Sunday, July 21, 2013

Loss of an Adopted Child

A new workshop never given before at Compassionate Friends National Conference but always requested was “Loss of an Adopted Child.” Peggi Johnson gave this for the first time. Parents who adopt a child have often typically experienced loss of biologic children or the dream for a biologic child, as well as infertility treatments. They have endured the often difficult and expensive adoption process. They are fervently invested in raising their children. When such a child dies, the grief experienced is complicated, cumulative and intensified.

Peggi had an ectopic pregnancy two years after she married. It was a life-threatening experience, but she pulled through. She and her husband then went through infertility treatment which was complicated, expensive and took a long time. Some of those treatments included temperature charts, hormone treatments, sonograms, injections, surgeries, biopsies, blood tests and loss of dignity and privacy.

Nothing worked. They grieved the loss of a biological child because they knew they were never going to have one.

At this point they went through the adoption process of which there are three kinds: open adoption, closed adoption, and partially opened. Peggi said that there was a tremendous investment with money, financial disclosure, and complicated legal procedures. “You have to be flexible,” she said. They hired an adoption attorney.

On Feb. 27, 1990, their son was born to a teenager. There were health complications and Peggi wasn’t able to bring him home until sometime in March. The birth mother insisted that there be no spanking of the child and the birth father wouldn’t sign the final papers until six months later, so not everything went smoothly

When son Jordan was a year old, they looked into and second adoption and 20 months later brought home their daughter, Claire. Peggi became a full-time mother and couldn’t have been happier. She was always there for them, she helped out at school with field trips and parties. They were healthy, smart, happy children. However, Jordan’s sister, as she grew up didn’t fare well. She was emotionally challenged and was in and out of treatment centers.

Peggi and her husband, Jeff, found that adopted children have more emotional problems as they grow up. Where they were concerned about their daughter, it was Jordan who was having problems and they had no idea. Jordan committed suicide at 19. Both parents and Claire were shattered.

Peggi has come to believe that the loss of an adopted child produces grief that is cumulative, complicated and intensified. “It is definitely a hard journey,” she said.

They do everything they can to honor Jordan: donate to animal shelters, speak to groups and Peggi has served as TCF newsletter editor for her chapter.

She says that what helps the pain management of their loss is to
  1. Be with other bereaved parents
  2. Read about parents who have lost a child
  3. Going to counseling and support groups
  4. Actively seek out distractions (travel, or anything that takes your mind off the death like playing the piano, knitting, gardening)
  5. Take care of your health
  6. Get a dog or cat
  7. Solace of service- Peggi is at peace helping others like Alzheimer patients. "I need tough challenges like this so I volunteer at hospice," Her husband continues to be supportive of whatever she decides to do.