I look ahead, I think it will come into play when we deal with big life changing events like marriage and children.
What does grief look like in a child? I think too many times we miss it!
We expect it to look a certain way and when we don’t see that specific picture we think it isn’t an issue. Unfortunately, grief is often misinterpreted as misbehavior, defiance, and just not caring.
Children only have a very short list of behaviors they can use to express their emotions. These behaviors will be used to express a variety of emotions and we as their parents have to know that this includes the sadness and loss they inevitably feel from losing those first attachment figures.
It's up to us to know and to understand. It's up to us as Intentional Adoptive & Foster Parents to meet them where they are emotionally!
To believe them and honor those times when they express emotion about the losses in their life.
To "know" when ugly behavior is pain not defiance.
It is scary and uncomfortable to see our children hurt that way, but allowing them to bring it to us is truly being the safety net they need. Just listen. Comfort them. Tell them you are sorry they have to have this hurt.
I hurt for my daughters.
I'm sad for all the loss they suffered at such young ages. I see them deal with it, each in their own way. We've always talked about it as openly as possible. Sometimes they grieved with anger, sometimes with absolute heart-wrenching sadness and sometimes they kept it in the quiet places of their minds, just figuring out how to go forward.
These losses are a part of their story. Their identity. The ramifications of them will impact how they make choices in life, how they love, and how they live - to be sure. But, my hope is that they are able to grieve these losses so that they are able to transform their lives into whatever they choose for themselves!
Meet your adopted or foster child right where he's at and sometimes that means sadness out of nowhere, hard behaviors during family events, and avoiding feelings altogether.
Knowing that that is what grief looks like on your child and being intentional creates a whole new opportunity for YOU to be their person...the one who gets them completely. The one who will finally assure them that they are worthy of love.
P.S. If you're looking to surround yourself with tools and support, join me in the Intentional Parent Coaching Group for Adoptive & Foster Parents.