Thank you for
sending me the write-up of the conference of January 11, 1961 with
Dr. Heiman and the others with respect to policy for requests from
families seeking an adoptive child after the loss of their own child. . . .
I agree most heartily with the continued policy of prompt appointments
for such couples. I also agree with continuing our policy of postponing
any decision to place a child with such a couple until after they
have had a period for mourning. However, I do want to add a comment
to the reasoning underlying these procedures and policies. In addition
to the reasons outlined in the minutes of the conference with Dr.
Heiman, with which of course I am in agreement, I do want to emphasize
that in my experience there is an even more frequent and “normal”
psychological contraindication to placement prior to the mourning
process. This reason has to do with the fact that the urge to adopt
immediately after the loss of one’s own child is of necessity
a restitutive effort in which the adoptive child is inevitably experienced
emotionally as a replacement of the lost child. In fact, this mechanism
provides the intensity of the wish to adopt at such a time. From
adoptive experience we know that this replacement effort of one
child for another leads to inevitable unhappiness for both the adopted
child and the adoptive parents and is therefore contraindicated.
If the specific child who has been lost to these parents can be
mourned and finally through the process of mourning relinquished,
or to put it another way, if and when the parents through the mourning
process can accept the fact of the reality of the loss of their
child, then the restitutive nature of the adoption can work out
psychologically constructively because what is being restituted
then can be the experience of being parents and this can be a healthy
restitution rather than having the specific child that is adopted
perceived and experienced as if it were the dead child. . . .