Monday, March 8, 2010

Sherrie Eldridge: The Grief Box

One of the tools Sherrie Eldridge suggested to help children and parents deal with the complex emotions of adoption loss was a Grief Box. I like the tool, but would definitely modify it if using it with my kids. Eldridge incorporates Christian themes when using the box, and I think it can be done effectively without that. There's a similar exercise in Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past, without the religious content.

Eldridge explained the Grief Box in 8 steps:

1. Select a box.

Any box will do. It is representative of the adopted person's life, so a pretty one is nice.

2. Make a list of what you feel sad about from the past and present.

In making up the list with a child, Eldridge suggested providing candy, pipe cleaners, just things for them to fiddle with (wiki sticks would be my choice!) so that they can avoid that threatening eye contact and open up.

3. Find items that are representative of each loss.

Eldridge says the item can be large or small, and suggests the Dollar Store. I think a hobby shop would be another good source. In Eldridge's box she had a small figure of a baby, representing the hurt of knowing that her birth mother wanted to abort her; a bandaid, representing the head of records at her birth hospital who refuses to give her copies of her birth records; a lighthouse figure, representing the loss of her extended birth family who had a long history as lighthouse owners.

4. Tell Higher Power how you feel about each hurt.

She says be explicit and detailed about how each hurt feels. Say HATE if that's how you feel.

5. Ask Higher Power to forgive you and help you forgive others.

The purpose of the project for Eldridge is to move beyond the hurt, so this step of forgiving others who caused you pain is crucial for her. I think I wouldn't push this with my kids. I'd be concerned that trying to get them to forgive would be signaling that they should get over the hurt sooner than they are ready to. I can easily see coming back to the box over the years, adding and subtracting hurts, but I'm not sure that forgiveness will be part of it for us until the girls are much older, perhaps into adulthood.

6. Give thanks for each loss and ask how you might grow.

Again, I have a problem with this one for children.

7. Offer your box to Higher Power.

Rather than offering the box to a higher power, one can just put the box on a high closet shelf.

8. Expect a new perspective.

The new perspective, for Eldridge, comes from offering up the hurts to God and forgiving those who caused those hurts.

I think, with modifications for your own viewpoints and the maturity level of your child, such a project could be really effective to open the door to deeper conversation about adoption loss.


Sandy said...

I have a problem with #6 as an adult. Not thankful for the losses in my life. How I can grow as an individual because I have felt the loss and how it can open my eyes to the losses others go through is one thing. Being thankful for the loss is another.

Anonymous said...

I agree w/ Sandy. There's a lot that can come from loss, but it doesn't equate to being thankful the loss occurred in the first place.

Also, her grief box reminds me of the steps taken in AA to achieve sobriety(ie higher power, etc.)

Anonymous said...

Funny, I was thinking the same thing with regard to Alanon (which has the same 12 steps as AA)! But HP can be anything you want it to be... doesn't have to be the traditional notion of God. I think that the 12 steps can be applied to almost anything, alcohol-related or not. Also, I think that forgiveness does not mean that you no longer hurt... but forgiveness can reduce our hurt. In Alanon, we learn to let go of negative feelings... yes, we feel them, but we don't need to hold onto them forever.