Navigating Loss: A Guide to the Core Issues of Adoption

July 20, 2023 | 6 min read

Adoption is a complex and deeply personal experience that can have far-reaching effects on all those involved. From adoptees (people who have been adopted) to adoptive parents and birth parents, the adoption constellation has many facets that are essential to understanding and navigating with compassion and empathy.

At the heart of this experience are the seven core issues of adoption: loss, rejection, shame/guilt, grief, identity, intimacy, and mastery/control. These issues are intertwined and can profoundly impact a person's life, shaping their sense of self and relationships.

Navigating the complexities of adoption can feel overwhelming, but with the right guide, it's possible to approach these delicate issues with understanding and compassion. That's why we are thrilled to introduce our comprehensive guide outlining the first of seven core adoption issues.

Prioritizing People-First Language in Adoption

Before we delve deeper into the core issues of adoption, it's vital to clarify some terminology. In discussions about adoption, the term 'adoptee' is frequently used. This term refers to individuals who have been adopted.

However, in an effort to promote and prioritize people-first language, we will often use the phrase 'individuals who have been adopted' interchangeably with 'adoptee.’ The people-first language emphasizes the person rather than their status and helps to avoid inadvertent dehumanization when discussing topics that involve some form of identity or personal circumstances.

By saying 'individuals who have been adopted' instead of 'adoptee', we recognize and respect the personhood of these individuals before any other characteristic. The focus here is on the individual as a person first, who just happens to have been adopted. We will, however, include the use of ‘adoptee’ to reach people who may not know about this phrasing preference.

We believe that being mindful of this language promotes respect and inclusivity. It's crucial to remember that while adoption is a significant part of their story, it does not wholly define them. They are individuals with their own unique experiences, dreams, and identities beyond their adoption status.

With this understanding, let's move forward and explore the first of the seven core adoption issues.

An Adoption Constellation’s Guide to Core Issues: Navigating Loss

This guide is designed to provide adoptive parents, birth parents, and people who have been adopted with insights, practical strategies, and emotional support to better understand and cope with issues relating to loss, rejection, shame/guilt, grief, identity, intimacy, and mastery/control.

We recognize that each person's adoption journey is unique, and this guide does not provide a cookie-cutter solution; instead, it encourages you to explore and validate your experiences, adapt the advice to your situation, and equip you with tools that can help you overcome challenges and embrace the joys of adoption.

Are you struggling with the complexities of #adoption? @NEChildrensHome’s guide walks you through the seven core issues, providing insight and support for people who have been adopted, adoptive parents, and birth parents alike. Take a look:Click To Tweet

Long-Term Impacts of Loss on Adoptees

Many people who have been adopted struggle to make sense of their identity and place in their adoptive families. They may feel disconnected from their cultural heritage and experiences that could have been part of their life had they not been adopted. People who have been adopted may also grapple with guilt or abandonment when forming relationships with friends, family members, partners, or future children who will never know their birth parents or vice versa.

The Long-Term Impact on Identity

People who have been adopted often struggle with a complex sense of identity due to their loss. This can manifest in different ways depending on the individual, but it usually includes feelings of confusion, shame, or inadequacy. Remember, these feelings are normal and valid; they don't make an adoptee any less valuable or loved by those around them. Having a solid support system—including other adoptees—can help an individual better process their identity as someone who has been adopted over time.

Influence on Relationships

The loss experienced by people who have been adopted can also harm their relationships with others. This can often lead to feeling disconnected from one's family or friends. It may also cause an individual to feel like they have difficulty connecting with people emotionally or trusting them. Conversations about these feelings can help individuals build stronger connections with those around them and find solace in meaningful relationships with family members and friends.

Mental Health Repercussions

The feeling of loss has been linked to numerous mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and more. For many adoptees, understanding the root cause of these issues is critical to addressing them healthily and seeking necessary help. Some resources available include therapy, support groups specifically for adoptees and their families, online forums/blogs/websites dedicated to adoption topics, workshops aimed at helping individuals cope with the pain associated with adoption losses, and more.

Navigating the complex world of adoption can be emotionally overwhelming. But @NEChildrensHome’s guide explores the 7 core issues to help people who have been adopted, #adoptiveparents, and #birthparents find common ground:Click To Tweet

Tools Adoptees Can Use to Cope with Loss

As an adopted child, you may have experienced a core issue of adoption that many others have gone through—loss. This may be the loss of a birth family, the loss of a culture, or even the feeling of being "lost" in your adoptive environment. These feelings can be challenging to cope with and understand, but there are ways to manage them. Let's explore a few methods that you can use to help you cope with this loss.

Talking About Your Feelings

One way to deal with your feelings is by talking about them. You can discuss your experiences with friends, family members, or mental health professionals. It helps when someone is listening who can help you understand and process what you are going through. Talking about your feelings is also important because it lets you gain insight into why you feel the way you do and how best to manage those emotions in the future.


Jotting down your innermost thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic for adopted children because it gives them an outlet for their emotions that isn't necessarily tied to another person's opinion or judgment. Journaling allows adopted children to explore their feelings without feeling like someone is watching over their shoulder because they are writing only for themselves. Writing in a journal also allows adopted children to document their journey so they can reflect on it later on and reflect on how far they have come since then.

Seeking Support From Other Adoptees

Many support groups are geared explicitly towards people who have been adopted who can benefit those coping with loss due to adoption. These groups provide a safe space where people who have been adopted can share their stories and connect with others who have gone through similar experiences as them. Talking with other adoptees who genuinely understand what you are going through is invaluable when it comes to coping with loss and finding peace within yourself again.

If handled correctly, coping with loss as an adopted child does not have to be a stressful or overwhelming experience. By talking about your feelings, journaling, and seeking support from other people who have been adopted, you will gain insight into why these emotions arise in the first place and how best to handle them moving forward. Remember that while these feelings may seem complicated, they do not define who you are—you are stronger than any feeling of loss.

Navigating the seven core issues of adoption is crucial for anyone touched by adoption. By embracing these issues and understanding their impact on people who have been adopted, adoptive parents, and birth parents, we can create a more compassionate and supportive adoption constellation.

To assist with this challenging yet necessary task, we are proud to offer our guide on the seven core issues of adoption. Our guide will give you a deeper understanding of each issue and equip you with the tools to navigate them with compassion and empathy for everyone involved.

Stay tuned for our guides for each of the subsequent core issues of adoption, but first, make sure you claim your free downloadable version of our guide to Loss!