I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Being a birth mom is hard. For me, one of the hardest parts of my grieving process has been loneliness. I am surrounded by people who love me and support my choice to place, but some days I still feel incredibly alone. Aside from a few close friends who are birth mothers as well, no one can relate well to what I am going through. Most people have good intentions, but are at a loss for words. Here are three examples of things you can say to encourage a birth mother.

1. “You are enough.” 

Being a birth mom means admitting that you are not in the position to parent a child. Sometimes that translates in my head to mean “I’m not good enough. I couldn’t give her enough. I wouldn’t have been a good enough mom.” Remind her that she is enough. She did the best she could with the knowledge that she had. And that she did something no one else could do: give that child life. And so she is special and she is enough. Remind her often.

2. Acknowledge her birth child. 

Some of the most painful experiences I have had since placing my beautiful birth daughter have come from well-intentioned people who feel so uncomfortable talking about her that they ignore any mention of her, changing the subject as quickly as possible.

I am not ashamed. Please don’t act like I should be. This doesn’t mean you have to bring it up constantly. A simple, “How is baby R? I love the pictures I’ve seen of her, she looks just like you!” during the course of a conversation means the world to me. It feels wonderful to know she is remembered not just by me, but by the people I love.

This piece of advice does not apply to everyone. Some birth mothers are very private about their adoption experience, and that is okay. But I am lucky enough to have a very open adoption, and I’m a very open person. A good rule of thumb when deciding if it’s okay to ask is if she brings up adoption or posts about it on social media, it’s probably okay to talk about.

3. “I know I can’t understand completely, but I’m here when you need to talk.” 

In the end, there’s really nothing you can say to erase the hurt. Be there for her, while acknowledging that you can’t know what she’s going through. Personally, I tend to shut down when people tell me they know how I feel. Placing a child for adoption is a unique kind of loss, and that deserves respect. But that doesn’t mean I don’t need to cry or vent from time to time. Even if you can’t understand, being able to get it all out there helps me process my feelings, both good and bad.

No, you can’t make everything all better. You can’t even come close. But if you can remind her of her value, validate her experience, and sympathize, you will be someone she knows she can turn to. And that will make all the difference.