I will start this by saying that if anyone ever thought that placing a child for adoption was the “easy way out,” they could not be more wrong. It is a road wrought with complex emotions, the largest and most difficult of all being grief. In my three years as a birth mother, I have found four ways to deal with my birth mother grief that I think could be useful for anyone.
1. Accept that grief is a natural part of the process.
In the first few months after placing, I just wanted to push through and get past the whole experience. I didn’t “have time” to acknowledge my feelings; I just wanted to be better. Spoiler alert: that’s not how grief works. It is a monster that needs to be tended to before it consumes your “mental village.” I spent my time consumed with depression, guilt, shame, and grief because I didn’t accept that those were the feelings I should be having. Understanding that you aren’t going to be okay, and that you shouldn’t be expected to be okay, are important.
2. Talk to a counselor.
Accepting that you are grieving goes hand in hand with talking about it. While talking to friends and family is good, talking with a counselor or therapist, someone paid to be unbiased and honest, is a great step to dealing with your grief. It may not be easy to find a counselor you connect with at first; it took me about two years and three different people before I found the counselor that made sense for me. While I’m always apprehensive about being vulnerable and dealing with feelings I’m uncomfortable with, once I start opening up to him, I can see things more clearly and tend to feel better.
3. Practice self-care.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I’m sure you have heard this saying before. But the truth of the matter is, when you are physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, you don’t have a lot to offer to yourself, let alone other people in your life. Taking time to relax, release, and replenish your good vibes should always be important to your life, but especially crucial when dealing with your grief. Some suggestions of things to do are: take a bath with lots of bubbles or salt, go on a walk in a pretty place, read a new book, create art, binge-watch a new show on Netflix. The list is endless, but make sure it is positive for your health rather than risky.
4. Find your tribe.
One of the best things I ever did for myself was finding a group of people who understood what I was going through and could offer genuine sympathy. I found lifelong friends first in an online birth mother support group, and then met with them in real life for pizza and some healing retreats. Finding my tribe has given me a support network to reach out to when I’m feeling low, when I have a question, when I want a laugh. Look to surround yourself with the people who are going to boost you up rather than bring you down.
I still have a long way to go when it comes to dealing with the grief associated with placing my son for adoption. Birth mother grief doesn’t go away. I learn new things all the time and continue to improve upon what I know in order to be the best me. While I’m certainly no expert, I hope my tips on dealing with birth mother grief find you in your time of need and help you in some way.
Are you considering placing a child for adoption? Not sure what to do next? First, know that you are not alone. Visit Adoption.org or call 1-800-ADOPT-98 to speak to one of our Options Counselors to get compassionate, nonjudgmental support. We are here to assist you in any way we can.