Trauma and Loss. Two words that go hand in hand with adoption and at the moment are a very real and current issue for us.
Girl’s grandad sadly passed away this weekend and we were faced with the question ‘how do we handle this?’ It’s a difficult enough subject for a child at any time but for one who can be volatile when anxious getting it wrong can really be traumatic for the whole family.
I have to add that this weekend Girl had already been feeling some anxieties about separation. I had been out for a long girly lunch for a birthday and also out with the hubster and some friends who we had not seen for a long time the night before. This rarely happens and Girl really did not deal with it very well and we ended up with a few bruises and scratches to show for it. Yesterday Girl was still not herself, like she was on the edge of flaring up again so to receive the phone call about grandad’s passing at this time left us in a bit of a quandary.
It was one of those times I really needed some advice so I called upon my army of friends who have also adopted and the advice was varied. My gut instinct was to wait until today to tell her, keep Girl from school for some nurturing and cotton wool treatment and send Boy to the grandparents so she could have some one to one attention. My best friend agreed this was a good idea. However, opinion between friends was divided. A child of six does not understand completely the implications of death, it can be confusing and some felt that breaking the routine for a child that thrives on routine might be even more confusing for her. That carrying on as normal as possible would be of far more benefit to her, to be there if and when I was needed.
In the end Boy went to bed early, exhausted from a few hours at soft play so we took the opportunity to tell Girl the sad news. I had hoped not to tell her so late in the evening so that she did not lie in bed worrying about it but it seemed a calm time and would not have too much impact on the day ahead, we could then judge her behaviour in the morning and decide what our next move would be.
This morning Girl was a little defiant but after a weekend of manic, silly and difficult behaviour perhaps not particularly much more than would be usual. We sent her to school and had a word with the teacher. Time will tell how she is feeling about things. She told me she was sad about her grandad, she also told me how much she missed Mary her old lady friend who passed away last year. She asked me for a photo of grandad for her wall pockets and expressed her concern for grandad’s lady friend, worried that she would be lonely. So really allt hings considered some good reactions, recognising her emotions and showing compassion for another. I told her I was sad about grandad too that he was a good man and that I liked him a lot, which I really did.
If you are dealing with beavement and there is a young child involved I took some good advice from this website:
Every now and again strategies for coping with behaviour that have worked for a while cease to have any effect and we are reaching that point in time. Our PASW has been on annual leave for a while (how do social workers get so much leave?) and has been unavailable to talk to and honestly? It’s been a difficult few weeks, hence the lack of posts, in fact I have started to write a few but struggled to put my thougts into words. We have had a number of meltdowns with many different reasons. I can only say that this is a difficult time of year, excitement over impending holidys, anxiety over saying goodbye to loved teachers, facing new challenges, new teachers, new environments, everything that really we should be avoiding. Girl’s head must be in turmoil.
Tonight we announced to Girl that she would not be attending her last day of school tomorrow and immediately it was like a weight was lifted from her shoulders. We witnessed Girl play nicely with toys, she was calm and considered, she listened and took on board suggestions about the game she was playing with her teddies and cars. This is unusual behaviour to say the least. It may have helped that Boy went to bed early because he is under the weather but she played so pleasantly that we gave her an extra hour before sending her to bed. It was lovely, a rare moment to be relished but definitely something so set the cogs whirring after such a difficult few weeks.
I have struggled to write this post, I am worried about writing a blog post stemming from somebody else’s unfortunate circumstances but it does have quite an impact on our lives and is part of Girl’s ongoing story so cannot be ignored. When we adopted Girl we did so with the understanding that she would have direct contact with her adopted sisters and one of her grandparents. The contact with her sisters was not an issue as they had no relationship with the birth family but we would all share the direct contact with the grandparent.
I was understandably more apprehensive about the latter contact, I was mistrustful of the situation, I felt as though my daughter’s security would be in the grandparent’s hands every time we met. However, our social worker assured us that the grandad had the best of intentions and would do nothing to sacrifice the little time he had to spend with his grandchildren, he knew that any failure on his part would result in contact being halted permanently and over the few years that Girl has been living with us contact has gone very well, in fact so well we are comfortable enough for him to know where we live.
When we first started contact we knew that a time would come when things would be a little more difficult, that granddad had a debilitating disease although it was in remission at the time. Last weekend was contact day and sadly the news was broken to us that grandad has been diagnosed with cancer and from the little information available so far the prognosis does not sound good. I can’t tell begin to tell you how sad I am, I have a massive amount of respect for this man and have grown quite fond of him over the few years we have known him.
I have not told Girl yet that her grandad is poorly. The announcement has opened up a whole can of worms before we even start to think about the sad situation of life and death and not for the first time this year.
We know that the contact guidelines are going to have to go out of the window but frustratingly it is at a time when Girl is not coping with contact very well. I am certain in the future she will appreciate any increased contact that we might have now but what about the immediate future? Can she actually cope with it? What about her getting used to seeing granddad a little more and then suddenly not at all?
Then of course we would like to support granddad any way we can but just don’t know how because of Girl’s security. We probably won’t be able to visit granddad in hospital or attend the funeral, which just seems wrong somehow. What happens if and when granddad passes? Will the birth parent become aware of the contact between us?
A million more questions seem to have risen to the surface and I am mixed between sadness for granddad, guilt that we can’t be of more help and also guilt that I am having all these thoughts about how its going to impact Girl, it’s quite a strange and awful situation to be in for all parties involved.