We hope to bring you information on seminars, workshops, conferences and papers presented at our annual meetings. Initially, the Separation & Reunion Forum worked mainly with people of African Caribbean origin who experienced broken attachment as a result of separation and loss. Because the reactions to their experiences, the grieving and the mourning of loss are relevant to human beings regardless of ethnicity, the Forum’s ongoing aim is inclusive of all those who have suffered loss.
The Separation & Reunion Forum (SRF) emerged following a meeting between Dr Elaine Arnold and a small group of women of African Caribbean origin in 1999. They had been interviewed about the separation from their parents during their early years and the subsequent reunion.
The women recalled their experiences of the pain of parental loss, as well as the loving care received from their grandmothers and other members of their extended families. They remembered their confusion when they were reunited in the UK with parents who were strangers to them and with younger siblings, and the strangeness of the new country which was so different. Also discussed were some of the difficulties they experienced, at home, at school, and in the wider community, a familiar experience to many born and left with surrogate parents during their formative years.
The group expressed a wish to raise awareness of the long-lasting traumatic effects on the emotional well-being of children and families who had experienced broken attachments, separation and loss during their early years. After several discussions the idea of a conference in the Millennium year, 2000, emerged. It was thought that lessons from the past century could inform the future.
When people from the Caribbean were invited to Britain to work and help rebuild the country after World War II, they came believing that their stay would be temporary. Many parents left their children in the care of their extended family, mainly grandmothers, as this was culturally accepted. They had envisaged their stay to be about five years. This was not to be realised. It soon became apparent that their stay was becoming permanent and they arranged for their children to join them in the UK.
Many of the children had become attached to their surrogate parents and were ambivalent about the change. Upon arrival in the UK, some children found it difficult to relate to parents who were strangers and sometimes to unknown siblings. The potential for a young child to form an attachment to their primary carer – the one who nurtured him/her during the formative years – was poorly understood and is one of a number of factors which caused considerable grief and distress within families.
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