Sam’s Sister by Juliet C. Bond and illustrations by Dawn W. Majewski
In the adoption world, we explore the experience of an adopted child quite a bit – and with good reason. It’s imperative as adults that we are aware of a child’s perspective and how they process big feelings in life. We’re their guide to how to conceptualize, process and cope with experiences like adoption. What we do not talk about nearly enough is the experience of a biological sibling of an adopted child. We have counseled and built relationships with the children of birth mothers – who are often old enough to fully understand the process of adoption. Although they may understand the process, they likely will need guidance in their own grief through an adoption plan. Sam’s Sister is a helpful resource to begin and continue conversations with biological siblings of adoptees. The children’s book normalizes and explains grief associated with adoption – their own grief and also their parent’s grief. This is a tool best suited for open and semi-open adoption plans as this is the adoption depicted in the story.
This story is about Rosa and her mother who becomes pregnant with a baby boy. Although Rosa is initially happy and excited that her mom is pregnant, the story unfolds that Rosa’s mother cannot take care of two children as well as they deserve. She decides to make an adoption plan for Rosa’s little brother. Rosa can tell that her mom is sad and she feels sad, too. Rosa worries that her mom might place her for adoption, too. Rosa experiences adoption by meeting her baby brother’s adoptive parents and building a relationship with them. Through open conversation with her mom, she is assured she is meant to stay with her mom and her baby brother is meant to leave with his adoptive mom and dad. Rosa and her mom’s grief is lessened with phone calls and visits with adoptive parents.
It can be confusing to see a parent grieving – or even scary, if they do not understand that it is normal and will get better over time. Children are only as confused as the adults around them. If you are a birth parent preparing your child for the placement of a younger sibling – be sure you are getting the support you need. This might look like counseling through your agency, working with a spiritual leader or a peer who has gone through placing a child for adoption. It is not realistic to think your children will not see your grief. Be honest with them about what is going to happen and listen to how they feel. Make sure they know it’s ok to talk about the complex feelings they might be having. It is something difficult to be there for a child when you are grieving yourself. There is nothing wrong with getting counseling for you, your child or family counseling. This is evidence that you wish for yourself and your child to be healthy and emotionally resilient. Let us know if you have any questions about this kind of support!