The Joy and Grief of Growing a Family

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about the effects of growing our family from three to four. Bringing home a child is a tremendous joy, of course, but because it also brings change, there is always some loss which results in grief.

It’s sorta strange to use the word “grief” to talk about the joy of growing a family. But, again, grief is experienced whenever there is a loss, and a loss is experienced whenever there is change. And adding a new baby into a family is a major change!

For the three of us, one loss is time devoted to just the three of us. This is especially noticeable to Ethan, of course, who for the last 20 months has had us all to himself.

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her classic book, On Death and Dying, outlines five stages of dealing with grief and loss. Of course, everyone goes through the stages in different ways and may even bounce back and forth between different stages before reaching the final stage of acceptance. But we can see examples of Ethan experiencing the first four stages, so far.

While we’re pretty sure Ethan knew that the pictures of Sarah were his baby sister’s, he would often say “Ethan” when asked who’s in the picture. Sometimes he would acknowledge that he was getting a sister, other times, he wouldn’t. Once, shortly before we went to Korea, I asked him if he was going to play with his sister. He said, “No!”

Ethan’s been in the anger stage most of the time since we’ve been home. On Sunday, he refused to be in a photo with me and Sarah. Last night, before trick-or-treating, he refused to be in a photo with Mommy and Sarah. In the last week, we pulled toys or books away from Sarah and has thrown a couple toys. That’s unusual for Ethan. This is the stage we’re most concerned about because it’s the area that is so unlike Ethan.

This is the toughest stage to see, but I think some of Ethan’s regression (e.g., drinking a lot of extra milk and less solid food, wanting to be carried more, etc.) are ways of saying, “If I do this, you’ll do that.”

We think Ethan hit the depression stage this morning (unless he was fighting off whatever virus I had a couple days ago). But it was especially noticeable because Ethan is *never* depressed or down! Ethan is usually happy when he gets up but this morning, but when he got up this morning, he came down stairs and laid down on the floor with his head buried in his blanket among the rest of us (Sarah got up at 6:00 p.m.). When I asked him if he was sad, he said, “Yeah.” But it looks like it was pretty short-lived. We did have a good evening, carving a pumpkin, baking cookies, and even Ethan’s bath time was as cooperative as possible. We’re hoping the final stage in this process is just around the corner.

Well, this is the stage we’re waiting for! 🙂

I think these stages are important not only for our fluid situation, but for any family and/or church/organizational situation involving change. Perhaps you can see examples of these stages in your home as you’ve experienced various changes over the years (and we all are *always* experiencing change!).

Of course, the joys of growing a family far outweigh the grief experienced in the process. But the joys become more obvious when all the family members experience acceptance.

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