“Are You Thankful” for Ambiguous Loss?

Last week as a panelist for @angieadoptee I had the privilege of listening to a room full of pre- and adoptive parents share their concerns and hopes, questions and wonders about the complexities of adoption.

A few of those questions continue to linger for me; one of them, “Are you thankful?”

Let’s pause for a moment… have you ever thought about someone who wasn’t there?

This is a form of “Ambiguous Loss.”

For those who’ve been at Therapy Redeemed for a while, you’ve probably heard me use this term before.

If you’re new here, hey welcome!!! And please do check out the article by Jae Ran Kim where she unpacks these ideas of Ambiguous Loss developed by Dr. Pauline Boss.

I am thankful. And I have hope. But perhaps for reasons beyond this world. My fellow panelist added, “I’m thankful, but that doesn’t minimize the loss and grief I carry with me.”

An excerpt from the article: “For most, the ritual of finalizing an adoption is a “joyous” time; however, not all adopted youth understand or feel happy about the finalization—especially if the child is older at the time of the adoption. For children who remember their first parents, finalization day may actually be a reminder of their loss. The “gotcha” day, or anniversary of the adoption, may be a sad reminder of what the adoptee has lost rather than a celebration of what they have gained.”

Much love to that fellow adoptee who asked us that question, “Are you thankful?” and listened with such grace and empathy.

Because allies don’t tell you how to feel;

they listen to how you feel.

And stand with you.

Words would fall short if I tried to describe what it was like to feel some of your tears as you shared a heartfelt slice of your own story that day. I’m with you.

I once heard a pastor say, “We have a God shaped hole in our hearts.”

Ambiguous Loss isn’t about minimizing or denying the rightful place of our Faithful Creator, nor is it about over magnifying or idolizing the good things in this broken world; like family and biological caregiving.

It’s about acknowledging and honoring those in our lives who enjoy and were designed to hold precious real estate in our hearts, minds, and stories; whether here and now or there and then.

We’ve not been called to forget one another, but to love one another.

“Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” –1 Peter 1:8-9

“Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,”1 Peter 1:22

I wanna add one more thing. It’s an old term:

Confident Gain

I hesitated to add this for fear it would help justify things and ideas I don’t support (e.g., erasure, color blindness, ethnic cleansing, racism, etc). But I hope it would inspire another layer of thought as you reflect on your own personal place and station in this world; as you pursue justice and kindness, cultural diversity and inclusion, dignity and respect.

I’m confident there is a compassionate and powerful Redeemer actively and purposefully working to demolish every obstacle and barrier that stands in our way toward Him and our complete restoration.

Sometimes I’m my own obstacle.

And it hurts like a glimpse of hell when He’s working on me but I keep my eye on the prize. We considering everything a loss for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. (2 Cor 10:5, Philippians 3:8)



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