Adoption and the Trauma of Loss


Trauma is no longer reserved for veterans returning from war. People suffer emotional traumas on a daily basis. According to one definition, trauma is “any stressful event that is prolonged, overwhelming or unpredictable.” In the innocent eyes of a young or in utero child, being given away for adoption is both an overwhelming and an unpredictable event. Fresh in the world, there is little reason to believe, or even anticipate, the departure and loss from one parent to a new one. Pain and suffering are caused by all kinds of events in life. For the estimated 135,000 children a year (in the US) who are adopted, this is one of them.

Substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and PTSD are all issues that can stem from childhood adoption. Though gaining the love and care of a new family should be exhilarating and uplifting, it is not enough to soothe the trauma of separation. Adopted children who had a biological parent that abused drugs are twice as likely to develop substance abuse problems of their own. Being adopted into a family where much of the environment revolves around substance abuse is another high contributing factor.

Not only are these children genetically and conditionally at high risk, they are at emotional high risk as well. Many people find themselves in an abusive relationship with substances to fill a void in their lives. Alcoholics Anonymous calls it a spiritual malady. Buddhism might refer to it as the cycle of Samsara, or suffering. Loss creates a void. Our attachment to thing we have lost causes us suffering and pain. Drugs and alcohol serve a purpose in filling that void, but only on the surface. Only true healing and recovery can create fullness once more.

Mothers who have given their children to adoption, or had them taken away because of their substance abuse also face trauma. “Moral Injury” is a word used to describe the pain of having to go against our inherent wisdom of right and wrong. Like PTSD, moral injury was originally assigned to soldiers on the field. Also like PTSD, moral injury comes with psychological pain, shame, and guilt. Without recovery, guidance, and help, mothers may never overcome their trauma and loss, continuing on a cycle of suffering and harm.


Recovery is not reserved just for those addicted to substances. Refuge Recovery opens its doors to those who have suffered from emotional pain and are seeking true spiritual healing. Our goal is to help you live your most authentic life. For more information call us today (323) 207-0276


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