From the Family Preservation Blog
Excerpt from Adoption Reunion: Ecstasy or Agony? © Evelyn Robinson, 2009
Re-grief therapy and adoption
The process of re-grief therapy involves reworking, at a later time, a loss which had not been satisfactorily resolved. It has two goals; to understand why mourning was not completed in the past (operating on an intellectual level) and to help those affected to experience their grieving emotions in the present (operating on an emotional level). During the course of re-grief therapy people’s ‘frozen emotions are stimulated and reawakened’. As with regular grief therapy, the outcome of re-grief therapy is an increase in self-esteem and a decrease in guilt, as well as an increase in positive feelings about the lost person (Raphael, 1983, pp385-6).
I have chosen to apply re-grief therapy to reworking an adoption loss. In the case of adoption loss, I believe that, in order to understand the reasons why the mourning was not completed, it is important to understand first of all how and why the loss occurred. An informed exploration of the circumstances leading to the separation often results in the griever having more positive feelings about their adoption experience.
Exploring these issues can be instrumental in bringing the pain and grief to the surface and it can then be experienced. Pain is not necessarily a negative outcome and preventing people from experiencing pain is not always in their best interests. Pain is not always avoidable and it is sometimes necessary in order to produce something new. Childbirth, for example, is rarely accomplished without pain.
When people can understand the basis of their pain, they are in a better position to manage it. Patients would not feel confidence in a doctor, for example, who wrote a prescription for pain relief medication rather than first of all seeking the cause of the pain. Pain is a message that there is an area that needs attention. Experiencing the pain created by adoption separation can, in fact, be a way of creating a renewed sense of self.
Anger is a common response to a loss and frequently occurs with regard to adoption loss. Many people are angry that an adoption took place, but this does not necessarily mean that they are angry with any particular person. Re-grief therapy may cause suppressed anger to come to the surface. Anger can be destructive if it results in vindictiveness and cruel accusations. Anger can, however, be a productive and helpful emotion when it is understood and managed. It may be appropriate to talk to those involved in the adoption about one’s anger so that there is openness and honesty in those relationships. Telling someone about your anger is very different from expressing your anger towards that person.
Because adoption separation is a profound experience and because the emotions attached to it have often been buried for many years, re-grief therapy can itself be an emotionally traumatic process. It is wise therefore, to prepare oneself for such an undertaking and to remember that no matter how difficult it may seem, this process can lead to a personal recovery from the trauma of adoption separation. It takes courage to begin this process but the rewards can be great.