One Family's Journey: The Mourning Period

Meeting your child is an amazing, wonderous and joyous experience. I have to say that the first day we met Elian exceeded my wildest expectations. It was absolutely beautiful... and then... there was a hard period.

Most children who come from Colombia have spent some time with foster families. Many have spent time with families to whom they've become very attached which is a positive and healthy thing. However, this also means that once your child realizes they are not on some kind of extended play date there is a possibility of a mourning period.

For us the mourning period meant long days of hysterical, extended tantrums. I don't mean terrible two obstinate tantrums, I mean wildly out of control, scary, heart-breaking tantrums all the time almost the entire six weeks we spent in Bogota. And then some more while we got adjusted back home. It also meant he pretty much refused to eat anything but yogurt and bread the whole time we were in Colombia and then again when we got home. It was exhausting and heartbreaking because the only thing we could do was accompany him through the process and tell ourselves "This is positive. It is healthy for him to mourn." I can't really say that it made me feel better though. My son would whimper his foster mother's name at night as we put him to bed and call out for her in the mornings. The emotional stress of not being able to help him was quite frankly overwhelming. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done. And just when he was starting to get used to us we took him on a 13 hour plane ride to the U.S. which lead to round 2 of the disoriented/mourning process.

Lesson learned. The mourning period/adjustment process can be very long and painful.

I know that blogging about this is a bummer. Meeting your child is very exciting and beautiful experience and it is not my intention to discourage future adoptive parents. It's my hope that by being honest about all aspects of our journey other parents will be ready for the possibility that they could be in for a very rough ride and prepare accordingly.

Elian is a happy kid now. Our social worker says that he's on a good track in terms of attachment and that his mourning was a positive sign for his adjustment. Even in Bogota when he wasn't having a bad moment we had a lot of fun but if I were to do it all over again I would've done some really good research on stress management because I needed it badly while we were there. Excercise. Prayer. Yoga. Whatever is your thing, have it ready to go if you need it. Adoption has turned me from a sporadic excerciser to a person who excercises every, single day. And I have to tell you I NEVER thought I would be that kind of person. But it calms me and helps me manage the hard days.

Whew! This was a heavy subject but I felt it would be dishonest for me to not talk about the hard times we had. Tomorrow we'll lighten things up. I promise!

Disclaimer: I am not an adoption expert, social worker, therapist, doctor or even an experienced Mom. Everything I blog about is our personal experience and should not be considered professional advice.


Heyar Padron said…
I so wish I would have read up on this more before picking up our daughter. These tantrums are no joke and I was completely unprepared for them. If it hadn't been for my guardian angels (other adoptive mommies) I would have completely lost it (as opposed to only partially losing it!). Thanks for touching on this very important and very real issue Emily!
Anonymous said…
Thank you for this post. We sent down our dossier earlier this month (7/10) and just starting our waiting period. I am very curious about people's experiences- how did the child react the first night- week- month, different methods of soothing, is it best to hunker down in the hotel/apartment, and outlets for the parents. Heather

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