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Adoption Trauma



“Adoption loss is the only trauma in the world where the victims are expected by the whole of society to be grateful.” I came across this quote attributed to Reverend Keith C Griffith shortly after being called out by a stranger on social media for my seeming ignorance about this topic.

I had just published a post about helping prospective adoptive parents reach their family goals through adoption coaching. In response, someone clued me in that one family has to experience a loss in order to make mine perfect.


This should not have been news to me. In fact, I address the topic head on in my book. However, it was an aha moment for me and a reminder to never, ever lose sight of both sides of the adoption as Reverend Griffith expresses in his quote.


Since then, Katja and I had an opportunity to participate in a group discussion with birth mothers, birth grandmothers, adoptive parents and adoptees. It was especially powerful for Katja, as she could hear first-hand about the pain some families experienced when they made the decision to place a baby with another family.

One grandmother sobbed as she explained that she was already looking after two grandchildren, so when her daughter was giving birth to a third and not able to assume parenting duties, they had to place the baby with a family who could. The baby is thriving within a loving family, which is a huge comfort to the grandmother. Still, she mourns what could have been in different circumstances.


Katja had always questioned why she was placed in a Ukrainian orphanage as an infant. When we tracked down her parents (which was a miracle in itself) who had since moved to Moscow, Katja was able to get some of her questions answered. Still, feelings of abandonment can pop up – sometimes without warning - on occasion.


Every adoption story is unique and not all adoptees will experience trauma. However, it is important for adoptive families to fully understand it so they can proactively support their own loved one through their feelings and emotions.

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