Managing Loss

Today one mum shares a story of loss…..

We adopted our son around a year ago, when he was 11 months old. During the introduction weeks he was the happy, smiley boy we had been promised, securely attached enough to his foster mum that he would happily leave her, knowing that he would be returned safely home to her and his foster brother.

It all changed when he started to realise that he was not going to return home.

Of course, because of his age, there was no way of explaining to him what was happening so we watched ‘our son’ suffer with chronic diarrhoea, become whingey and incredibly upset and it was, for us extraordinarily difficult that he did not want to be settled by us ‘his parents’, what he wanted was his mummy!

It was extremely hard because, we knew, logically, that what had happened to him, being adopted, was for the best, but as a mother I simply wanted to give him back to his foster mum because that was, at the time, what would stop him from being so sad. For a while, people kept telling us that he was so settled with us, because his smiles returned, but I still felt that inside he was suffering.

He became attached to me and would panic when I left him, which broke my heart; because he had been a little boy who was happy to share his time and laughter with others, but he didn’t trust that I would not do what his previous mum had done to him.

This is not, as it seems a sad story though, he settled happily with his new mum, dad, big sister and old dog and settled incredibly well into nursery, when I returned to work, part time. He is, in himself, a great advertisement for adoption as he is a funny, cheeky, almost 2 year old, who people instantly adore.

ManagingLossWe did recently, however, lose our beloved dog. She was aged 14 when we adopted our little boy, but he instantly loved the enormous bundle of fluff that she was. She was a little disturbed when we adopted him, as our 5 year old little girl was beyond crashing into her with her doll and pushchair by that time, but we taught him to treat her gently and with respect. We unfortunately had to have her put to sleep one night, and similarly as with the adoption, we could not explain to him, as we could our little girl.

At first he didn’t really notice, as she was often out for a walk or staying with grandparents. His behaviour then seemed to change. He became whiney and cross and his behaviour deteriorated. I was at the end of my tether, by the end of the week, as I am sure other people with toddlers can understand.

It was only then, however, that I sat back and realised that I had lived through this behaviour before. He was experiencing a painful loss and was again lashing out, through his inability to express and comprehend his grief.

I don’t really know whether he experiences loss in a more dramatic way, due to his memories of his first loss – the adoption (he was taken away from his birth parents immediately). I am hoping that he will not experience any more losses for a while now, although we are moving house this week, which I fear will unsettle him too. Hopefully as he gets older, he will be able to discuss and express his grief and we can support him more easily through any difficult situation. I wanted to share with others that, whilst I am incredibly glad I adopted my son, how difficult watching him suffer was. Other people felt that it would be easy adopting a baby as babies don’t understand what is going on around them, but it was for precisely that reason that it was hard.

5 thoughts on “Managing Loss

  1. Jules

    You are incredible for understanding what your son is going through. I am an adoptee from the 80s I have always struggled with loss and change. I don’t think my parents understood my behaviour. I was with them from 3 months old, but they have described the first few weeks they had with me as being pretty traumatic, I cried non-stop. I’m sure it was hard, but it felt like a burdens hearing that. I found this post really reassuring to read. Thank you.

  2. soo

    Hi there. I was adopted as a baby and we often moved house and we had dogs and cats. I would and still do get attached alot. I think I am more aware of my need to feel attached…but my parents showed me that family are the ones who love you and I’ve learnt that despite the saying you can choose your friends you can’t choose your family….I was chosen. I’ve always known I was adopted. I feel fortunate and blessed. Soo

  3. Rachel

    Thanks for your comments! They are slightly worrying though as i thought it was something that would gradually fade! We spend time now with his amazing foster carer and he doesn’t realise who she is any more. I guess from what you are saying that these experiences shaped you for life! Yikes! But thanks as now i know i may always have to be aware of this to be able to parent him! X

  4. Lynda King

    Please don’t under estimate the initial removal from birth mother also. it will have had an effect. It concerns me that no one seems to have prepared you for this. Some reading might help…something like Parenting the Child who hurts by Caroline Archer. There is lots of other stuff too.

    1. rachel

      We were prepared for the initial reaction – although his foster mum thinks that he suffered more as he was so close to his foster brother, who was very similar in age. Effectively they were like twins.

      I think that i thought that once a child had consciously forgotten that connection and effectively became one of your family, that they would react as any child would. My daughter (not adopted) was securely attached and so i have been surprised at the difference between them. Now i realise, thanks to the previous comments that this is something that may stay with him forever. He does however, return to normal quicker, every time there is a change so i am sure we can manage him through his future challenges!


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