Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Appropriate Transitions and a Chance to Grieve

There is much talk about ambiguous loss in the adoption community. In fact there is a very important book that was written several years ago by Pauline Boss called just that: Ambiguous Loss

The book is about loss where there is no closure ... her examples for the book cover include parents of a soldier missing in action or relatives of an Alzheimer's patient who, though alive, is not longer really with them. It certainly applies to all members of the adoption kinship network. Birth parents grieve the loss of children they haven't seen in years. Adoptees are grieving the loss of people they may have never met who may or may not be alive. Adoptive parents grieve other things, depending on the situation surrounding the adoption.

This morning as we are getting ready, in less than an hour, to leave the house to take two of our 17 year old children on to the new adventure of Job Corp, I realized that one of the sources of my ambiguous loss has been the lack of a healthy transition as they moved on from childhood to adulthood and left our home. The last time that it was handled appropriately was in 2004 when Kyle went off to college. Since then, in age order, this is how they have transitioned:

Rand, who stayed until he 23 and a half, came home from work a couple weeks ago and moved out his stuff, not even bothering to say goodbye. I saw him for the first time at Tony's party last night. He texted me twice in nearly two weeks. He hasn't said goodbye to us-- maybe he is waiting for when we leave town, but it certainly hasn't been a ceremonial transition.

Mike has come and gone from our house since he was 15, always angry when he leaves, often angry when he arrives. He has been in all kinds of places between times, but there's never been a healthy transition. We had one planned after a stint in drug treatment ... and it was actually a somewhat "normal" transition in that we moved him into a halfway house .. but he only stayed 3 weeks and then ran away, making himself homeless.

John had a great transition plan set up -- until he moved in with his 15 year old girlfriend instead of finishing the program we had him enrolled in. He, too, was in and out of our house between 14 and 21... often leaving to go back to jail.

Jimmy is still here. :-)

Salinda as you know left our home prematurely at 16 when she found out she was pregnant. That led to a couple years of real struggle as we believed it would be best for her to be with us and she fought us the whole way. We could have legally tried to force her, but she is one strong willed individual and I know better than that.

Ricardo packed up some stuff one afternoon when he was mad because he didn't want to do chores soon after he turned 18. He is still living with his friend's family and doesn't plan to go with us when we move -- nor even say goodbye.

So today we are going to take two kids to a program that will do the transitioning to adulthood in a healthy, supervised way. Job Corp is a great program -- and if it sounds as good as it is I'm going to be a Job Corp advocate for the rest of my life!

So we had parties. We took pictures. We watched them say goodbye to their friends and ours. We had cakes and today both of us will be driving them to drop them off somewhere where they will start their lives as "adults."

I've cried buckets (mostly privately) in the past couple days and tear up every 3-7 minutes thinking about them as the "little kids" and how they are now all grown up. Tony was 20 months when he came, almost exactly Isaac's age, and Sadie was 4. They have always been our "littles" and here they are, moving away.

But I am grateful to have a chance to grieve in an appropriate way.... I'm glad that I will not be experiencing all the ambiguous loss that I have with the others who left in not-so-normal ways. I am joining my friends from college who are all at the same stage we are -- watching their kids graduate and move on to college or other things -- Facebook is full of graduation and wedding pictures right now as those who graduated with us are at that age now too.

So even though they are leaving to head to a new setting because typical high school has NOT been a good fit for them, they have opportunities to go somewhere with new opportunities.

Before we leave I am going to write them each a letter for them to read after we leave. It's all so terribly sad but it is also HEALTHY. We alll need a chance to grieve appropriately.

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