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The core issues of adoption may impact each person in the adoption triad on varying levels. They do not imply dysfunction or define a person. Yet they do indicate the potential ways adoption can influence someone’s perception of self, relationships, and how the world functions.

Let’s explore just one for now—loss.  Kaplan and Silverstein explain, “Adoption is created through loss.”  But more specifically, what is often impacting those touched by adoption is ambiguous loss. Pauline Boss, author of “Ambiguous Loss: Living with Unresolved Grief”, defines this as loss without closure or understanding which differs from more concrete loss such as the death of a loved one. 

Recognizing ambiguous loss means thinking outside the box. Loss of relationships, unmet expectations, and unfulfilled dreams are less obvious but still affect us. The challenge lies in the lack of closure and understanding which can lead to unhealthy coping skills. And although the loss may always be ambiguous, it can still be processed with acknowledgment and support. Here are a few ways to process or lessen the impact of loss in adoption.

  • Maintain relationships between birthfamily and adopted children. Open adoption is more common for the very purpose of minimizing many of the core issues, but especially loss, for everyone in the relationship.
  • Create a Lifebook or photo album. Adding the adoption story to the pictures makes a Lifebook more than a photo album. Make a copy for adopted child for safe keeping and a copy for the birthfamily, too. Make sure it is easily accessible.
  • Talk about the loss and honor the importance. Grief rituals exist across all cultures. They can be creative or simple like releasing notes to those lost attached to a balloon or lighting a candle and saying a prayer.
  • Gather with others. Those who have an intimate understanding can validate the loss in a deeper way. Support groups exist for this very reason and are often reported to be one of the most helpful resources.

For more information about the core issues or ambiguous loss, please connect with your local Bethany branch or our Post-Adoption Contact Center.