Saying goodbye can be difficult for all of us. The thought of not seeing someone we care about can be painful as well as distressing.
When I think about this topic, I immediately think about toddlers being dropped off at pre-school, only to have a meltdown as the caretaker says goodbye and leaves the classroom. Crying may occur and the separation becomes intense for both the child and the caregiver. Both the child and the caregiver often feel deep emotions when saying goodbye.
For the adopted person, saying goodbye can be intense. Old feelings of loneliness, separation, and abandonment can come flooding in. Leaving may trigger many of the difficult emotions that we have carried with us for so long.
The adoptee may be confused by the overwhelming amount of feelings that a goodbye can trigger. The pain can even become physical and present as stomachaches, headaches, anxiety, anger, or depression. Leaving or having someone important leave can prompt all of these symptoms. This can include school or camp ending, a long vacation ending, saying goodbye to visiting relatives and more. These and other endings or transitions that we experience during the end of the summer months can spark different reactions.
How can we help ease this pain when our adopted child or loved one must say goodbye? Caregivers may not even know that this is happening and may miss the signals when their child is hurting or acting out as a way to simply cope with the pain of loss.
First, acknowledging that saying goodbye and or leaving can be painful and sad. This can help tremendously. Allowing the child, teen, or adult to express these sad and raw feelings of saying goodbye can help to normalize what they are experiencing. You are saying to them, “I understand,” “I get it”.
Having the caretaker say, “It looks like saying goodbye to your camp friends is tough. How are you doing with this?”
Just being there and showing an understanding of what they might be feeling can help to ease the pain. Sometimes just saying nothing or taking the lead of the child can be the most comforting. When we feel understood, respected, and cared for, we can begin to feel whole again.
Written by Jennifer Eckert, LICSW
Boston Post Adoption Resources