Grief in Adoption: For Better or Worse

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Grief is a natural part of the adoption process, though sometimes it can be a tougher angle for some to handle. There is something incredible about being able to naturally acknowledge that there is a certain type of grief that will continually remain a dynamic in the relationship; even when it's a good and healthy open adoption. Even in circumstances where adoption is not a part of the family creation, there can be a source of grief that needs to be dealt with, and voiced. It's not to say that this should ever be the entire focus of the relationship, or emotionality, but there should be a proper space and mentality for each individual to honor their own grief.

For adoptive parents, there can be a sense of detachment in the process. Some parents have had failed adoption experiences, and this can put you into a mode where you are detached, “just in case”. This state of being can lead to other issues- bonding, and even more importantly post partum depression. It is also entirely possible for new adoptive mothers and even foster mothers to experience post partum depression for a variety of reasons. Perhaps there is no support from family for one reason or another; perhaps your expectations fell short. In some cases as well, some parents go into adoption with the embrace of open adoption ready for the birth family, and they are pushed away. All of these things can cause a sense of grief for the adoptive family- and all are valid.

For the birth family there is a period of mourning that continues on throughout their entire life. In the beginning this mourning is tedious, and extreme, but as time goes on it ebbs and flows, evolving as the relationship progresses, or as time passes. Birthmothers are absolutely at risk, even without the baby in arms, for post partum depression, anxiety issues, and even PTSD. Women considering adoption should be aware of these mental health issues for a variety of issues, but they should know where they can reach out to in a moment of need.

In the long term, a Birthmother's grief can change. There are certain days that will always be harder than others, and these markers are generally anniversaries, birthdays, but can also be birthdays of new children, or days like Mother's Day. It's important to understand that this sort of grief is natural, and should not be considered as anything else. As spoken before, when adoptions close, there will be sadness.

For the adoptee, it's a common misconception that babies start as blank states, and this myth is false. Remember, while the mother may have only had that baby in her arms for a couple of days or a little longer, the child lived within her womb. They shared a life of breathing, living and being together. The impact on the adoptee being removed from that well known house of care should not be negated or denied. As the child grows, and open adoption visits occur, grief will likely be a natural part of the days after and may be acted out in different ways. Anger is typically a natural reaction to feeling sad, and hurt.

An adoptee will have their own sets of grief to overcome. They may have questions about why they were relinquished, or what the circumstances were. They may struggle to relate to those ideas. They may grieve the loss of years missed, if an adoption was closed, or resent certain persons for valid reasons that are only true for them. None of their shades of grief should ever be misconstrued as a lack of gratitude, or a personal insult to anyone within the adoption dynamic. Again, their grief is their own, it's natural and it's part of the process of adoption.

Media depicts that adoption ends at the hospital, and for those of us in the adoption community, we simply know how untrue this is. Adoption is definitely not as easy as it's portrayed, and while some people would prefer that we not discuss the outer issues of negative emotions in adoption, it's a necessity to the complete process. In fact, if we ignore these feelings, we are just simply disrespecting the enormity of adoption, and the full impact it has on everyone involved- for better or worse.

Credits: Danielle Barnsley-Cervo

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