Adoption and Loss - The Hidden Grief
Evelyn Burns Robinson


Adoption and Loss deals with three very different elements.

The first section contains the story that grounds the book.

Ms. Robinson recounts the story of her childhood, showing how she came to be at risk for having a child, her unplanned pregnancy and loss, her adulthood and search for her son which finally led to their reunion. This story is told compactly, with great openness and honesty. It is told without self-pity, without a 'victim' mentality . Unlike the more frequent stories of women who have gone into maternity homes, Ms. Robinson remained self-supporting and at university during her pregnancy. The story tells of her son, Stephen, who gives his own statement at the end of the book. In its clear understated language, the book draws the reader into the story of loss, and makes you empathize with the young woman who was trying so hard to do well but suffered tragedy in the loss of her son.

The second section is perhaps the most valuable for readers who have not themselves lost a child to adoption.

In this section, Ms. Robinson shows herself to be a scholar and social worker, giving a succinct account of the relevant research into the effects on mothers of losing their children, on adoptees who lose their first families, and on adoptive parents who hope to erase their infertility by adopting. She discusses the grief experienced by women who've lost their children, pointing out that rather than diminishing it grows over time because it is not resolved. She calls it 'disenfranchised grief' because it must be hidden or covered and mothers who have lost their children are not socially supported in grieving their loss. Suggestions for therapeutic approaches to be used with first mothers who've lost their children are provided.

In the third section, Ms. Robinson moves from the personal into the societal and political realms to understand the larger scale consequences of adoption on families, on women and on their children. She concludes that adoption is about transferring children from the less to the more powerful. The political experiences of Australian first mothers are discussed in this section.

Throughout, the clarity of language and straightforward approach deliver much information in a compact fashion. The book is recommended to all first mothers for the story it tells, and to everyone for the understanding of adoption's effects on first mothers, adopted children and adoptive parents.

Book Review by Kay Hagan-Haller

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