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Ambiguous Loss


You may have read my blog from last November about how adopted and foster children deal with loss and grief over the Christmas holidays. The truth is, that for many of these kids their feelings of loss and grief come and go, year-round. For some of them, it is a daily struggle. Many of them deal with what has been termed ambiguous loss which is loss without a healthy closure. Grief and loss expert Pauline Boss has described ambiguous loss as “frozen grief.” We all have suffered loss—it’s a universal human experience. Although we never forget our losses, for most of us—whether it be the loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or loss of a relationship such as in a divorce--are able to come to a point of relative closure where we can work through the grieving process and move on with life. This is not the case with an adopted or foster child who has lost contact with his or her parent(s) indefinitely, or possibly forever.


I recall sitting in a workshop on adoptee loss and grief several years ago. A mom in that session shared the words of her 14-year-old adopted daughter who was struggling with major feelings of loss and grief over her separation from her birth mother. The girl told her mom, “Mom, I really want to let go of my grief, but it’s the only thing that ties me to my birth mom.” Hearing this broke my heart! This is very common thinking among adopted and foster kids who have lost contact with their parents either through court-order, death, or whereabouts unknown.


Recently, I was doing some research on helpful materials for parents whose’ children live with unresolved feelings of loss and grief. Following is an expert-recommended list of children’s books you might want to check out and possibly obtain to read together with your child:


· The Memory Book, by Joanna Rowland

· One Wave at a Time, by Holly Thompson

· Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You, by Nancy Tillman

· The Goodbye Book, by Todd Parr

· Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss,

by Michaelene Mundy