Adoption and Grief

Sometimes the most beautiful things are also the most painful.

Rachel Skousen January 03, 2014
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Make no mistake about it.  Adoption is a beautiful thing.  It is a committed couple offering love and family to a child they’ve hoped and worked for.  It is brave birth parents deciding that they want to give their child more than they could offer.  It is about the connection between these lives– about two sets of parents coming together to provide the very best for a child.  But, like all the best things in life, adoption requires blood, sweat, and tears.  So today let’s talk about another thing that adoption is.

Adoption is hard.

It’s hard for birth mothers, who have to make the decision that their sweet baby– the child they’ve carried (wriggling) under their heart for nine months, who are born with sweet little noses and toes and fingers and shining eyes– would have greater opportunities in someone else’s arms.  Who leave the hospital without a baby.  Who are left questioning themselves and wondering what might have been.  Who will carry that loss with them for the rest of their lives.

It’s hard for adoptive parents, who go through months, sometimes years, of waiting for a child of their own.  Of hearing from birth mothers and then never hearing from them again.  Of allowing hope, in all her indomitable glory, rise up and up again, only to be crushed repeatedly by failed connections, by changed minds.  Of going through those temerous first days with a new infant, almost afraid to love, terrified that this joy, too, will be taken away from them.  “Adoption is not for the faint of heart,” writes Jennifer Gillmore for The Atlantic.  She should know.  It took her four long years of failed connections with potential birth mothers– including an incident where she and her husband actually parented a child for several weeks before the birth father claimed his parental rights– before she was finally able to finalize an adoption.

Often in our minds we put birth parents and adoptive parents into different camps, believing that their experiences are very different from one another’s.  But this is simply not true.  Rather, their experiences are two sides of the same coin.  Their struggles and hurt and loss and grief come at different times, but they come together to create the resplendent miracle that we call adoption.

A statement oft-quoted in adoption circles from birthmother Desha Wood reads, “He is mine in a way that he will never be hers; yet he is hers in a way that he will never be mine– and so together, we are motherhood.”  Birth parents and adoptive parents are inextricably entwined by the arms of love they’ve both put out to their child– but let’s not forget that they are also silently united by the pains of grief as well.  Denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and—at long last—acceptance—these are landmarks passed by birth parents and adoptive parents alike as they walk the path of adoption.  Fortunately, at the end of the path, there is love.

And love always wins.

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Rachel Skousen

Rachel has a long-held passion for adoption that was sealed through her work as the content manager at Adoption.com. She currently works as a content specialist at Adopting.org, finding and sharing amazing adoption content from across the web. She is a mom of three and loves reading and napping in her spare time.


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