Vicarious Trauma and Grief

Today’s lecture on vicarious trauma was an interesting take on something that I had simply thought of as an emotional reaction. This lecture was a double edged sword for me.  On the one hand it was helpful for me to recognize the things that relax me and the things that bring about feelings of stress, burnout and vicarious trauma.  In doing this I can better understand myself and others and try to remedy and prepare for these situations.  On the other hand, simply discussing this fact was stressful in itself.  Honestly, I am not used to preparing to be stressed in this way.  I like to recognize and understand the issues and hardships involved with whatever goal I wish to undertake, but preparing to be stressed seems to be more of a vaccine than a cure. Yet, I understand the motive behind this strategy.  Training is not only for us to prepare to be good people and good case workers, but to be strong minded and not easily broken.  We must bend but not break.

Tomorrow we are supposed to discuss the topic of adoption.  The article, Adoption and Grief, provides an interesting take on adoption, but I do not necessarily agree with it.  However, it is possible I am misreading it or missing the point.  The article starts out stating “Adoption and Grief: do they really go together? The answer is a resounding YES!” Resounding? I’m not so sure about that.  Is it possible that some have experienced grief as it relates to adoption? Sure, but I am not sure it’s resounding.  Like we have said over and over again in training, it depends.  Grief seems to me to be an emotion of sadness in one’s own loss.  The article speaks of adopted children having a feeling of grief associated with the loss of their birth parents.  However, I believe you cannot have grief over something you never knew or had.  For example, if you were adopted as a baby there is no grief for your birth parents since you never knew them.  I would not describe an adopted child’s longing to find where he comes from as grief.  Nor would I describe an adopted child’s experience with difference as grief.  I believe you can feel all these things and at the same time be perfectly happy with your situation.  Further, I disagree with the article’s statement that age does not matter.  I believe it is a huge factor.  The age at which you are adopted as well as how long you are in foster care creates a huge difference in one’s experience in foster care and especially adoption.  If a ten year old child is adopted after spending ten years with his birth parents, it seems fitting that the child would have some level of grief about losing his birth parents, but a one month old child who is adopted will not have this same grief.

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