Coping with Grief
All birth parents must deal with grief.
Many are sad about not being able to raise or have a relationship
with their child. Some have said that they eventually adjusted to
the loss of the child, but that the pain and grief lasted a very
long time. Others have said that life was never the same
after placing the child. Birth parents' whole lives are affected.
If you are a birth parent whose adoption was arranged
confidentially, you may have many questions. You probably do not
know what became of your child. You don't know if your child's life
with the adoptive family is happy and if the child is loved and
treated well. You may wonder if the adoptive parents ever told the
child he or she was adopted. If so, you may wonder how they spoke
about you. You may question what it would have been like to have
raised your child. Unanswered questions such as these can be very
difficult to deal with.
Most people at some time in their lives experience grief when
they are separated from a loved one. However, in adoption, there are
no standard grieving processes or approved rituals to help birth
parents cope. When a well-liked co-worker accepts a new job in a new
city, there is often a going away party. When a loved one dies,
there may be a religious service, a wake, a funeral, and visits to
the survivors' home by friends and relatives. But birth parents'
grief is distinct from most other types of grief, because it is not
always socially acceptable to talk about what happened.
Unresolved grief can cause problems in a number of areas. It can
affect romantic relationships, parent–child relationships, the
ability to work effectively, and a person's feelings of happiness
and usefulness. If you are having trouble in your life, it could be
related to your not having fully grieved for the child you placed
For most birth parents it takes time to move past the initial
grief of placing a child for adoption. Some realize they need
professional help to deal with the emotions that accompany the loss.
Others feel fairly positive from the beginning about the adoption
decision and accept that the decision brought with it certain
consequences. But just about all birth parents wonder how their son
or daughter is doing, especially when the child has reached the age
for important events such as starting school, graduating from
school, getting married, or becoming a parent.
According to Merry Bloch Jones' book, Birthmothers: Women Who
Have Relinquished Babies for Adoption Tell Their Stories, many
birth parents report difficulty in their romantic relationships
following placing a child for adoption. As a group, birth parents
seem to do things in extremes. Either they marry the first person
who comes along so that they become "respectable" members of
society, or they stay away from a partner for years. Some divorce
and marry, again and again. Some marry an abusive partner,
subconsciously punishing themselves. Some marry a rich partner they
don't love so they will have financial security and never again be
in the position of having to give up a child because of the lack of
money. Some may even marry a decent, loving, supportive person, but
get so caught up in their unresolved grief that the marriage falls
Some couples who planned the adoption together get married and
have other children. Other birth parents choose not to get too close
to any one person ever again. They go from one relationship to the
other on purpose, because to them intimacy and loss are always
A third of the birth mothers that Jones talked to said they have
happy marriages. The marriages are happy because their partners
continue to be supportive of their need to talk about the birth
parent experience and of their search for ways to help them grieve.
Some who don't get it right in their first marriage do get it right
in the second one. They say a large part of getting it right is
learning to forgive themselves.
Resource: National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.