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.
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