A grieving child is a hurting child; a soul in transition. Hurting children want to hurt; they don't know quite how to handle all of the emotions their little heart and souls are emitting.
What does grief look like? What might I expect during an adoption transition? Pouting. Yelling. Screaming. Hitting. Biting. Throwing food on the carpet. Throwing food on the wall. Constantly talking. Calling people names. Not listening. Running out of the house. Running away from the family in a public place. Attempting to open the car door while driving. Curling up on the floor and weeping. Crawling under the bed sheets and screeching. Wetting the bed. Peeing on the carpet. Lying. Stealing. General disobedience.
Adopting an older child is not quite what it appears on the surface. These kids may be 5, 7, or 8, but their behavior is indicative of a toddler. I tried to explain this to my 7 year old daughter: they are like babies in big bodies. They have to learn the rules of the house. They have to learn to trust. They have to learn to submit to authority. They have to learn that we will provide for them and that we will love them through their negative behavior and grief. It all takes a ton of time and a bundle of extra patience.
On the flip side of this seeming toddlerhood is having seen too much and having felt too much pain.
How many children to you know who have had a parent leave the family, only to return after a year... with full-blown AIDS... and then die within 3 months... in front of their children? Now add on to that whirlwind of emotion: you have to leave your devoted father behind, your country behind, and go into a totally foreign culture and family? Two of my kids are dealing with this triple trauma.
How many children under the age of 7 to you know in the USA who are left at home all day alone and have to figure out some way to feed and protect themselves and their younger siblings... with no food in the pantry and no money to buy any?
How many parents do you know who have no other option but to give their children up for adoption? We are not talking about the alcoholic or drug addict who "chooses" to give up his or her children because of addiction... we are talking about a widowed woman who went to work--- but was raped by her employer. She now has another child. Additionally, she has HIV, and now carries a stigma that prevents her from seeking another job or from obtaining one bit of compassion from her neighbors. She blankly stares at a photo of her daughter, realizing she most likely will never see her again... this side of heaven.
These are people who have no options: no food stamps; no clean water; no clothes; no jobs; no medical care; no safety net; no hope. Even the churches have little resources.
There are plenty of people in the United States who are poor. There are plenty of people here who are without hope. But let's face it: most of us have some options here. We can find help if we truly desire it and seek it out. About 4.8 million orphans in Ethiopia alone have no options. They are often left to their own devices to scratch out some sort of existence; many end up being not only scratched, but gouged and squeezed out of life.
We have brought home 4 orphans. Each has his or her own story of pain and horror. Each has his or her own way of needing to express that angst. EVERY adoption story includes some sort of trauma and grief, and it often presents itself as bad behavior... there is simply no way around it (whether you see it now, or later). Your job as an adoptive parent is to shoulder the grief with your child; we must share and experience their pain. We must use wisdom in our actions, knowing we are the arms and voice of our Lord. We have to teach them that they can trust us with their sadness, their anxiety, and their distress--- not minimizing it, or ignoring it--- but rather modeling how we must ultimately trust and rely upon our Lord to shoulder the burden of pain for us.