doctor parallels adoption separation with the unresolvable grief
of families whose sons were MIA (missing in action).
of "Psychological Disability in Women who Relinquish a
Baby for Adoption," by Dr. John T. Condon (Medical Journal
of Australia) Vol 144 Feb 3 1986
evidence suggests that the experience of relinquishment renders
a woman at high risk of psychological (and possibly physical)
disability. Moreover very recent research indicates that actual
disability or vulnerability may not diminish even decades after
how the relinqishment experience differs from perinatal bereavement
in four crucial psychological aspects.
On a study
of twenty women who relinquished their baby, all but two of them
reported strong feelings of affection for the infant, both during
the late pregnancy and in the immediate post partum period. None
reported negative feelings toward the child.
of sadness or depression at the time of relinquishment were rated
on the average as intense and "the most intense ever experienced".
Anger at the time of relinquishment was rated at the time as between
"a great deal and intense." Only 33% reported a decrease
over time, and over one half said their anger had increased. Guilt
at the time was rated as "intense" with only 17% reporting
a decrease over the intervening years.
the women reported they had received little or no help from family,
friends or professionals. Over half of them had used alcohol or
sedative medication to help them cope after relinquishment. Almost
all reported that they dealt with their distress by withdrawing
and bottling up their feelings. One third had subsequently sought
A most striking
finding in the present study is that the majority of these women
reported no diminution of their sadness, anger and guilt over
the considerable number of years which had elapsed since their
relinquishment. A significant number actually reported an intensification
of these feelings especially anger.
the evidence suggests that over half of these women are suffering
from severe and disabling grief reactions which are not resolved
over the passage of time and which manifest predominantly as depression
and psychosomatic illness.
of factors operated to impede the grieving process in these women.
Their loss was not acknowledged by family and professionals, who
denied them the support necessary for the expression of their
grief. Intense anger, shame and guilt complicated their mourning,
which was further inhibited by the fantasy of eventual reunion
with their child. Many were too young to have acquired the ego
strength necessary to grieve in an unsupported environment.
Few had sufficient
contact with the child at birth or received sufficient information
to enable them to construct an image of what they had lost. Masterson
(1976) has demonstrated that mourning cannot proceed without a
clear mental picture of what has been lost.
that maternal attachment can be avoided by a brisk removal of
the infant at birth and the avoidance of subsequent contact between
mother and child is strongly contradicted in recent research.
Condon and others have demonstrated an intense attachment to the
unborn child in most pregnant women.
a strong impression from data that over-protectiveness is part
of the phenomenon of unresolved grief and serves both to assuage
guilt and compensate for the severe blow dealt by relinquishment
to the self esteem in the area of being a "good mother".
high instance of pregnancy during the year after relinquishment
invites speculation that this represents a maladaptive coping
strategy that involves a "replacement baby".