Last week’s Tuesday Topic question was:
How do we help our adopted children cope with “Survivor Guilt”, particularly when they left siblings (or long term orphanage friends) behind?
Maybe this wasn’t a topic of great interest…or maybe it was too heavy and I need to lighten things up. Regardless, I got only two comments, but they are good ones, so I am going to run with it. I hope that you will add your thoughts to the comments.
Karen, from 3 H’s and Moms, said,
My daughter has 8 siblings in Guatemala and several nieces and nephews there. We have contact with the family and have met them on 3 occasions face to face. […]My daughter was relinquished as a newborn, only 2 days old, and so while some of her older siblings remember her being born, none of the young ones do remember and my daughter, obviously, doesn’t remember. We have always explained to her that her parents, A and P, were unable to care for our daughter when she was born. Our daughter, HV, knows that the job of a parent is to care for your children and if you cannot, you are supposed to get help, whether that’s food assistance (we do projects for our local night shelter with our church), job help, allowing someone else to take care of your kids, or even adoption. We have discussed how in Guatemala, there are not many programs for help.
When we met A and P in person the first time, HV’s father, P, just cried and cried. He told HV how he had hoped that God would give him enough days to know that she was ok and also some of the more practical reasons why they could not provide for her. HV has never really shown any survivor’s guilt or at least not that I have recognized. She does show concern about her siblings and her parents, but she has not ever questioned why they MUST live in Guatemala and she can live here. Knowing the personality of my daughter, I know that her response would be very different if she had a memory of or had lived with her family of origin.
Melinda, from Following His Will, wrote,
…We are dealing with this pretty much weekly right now. Our daughter left behind all of her siblings. She really misses them and knows that it isn’t even possible for her closest sibling, her older brother to ever be adopted because of his age. I know she must also wonder why her grandfather only allowed her adoption, not her younger siblings…
In our home Dimples has experienced the greatest “Survivor Guilt”. After two and a half years, she still mentions her older sister, Fikirte, regularly. She used to ask if we could adopt her, but we explained that she was too old to be adopted. They had already been separated for over a year when Dimples came home to us, but they shared the bond of their mother, and that is a deep and precious bond.
We have tried to stay in contact with Fikirte, even arranging a phone call between the girls with an interpreter on our end to speak on Dimples’ behalf. Our friends delivered pictures to Fikirte when they were in Addis on their recent trip. We do what we can to maintain the connection and assure Dimples that Fikirte is a big girl now and even has a job. But….is it enough? Does it ease Dimples’ heart? I think it does, but she also longs for the day when she can travel back to Ethiopia and see her sister once again.
I would be honored if we could help Fikirte, but I am at a loss as to how to do that. The communication gap is significant. She is a young adult, and not likely to continue her education. I think about all of my children’s birthfamilies and wonder what I am called to do. Surely my response cannot be to neglect the people who love my children, yet we have to be cautious because we would never want a hint of trafficking to surround our adoptions. We have never given our children’s family members money, but we have used money to help them.
I never want my children to accuse me of not caring nor do I want to neglect the Gospel which speaks clearly about caring for orphans and widows. Fikirte is an orphan too.
Maybe I have survivor guilt myself.
How do you cope with these issues?