Spring is in the air, here in Southwest Ohio. I am sipping from my freshly brewed cup of coffee, next to an open window. The cool evening air fills the room as I listen to the sounds of the birds chirping wildly. Just outside my window, the earth is coming to life. I love this time of year. This time of year is bursting with reminders of change, growth, and beauty coming forth from dormant land. As with all seasons, Spring is accompanied by beautiful holidays. As soon as we wrap up the commercialized holiday known as Valentine’s Day, stores fill their shelves with chocolate bunnies, egg-dying kits, beautiful baskets, and pastel-colored dresses. Churches host Easter Egg hunts and many families begin to plan their Easter Sunday family meal. There is an underlying excitement filling the air and a feeling of hope starts to emerge. As a Christian, I look at Easter with a grateful heart. Easter is a time when Christians remember the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross when he gave his life so that we might be saved. I treasure knowing that my savior loves me this much. While I have embraced this gift for most of my life, it wasn’t until we experienced adoption with our daughters that Easter took on a much deeper meaning for me.
In 2015, we met our daughter for the first time. She was five. We were matched with her through our adoption agency and the county that was in charge of her care. The first time she was able to stay with us, in her soon to be forever home with her soon to be forever family, was Easter weekend. We were thrilled to finally have her sleep under the same roof with the rest of us. On Good Friday, her social worker drove her to our home. We didn’t live in the same city, so she didn’t arrive until late in the day. She spent all day Saturday with us and on Easter Sunday, we made the long drive to her temporary home. It was a whirlwind of a weekend and it was stocked full of memories. There was great joy and then immense grief. It was beautiful and hard. Isn’t that a true picture of all adoption? Adoption comes with the highest highs and the lowest of lows, always. I knew having her with us on Easter was special, but what I didn’t expect was how that visit, on that weekend, in particular, would open my eyes to how much Easter and adoption had in common.
Easter is the holiday set aside to remember and give thanks for the gift of salvation through the death of Christ on the cross. This is so important because it is through Jesus, who was without sin, who took on sin so that we can have a relationship with God. Essentially, it is through this death that we can be called children of God, therefore we receive adoption and new life.
In so many ways we see new life through death in adoption. Let’s start by looking at what happens in the life of the adopted child. When a child is adopted, so much changes. This child has been adopted, due to circumstances that are outside of their control. My husband and I are in the trenches of parenting a family built of biological and adopted children. There is a difference that is painfully obvious visible between our biological and adopted children. The act of reconciling the past life of an adoptee and the current life is a rocky road and can cause great pain. As is true of most hard things in life, the past and present merge together. This can be hard.
When a child comes into a family through adoption, there is always grief. For the child, there is grief from being removed from their biological family. The loss of the connection can be seen even in infant adoption. In the death of Jesus, we see grief. The loss of a child. The pain of separation between God and Jesus, father and son. The same is seen when a child is not able to remain in their home of origin. It is a painful part of the adoption journey and is not dealt with overnight. As a child ages, their brain goes through various stages of development and will eventually process the immense loss that has happened multiple times throughout their lives. At each developmental milestone, the brain is able to understand and process on a different level. We have seen this happen with both of our adoptive children. One of our daughters reacts with anger, poor choices, and an increase in self-destructive behavior. In our other daughter, we see a sad quietness take root and it takes time and patience to give her the space she needs to open up and talk about the thoughts that cloud her mind. Both are typical responses to the grief we see in adoption, but they are not the only ways grief is worked out. The longer an adoptive child stays in your home, the more you will get to know them and the better you can assess what is going on. Patterns emerge and with work you can learn to help your child process their grief in an individual way.
Similarly, as an adoptive parent, I have found myself grieving. As parents, we cannot help but take on whatever hurt our children carry. However, when you are carrying the weight of the grief of your child and the hurt imposed upon them by the separation from their family of origin, as well as things that have happened to them before you even knew them, it is extremely overwhelming. The pain they feel is immeasurable and intense. It can fill up an entire room with anger or stifle the air by a quiet sadness hidden behind the tender eyes of a broken heart. As a parent you want to help, so you absorb what you can. You take up their cross, in an act of sacrificial love, much like Jesus did as he carried his cross, born of sin that was not his to bear. As a result, you are broken and bloodied, but you pick up that cross every day. Every day, you must rise up and do it again. I am in no way inferring that our grief is more difficult than that of our adopted children. I am simply saying that adoption can be a hard, intentional life built on parental love and nurtured by falling hopelessly in love with a child born in your heart, rather than your womb. It can be painful. It can be lonely. It can also be amazing.
More than that, it is a beautiful representation of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf. Through the resurrection of Jesus on the cross, we can be children of God. As a child of God, we are now his heirs. Through our adoption into his family, we are given a new name. We are beloved and forever his. We are welcomed into our forever family. In the same way, through adoption, our children take on our name. The change of name, whether it be the child taking our last name or given a new name entirely, is a significant change. As I mentioned earlier, adoption is full of high highs and low lows. Having a new name as you join a family means belonging and connecting. Celebrate the deep meaning of your child sharing your name, it represents a great loss for the child. It can be a difficult balance of belonging and grief.
I cannot think about the connection between Easter and adoption without rejoicing in the new life that is seen in both life-changing events. The miracle of the resurrection is that Jesus didn’t remain dead. He rose from the grave. He had a new life and the world was forever changed. We see this happen in every adoption. Every adoption stems from a place of brokenness. The separation from the child’s birth family can happen for a variety of reasons, no matter what the cause the result is brokenness. When a child comes into a home, the opportunity for new life arises. Healing follows pain and beauty emerges from ashes.
In the picture painted by Jesus coming back to life, we clearly see that through his death we can embark on a new life. When the old life is gone, new life comes with a lot to explore. There is hope and there is joy. When you think of life as a new adoptive family, there are many layers. For the child, it isn’t just a new home. It means saying goodbye to what was and embracing what is to come. This process is different for each adopted child and each family as a unit. There will be times of immense grief and times of unspeakable joy. I remember studying pictures friends would post on social media after their adoptions were finalized. The typical picture often showcases the family standing behind a judge’s bench, while their faces beam with joy. I would look at the faces of everyone in the picture. Before we adopted, I always saw the joy in the picture. One day, while looking at our very own picture of our second daughter’s adoption day, I was struck by the complexity of the look on her face. We are all smiling, but there is a different emotion in her eyes that showed what that day meant in her life. She is clearly excited, but part of her shows just how big of a change was happening in her world. She was only four at the time, but she knew in her heart that a major shift had happened.
As I look at the evergreening grass and take time to enjoy all of the beauty that Spring brings, I cannot help but think of the parallels between Easter and adoption. On Easter Sunday, our girls will don their matching dresses, and our family of six will settle into our pew at church. I will be thankful for the new life gifted to me through my adoption. I will also sit in the stillness of knowing that the new life our daughters live in our family comes with an entire life they left behind. Through death and loss, there is change. Change can bring healing. Healing is beautiful. Happy Easter!
Becky Dell is a Staff Storyteller for adoption.com. Now married for over 20 years, her journey to motherhood started with a miscarriage, followed by the birth of her 2 biological sons, and brought to completion with the domestic adoptions of 2 daughters. You used to be able to find Becky baking cookies and playing trains with her two tiny sons, but now, you will find her learning to parent through the rough and rewarding world of adoption, attachment, and trauma. She is a fierce advocate for adoption and processes the many facets of adoption through the written word.