Separation from birth mother

Posted on Jan 16, 2013 in Sandplay

You may have heard about the first separation in our life: it is the separation from our mother when we are born, from the womb to this world. That is a big change for a baby and the baby needs to adjust in many ways. I think this is a well accepted truth in our society.

Have you ever heard someone say that an adopted child doesn’t know about its birth mother because it was separated from her only a few hours after birth? This view is challenged by the psychologist Nancy Verrier, author of “The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child”. She says a baby knows if the person who is caring for it is a different person from the one who carried him/her for the past 40 weeks. It isn’t difficult to imagine how traumatic that could be for a baby. Nancy Verrier says that it is often these underlying emotions which cause anxiety, fear or other difficult behaviours in the lives of adopted children. She believes that “understanding, acceptance, empathy and communication are the keys to the beginning of healing” and that the adoptee should be allowed to “work through his feelings,” if possible, with a trained therapist.

Sand-play Therapy is a very good non-threatening way of dealing with those feelings that are so difficult to put into words. In Sand-play Therapy there is no need for dredging up painful memories, because “playing out” one’s experiences and feelings is a natural dynamic and self-healing process. As Sand-Play therapist, I have been trained to facilitate this process. As facilitator, one does not necessarily need to have a verbal understanding of everything that is happening in the client. The client himself probably often doesn’t know how to put his feelings into words.

In my practice I have witnessed some adult clients explore their emotional needs.

One of them (an adoptee) kept saying “I don’t know why … but I feel I need this figure.” He said that he tried to think like a little child and feel free/open to choose miniatures.

There are different types of counselling and therapies: I would say one approach is from “thinking” (like solution focused therapy or the cognitive approach) and another is from exploring the “inner-self” (like Art Therapy, Sand-play Therapy). Each of us has his own way of sorting out problems but I believe Sand-play Therapy is suitable for adoptees and foster children because their complicated emotions come from the trauma of separation at a very young age. They find it helpful to explore like a child to find their “inner-child” and “inner-mother”.