How the Grieving Process Applies to Adoption

My perspective on what the adoptee's grieving process looks like.

Tom Andriola September 28, 2015

Adoption is loss. Not in all ways. There are certainly many positive aspects to adoption. Children who are not able to stay with one or both of their biological parents are provided with a chance for a good, loving, stable home. Adults who are not able to have their own biological children are given an opportunity to start a family. Biological parents who are not in a position to raise a child are afforded the freedom to build their lives without the burden of providing for a child.

But there is indeed loss as well. And with loss comes grief. As an adoptee, I have dealt with loss associated with being adopted, and here is my perspective on what how the grieving process applies to the adoptee’s part of the triad.

1. Denial

The first stage of the grieving process is denial. Perhaps for adoptees it’s the stage before you actually realize that being adopted has had any impact on your life. My parents were always straight with me. I can never remember a time in my life that I didn’t know I was adopted, but I also never really knew anything else. Being adopted for me was just part of life, and it wasn’t until I fully understood what being adopted actually meant that I began feeling a sense of loss.

2. Anger

Anger is the second stage of the grieving process, and when I realized what being adopted actually meant – that there was a conscious decision made that resulted in me not being able to live with one or both of my biological parents. Who decided that? How was the decision made? Was I unwanted? Was I unloved? These are all questions that ran through my mind in my twenties, and it made me angry to think of the likely answers.

3. Bargaining

The third stage of the grieving process is bargaining. This is what I might call the fantasizing stage. For me, it was daydreaming about what it might be like to meet my biological parents and siblings. I would search for them, find them, and it would be a reunion full of jubilation when we finally met. When I first met my biological mother, it was a positive meeting, but we didn’t run into each other’s arms as I might have imagined. And when I made contact with my biological father and siblings, the response was cold – they just wanted me to leave them alone and go on with my own life.

4. Depression

Depression is the fourth stage of the grieving process. For me, the reality of the situation stung. While I still keep in touch with my biological mother from time to time, it’s not that long-lost reunion jubilation feeling that I had imagined when I was younger. With my biological father and siblings, the response just stung. I wanted nothing more, especially with my half siblings, than to really try to establish a bond. And while I know that I lost out on growing up with them, I often wonder how my kids would enjoy establishing a relationship with their half cousins. Unfortunately, it looks like I will not be afforded the opportunity to make that happen.

5. Acceptance

The fifth and final stage of the grieving process is acceptance, and that’s where I am now in my own situation. It doesn’t look like the relationship I’m looking for – one with my three biological half-siblings – will ever be there. I don’t like it, but I am becoming OK with it. For me, it’s a reminder that there are certain things in life that I might like, but can’t control. This is one of them. And while it is not the result I would have chosen, it is the reality of the situation, and I am choosing to focus my energy on things in my life that are more within my control.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.

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