Monday, October 10, 2011

Being a Loss Expert

Fair warning, this is a heavy post. Feel free to skip, if you're looking for jokes. That will be next week.

This past week's class was about loss and grief. It was a somber class, but focused mostly on how our own losses - and the way we have handled them - can actually be strengths when considering child placements. Basically, if you've lived through loss, you're a better fit for a kid who has experienced loss. You can support them better than someone who hasn't experienced one. Conversationally, if you haven't dealt with a loss, or are still struggling with a loss, it can be a need of yours, and can indicate that you wouldn't be a good fit in certain situations. People shared their losses in the class, and it was hard, but also very uplifting.

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For the purposes of education, I'll give a couple of examples of things people in the class shared.

Strength - one person in the class was adopted, her birth mother was a teen mother. She also became a teen mother, and gave her first child up for adoption. She has since raised her other children (without teen pregnancies - cycle broken!), foster children, reconnected with her birth daughter, and is now looking to foster teen moms to give them the skills that they have not received about parenting. I mean wow. This woman has experience as an adopted child, a birth parent, and a resource parent. By the way, she's around 35 years old, open, honest, funny, has an easy comfortable relationship with her husband, and is potentially my new idol. Say it with me - resiliency! If you were an adopted kid, wouldn't you want this lady in your corner?

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Need - After this woman shared, another woman spoke up, and said that she would really struggle with working with teen moms, because she is still dealing with the fact that she's infertile. She felt like she could see herself feeling bitter that she is so ready to have her own children, but these teen moms - who may not be as prepared - have no problem with pregnancies. This was possibly the best comment of the night, because it was so open, and honest. It's a fair point, and gave me a new perspective.

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So, for our homework, we need to put together a list of our own situational losses (unexpected, unprepared for - death of family member at a young age, divorce, job loss, pet loss, adoption - anything that causes you to grieve). Then we need to apply our own sets of strengths and needs for certain tasks of foster and adoptive parents. Some examples:

- I feel comfortable about "shared parenting" with birth parents - if not in person, then at least through helping the child have a positive self-concept and feel positive about self-identity and roots. (we have strong strengths and strong needs for this one)

- I understand if I choose foster care, I have an obligation to help the child return to their birth family (we're mostly needs on this one)

The final important concept that we covered was developmental grieving. It's the concept that there are things you cannot grieve about until you get there (like a woman who lost their mother when she was 8 cannot grieve the fact that Mom will not be at her wedding until her actual wedding day) or the re-opening of wounds due to situations, frequently coming during holidays, birthdays, and generally 'happy' occassions. Imagine you're a kid, and it's Christmas in a new home. Your family used to watch White Christmas together, but your new family doesn't. Wouldn't you feel sad that the tradition had died? Wouldn't you miss your old stocking? All of those feelings are valid, but certainly not what people who are excited about Christmas are expecting. Sometimes, you need to be aware that these feelings are out there.

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Fascinating class, and I walked away feeling like there was a lot to absorb - so thanks for reading! By writing it out, I feel like I can understand it better.

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