Coping with Loss

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On Sunday morning, when I woke up I was greeted with a message that told me my best friend's mother had passed. Over the past several months, she has battled cancer, and we knew that she was in the last stretch of life these past few weeks.

It's been an odd, humbling experience to watch someone that I am so close to go through the process of grieving and losing a loved one. Unlike myself, my best friend is incredibly religious, and attributes much of her strength during this ordeal to that faith, as well as her supportive family. I've struggled to know how to support her, or what exactly to say because it's been difficult for me to understand the way in which she is grieving this significant loss.

I know personally that we all grieve differently. We cycle through the stages with no exact rhyme or reason. Sometimes, loss isn't something that appears to impact us in the moment, sometimes it strikes our hearts deep and cold. I know that we all process trauma differently, and yet, this week, as I've watched my best friend, so stoic and graceful, I wondered how she could be as such. I was baffled by the lack of emotion, being someone who cries at commercials. I was puzzled at her responses to me, and to others. Admittedly, and I am sad to say, I may have been judging her and how she was processing this experience.

During the later hours of Sunday night, as the rain was falling softly outside our windows, I was reminded of the night my husband and I drove to his family home after his grandfather had passed. Our conversation had turned, of course, to loss and how you cope. He was nervous about how everyone would react, how he was expected to react, and I softly told him that there was no right or wrong way to deal with loss, that in a room of ten people, they would each be reacting differently.

This is true with adoption. Whether we are a birthmother, or adoptee, we will learn to cope with the loss we have both felt in astronomically different ways. Sure, there may be some similarities, but the truth is, our experiences, combined with our own DNA is going to structure the way we process and reverberate that loss. It's important, especially for adoptive parents, to understand that the grieving process of each of these counterparts is not personal. It's not a slight to adoption either; it's a factor that plays into the dynamic of adoption. In this scenario, adoption, there is always a loss. Even for the birthmother who willingly signed her parental rights, or the adoptee who states that he's happy with the life that was given to him, there is at the depth of both of these people, an innate loss that binds us together.

When you find yourself struggling to understand how someone copes the way they do, or the way their body reacts to trauma, take a step back, and attempt to recognize that trauma is not always visible. Sometimes grief occurs in places where it shouldn't normally, or isn't accepted as a societal norm That doesn't make it wrong. Our individual grief, coping mechanisms, and emotional processing is such a necessary part of the adoption dynamic. We have to be willing to embrace the reactions of the other players on this stage, and be willing to accept that we may not comprehend where their grief, or lack of comes from.

Ten years, this May, I will be a decade into my adoption. My grief has at times been like soft tide, coming in and out peacefully, allowing me to be content, and there have been moments where I have been drowning in the waters of a tsunami. My goal was never to be afraid to allow those tears to come when they needed to, or to write something that would be hard for someone to hear. My ultimate goal, is to keep on coping, and grieving the best way I know how. Sometimes, that means I'm flailing in the wind, knocked over or falling apart for a moment or two. I always get back up, because that's human nature in the midst of troubling times.

This weekend, the worst thing I did was create an expectation of how my best friend should be coping with the loss of her mother, and I was terribly wrong for it. She is doing what she needs to do, and I should be standing in the wings, letting her dance her dance of grief, until she calls on me to support her. Even if she doesn't, she should know, and we should all know, that there is no need to judge one another for the loss that comes from challenging life situations.

And, for some of us, adoption is a challenging life situation.

Credits: Danielle Barsley-Cervo

Visitor Comments (1)
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mary - 3 years ago
0 0 0
I too, gave up a child for adoption. Even though we have been reunited 30 some years later, I still feel that loss. What an emotional time. No one will understand unless they are forced to go through it. Birthdays were awful. You felt like your heart and sould were being ripped out.No one understands what some woman go through everytime they give birth to another child. While you are loving them with all of your being, you feel unworthy,guilty for loving them and trying to raise them. I have never felt like I deserve happiness or the love of my other children.I thought finding my daughter wuld help. In some ways it has, but now I feel terrible that I couldn't give my other children what my heart wanted to give. Especially now that I know she had a WONDERFUL life, whick I will be eternally grateful for.Grief comes in many forms.Loss is always hard.I felt I was expected to act one way, while feeling another way. It was not out of sight out of mind for me. I am now greaving for my dad. #1

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