Experiencing loss as a birth parent is like the elephant in the middle of the room. It must be addressed. Grief is a process, a journey—not an event, so give yourself the gift of the process. It is normal to feel confused, angry, guilty, and depressed. As a Pregnancy Counselor, I want you to know that all of your feelings are okay with me. In fact, expressing your feelings is absolutely the best thing you can do right now. Healing cannot truly begin unless you give yourself permission to process these emotions. Processing grief does not mean that you “get better” or “move on”. Grief can be compared to waves; big waves come first and then smaller waves follow. I can’t promise that you won’t revisit these overwhelming emotions for years to come, but I will walk with you towards a place of understanding, where you can be at peace with your loss and feel hopeful for your future and the future of your child.
Here are some ways that birth parents can process and express their feelings associated with loss:
- Confidence in Your Decision: Grief that comes when placing a child is a planned loss, and this “planning” for the adoption allows time for this to be a well thought-out and informed decision. This is not to say it will be easy, but confidence in how you came to the adoption decision and the reasons why you believe adoption is the best choice is key to healing. However, it is still normal to experience grief, and grief doesn’t mean adoption was the wrong decision. In fact, you will experience different losses no matter which option you choose, and you will grieve each of those. Knowing you made the best possible decision you could at the time, for your baby and yourself will allow you to walk towards healing.
- Think About Your Child: Your child is a big part of your life, so let yourself think about your child. All moms think about their children, but don’t feel bad if you have moments and days when you don’t think about your child. They are in your heart even if they aren’t on your mind.
- Establish Traditions: Create a tradition that honors your child, your role in their life, and the decision that you made. Commemorate certain days or milestones in the child’s life or your own personal journey to making an adoption plan.
- Talk About It: Talking is healing, and you may need to share about your child or talk about the same feeling or memory over and over. Whether a friend, family member or mentor, find a safe person who will listen and help you heal a little bit more with each conversation.
- Connect with other Birth Parents: While grieving, you may feel that no one understands what you are going through. And while your story is unique, it can be reassuring to connect with other birth parents who have experienced similar journeys. Ask your Pregnancy Counselor about support groups and other gatherings of birth parents in your area.
- Write: Keep a journal of your experiences and feelings. This may serve as an outlet for grief, and it can provide some perspective over time. You can also write letters to your child, whether you mail them or not.
- Create: Draw, paint, knit, play an instrument. Creativity can be a wonderful outlet in your grief.
- Exercise: Walk, run, swim, kick-box. Physical exercise generates chemicals in our bodies that help us feel better so we can cope with loss. Plus, it’s a healthy way to express anger!
- Make a Memory Box/Book: Decorate a box or scrapbook to commemorate your child’s life and the decision that you made. You might include photos, letters, or others items of significance. Keep the box/book in a place where you can pull it out and look at its contents to remember and process.
- Plan Ahead for Grief Triggers: Be prepared for an emotional hit on anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, developmental milestones, and other days of significance to you. Know that this is normal, and allow yourself space to express grief even when it is not the “best time”.
- Consider an Open Adoption: Although every woman has different desires and the circumstances of each adoption are unique, open adoption can be beneficial for birth parents and may lead to your own increased satisfaction with the adoption process and a more healthy resolution of your grief.
- Pursue Counseling: It is common to find that you need more support than family or friends can offer. Lifeline is committed to offering you life-long professional support and grief counseling in relationship with your Pregnancy Counselor.
Simply do those activities that feel most helpful to you. Give yourself permission to process by embracing the full range of your emotions and needs as you make this selfless, life-giving plan for your child.