Sunday, August 21, 2016

Loss of an Adopted Child

Loss of an adopted child is just as heartbreaking as it would be if the person had given birth herself, according to Peggi Johnson, bereaved mother of 19 year old Jordan, who in 2009 died by suicide. She says she has no idea what happened to trigger his death.

When Peggi realized she couldn’t have children, they went another route: not an agency but a private adoption through a lawyer. She retired from her corporate career and devoted herself to motherhood full time.

Peggi knew who the birth mother was and kept in contact with her for a long time sending pictures and letters about Jordan’s progress as he grew up. But, according to Peggi, the birth mother was erratic in picking up the annual letters and Peggi stopped sending them until the birth mother contacted an attorney and  Peggi updated her again, putting together a package for her. When Jordan died, Peggi and the attorney were unable to contact her for two years but she eventually found out and was very angry. “I wrote a letter of explanation and the attorney handled it.”

Peggi adopted both of her children, a boy and a girl, Jordan and Claire, who is now almost 25. Only approximately two percent of children are adopted. According to Peggi, there are those parents who adopt and also have their own children, for whatever reason they choose. She emphasized there is no difference in how you feel about those who are placed with you and those children who are your own. They are loved equally, she believes.

Growing up Jordan was a quiet boy but smart. He had a lot of close friends who were crazy about him, according to Peggi. “He did not have an impulsive bone in his body. I loved him beyond measure and miss him beyond measure as well every minute of every hour of every day.”

Some of the things he loved were castles, wolves, beanie babies, dinosaurs and Harry Potter. He was an avid reader who adored David Eddings, Robert Jordan JR Tolkien, J.K. Rowling, Gorge R.R. Martin, and Ursula LeGuin. He was devoted to his sister, his dog Cassie, his neighbors, his cousins and his youth group. His life was enriched by teachers. He took a PB&J sandwich to school every day through 12th grade!

Peggi and her husband, Jeff, didn’t try to “imprint” and she believe most parents are like this. In other words, she said, “We want to know how they turn out on their own. If my husband and I loved football, we wouldn’t try to force it on Jordan. Children need to make their own decisions about what they want to do with their life. My son was introverted; I tried to be his advocate and let him do and be what he wanted on his own terms.”

Her other child, Claire, always wanted to find her real parents, particularly after Jordan died. “I was supportive about her finding as much family as possible,” said Peggi. Claire now knows her birth mother and has met with her several times. They will be visiting soon again and Claire will meet, for the first time, other close relatives. She is very excited about this, but, as Peggi says, “It doesn’t take away from how she and Claire feel about each other.

“The most important part of being a parent is unconditional love,” she says. “And I did give both my children unconditional love.”

Complications arise when the child dies, because you feel responsible that you were entrusted with this child and you couldn’t keep the child alive. “I don’t think I have healed,” says Peggi. “I think I have a limb that has been permanently amputated, and I try to do the best I can with it. I try to make my life meaningful, productive and helpful to others. That’s the best I’ve got. I endure it as well as I can. I don’t mope around.”

Peggi is a hospice volunteer, writes articles for TCF and presents workshops at the national conferences. She has talked about adopted children at three previous conferences. She and her husband are both active in their local TCF chapter in Virginia, enjoy being with other bereaved parents and do everything they can to honor Jordan.

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