Tuesday's Answers: Coping With Survivor Guilt

Dimples’ Sister At Work

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?

~Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Brianna
    February 10, 2010

    Oh Lisa I know, it is so hard. My boys obviously don't remember their birth mother or sister, being that they were relinquished at a month and a half old, but I think about them often. I have gone through times where I struggle with feelings of guilt…wondering how they're doing, if they're okay. It's a strange tension we live with I think. I always wonder what my boys will come to think about the whole matter.

    We're taking the steps to use an investigator from AAI to attempt to locate the birthmother. I am hoping that she's still alive.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 10, 2010

      Brianna, I hope you are able to find her. Think what peace it would bring to her to know her boys are so loved and cared for. She may fear that they aren't even alive. Open international adoption is messier, to be sure, but it just seems right to me.

      Reply
  2. Marissa
    February 11, 2010

    Our son had a great deal of survivors guilt and I'm not sure I've done the right thing in helping him deal with it. It's such a tough issue, isn't it? I've given him opportunities that allow him to make an impact on the people he left behind, which I think heals all of us. He's been empowered and truly feels that he WILL help those kids that can't come live on the floor of our living room (despite his insistance that they should). I just hope I can provide him with the avenues to do that. I'm not so sure I'll always be able to do that.

    We've been very fortunate to have the opportunity to have VERY open international adoptions. This is the only way I know how to deal with my own feelings of confusion and guilt, but it's not enough to heal the realities.

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 11, 2010

      Marissa, I think you have I have such similar feelings on this. I'm glad we can struggle through it together.

      Reply
  3. Tracey
    February 12, 2010

    Is there any way to help the sister get a visa and possible move to the U.S.?

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 12, 2010

      Tracey, that is on the hard questions that I wonder about. Maybe we'll look into it in time.

      Reply
  4. Cindy
    February 13, 2010

    Lisa, I am concerned about this situation with our girl's having siblings and their mom back home. I e-mailed you about this once, so I don't want to be redundant here. However it is of great concern to me. Is it possible to bring the mom and siblings over on a sponser-ship? sort of thing? Please excuse the correct wording here, but I'm trying to think out of the box on how to really help. I'm not sure what the laws are, and I don't want to be bound by fear. I do think we have a duty by God to help, and my heart wants to. Thanks Cindy

    Reply
    1. OneThankfulmom
      February 14, 2010

      Cindy, I wonder about this as well. Does anybody have information about this?

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

I accept the Privacy Policy