3 Reasons You Should Grieve Not Having An Open Adoption

I am so grateful for my open adoption.

Natalie Brenner September 19, 2017

I remember her flipping through pages of potential adoptive families, books bound by plastic and hope, telling me stories about birth mothers and adoptive mothers becoming close friends.

I recall feeling so confused and taken aback, silently wondering if people really did that—had open communication in their adoptions.

She told us of the benefits of an open adoption, told us it’s good for everyone.

All I could think about was how I felt crushed. I was so wrapped up in creating a family my way with my ideas and what I thought had to be the best way. Open adoption was certainly not the best way. Right?

My friend Amber is a birth mama. She placed her baby girl in another mama’s arms years ago; coming up on 18 years. Her adoption was supposed to be somewhat open but hasn’t been. I asked her how that made her feel and her response?

“It literally rips my soul apart if I allow myself to think about it.”

I’ve spent hours talking with my friend Angela. She is an adoptee and she is generous enough to share her voice with our world, particularly the adoption world.

She didn’t have an open adoption and didn’t meet her birth mother until she was well into her adult years. She has shared with me the loss and grief intertwined and mixed up with growing, not knowing her roots.

My friends Michelle, Jeanne, Samantha, and Katie have shared the same.

My son is only one. He’s somehow coming up on two, which is beyond this mama’s heart, but he is only one. When I met him, I knew I needed to do everything I could to open our adoption wider than it was.

I knew, for him, I wanted it open. But when I met his first mama, I knew I wanted it open for all of us.

Because I set down my fear and selfishness, because I decided to not make a decision off of my ignorant ideas and instead educate myself on the matter, we now have an open adoption. And for that, I am so grateful.

I have contact with my son’s biological aunt, biological grandma, biological dad, and biological mom. How special is that, to maintain these relationships for my son? What a way to honor my son and his identity, to let him know we value every single piece of who he is.

Here are 3 reasons you should grieve not having an open adoption:

You lack a whole picture of your child’s identity.
1. You lack a whole picture of your child’s identity.

You love your child and giving them an open adoption offers you more of your child. You are able to see far more of your child’s identity and history. You love everything about your child, and you get to know more about your child by having an open adoption. This slide is all about you, adoptive parent; but let’s move on into the real and truest heart of why you should grieve not having an open adoption . . .

You (and your child) miss out on medical history.
2. You (and your child) miss out on medical history.

My adoptee friends have shared this with me time and time again. But this is also something I have really come to appreciate: having access to asking my son’s biological family about medical history.

I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve sat in a waiting room, filling out papers and checking boxes, feeling like a helpless mess because I didn’t know my son’s biological medical history. Quite a few doctors appointments into this, I thought, “Why am I not asking his biological family about this?!” What a gift that has been.

My friends Jesse, Katie, and Sam have all shared with me the immense loss it is, not knowing anything about their medical or genetic history.

It’s harder to help your child navigate their identity.
3. It’s harder to help your child navigate their identity.

Without contact or information about your child’s birth family, it is difficult to answer any questions they have. And they have questions, whether or not they’re asking you.

I am so grateful for the contact, even if slim at times. We have had so many conversations and I have taken so many notes to offer my son when he wants/asks/is older. When he wonders about biological siblings, I have the privilege of learning more about that. Without contact, I would be absolutely stuck helping him navigate his whole identity.

In Closing . . .
4. In Closing . . .

I’ve heard from countless adoptees they thought often about their birth families growing up—closed adoptions from foster care and infant domestic. Because talking with their birth families was not a normal part of their rhythm or routine, talking about them wasn’t either. This created shame about their birth families and any questions they had, therefore the freedom and safety to ask and navigate with the help of their parents wasn’t there.

If your child’s adoption is closed, help them grieve that and let them walk the turbulent road of grief. Grief is clunky and awkward and doesn’t often make sense, but it is necessary for a whole sense of self.

It’s a legitimate loss for your child, which means it’s also a legitimate loss for you.

Whatever part of the adoption circle you are, you have permission to grieve.

author image

Natalie Brenner

Natalie Brenner is wife to Loren and mom to two under two, living in Portland, Oregon. She is the best-selling author of This Undeserved Life. She likes her wine red, ice cream served by the pint, and conversations vulnerable. Natalie believes in the impossible and hopes to create safe spaces for every fractured soul. She's addicted to honesty and believes grief is the avenue to wholeness. Natalie is a bookworm, a speaker, and a lover of fall. Connect with her at NatalieBrennerWrites.com and join her email community.


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