Adoption is beautiful in many ways. There are many different elements to adoption that come together to reach the beautiful outcome of building a family. But something that is often overlooked during the adoption process is understanding the depth of what birth mothers feel after they place their child for adoption. It takes unbelievable strength for an expectant mother to place her baby, so that her child can have the life she knows they deserve. It’s a selfless act that can cause indescribable grief or a sense of loss.
Many people don’t realize that birth mothers experience a grieving process. The process of creating an adoption plan and the transition afterwards can take a toll on birth mothers. So many emotions get brought to the surface during the grieving process and experiencing this can get overwhelming. To give some insight, here are five stages of grief and loss that a birth mother may experience during this difficult time:
At first many birth mothers may try to rationalize their emotions by refusing to accept their reality. Like a death, many don’t want to believe that it is real and will try to numb the pain by denying what has happened to avoid facing their emotions. It is looked at as a defense mechanism and is temporary before the next stage of grieving happens.
Lashing out at loved ones after experiencing loss is what happens after denial wears off and reality begins to set in. Birth mothers may begin to feel angry about the decision they made and even feel guilty for feeling this anger.
Bargaining is where birth mothers may beat themselves up over what they could’ve done differently to be able to keep their baby. The “If only…” statements birth mothers go through in their heads are a normal part of trying to deal with the pain. During this stage it’s also normal to want to negotiate the pain away and make a “deal” with God or whatever higher power you believe in, which is all an attempt to gain control over a situation that feels helpless.
The sadness that comes with a loss may be overpowering and this may cause some birth mothers to experience depression. This is a natural response and allows anyone who has experienced loss to detach emotionally and prepare for the final phase of the grieving process.
There is no set time frame to when a birth mother will reach acceptance and find peace within herself. Many birth mothers may feel like it would be impossible to get to this stage. The loss of a child is not something you get over instantly but there will come a point where you will accept reality the way it is and settle into your new role as a birth mother. This stage is where birth mothers realize the decision they made was in the best interest of their child.
If you are a birth mother who is experiencing birth mother grief here are a few ways to cope:
- Remember to take care of yourself. If you are taking care of your physical well-being and your health it can help with your mental health as well.
- Surround yourself with supportive and positive family members and friends.
- Talk to someone about how you are feeling. It may feel like you don’t have anywhere to turn to express how you are truly feeling but it’s important that you make sure to get your emotions out the best you can. You can talk to your doctor, a therapist, or write in a journal.
- Join a support group. You may be feeling very lonely during this time and don’t know who to talk to who understand what you may be feeling. The truth is there are many birth mothers who understand exactly how you are feeling so it would be a great idea to research support groups in your area or get to know other birth moms.
Ultimately, how you deal with loss is a personal experience and the best thing you can do as a birth mother is to fully feel every emotion that comes at you. The pain won’t magically go away overnight but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and as soon as you realize this you will be on your journey to healing.
“Just as night is followed by day, so too your dark times will be followed by brighter days ahead.” – Karen Salmanohn