Placing your child with an adoptive family is difficult, and so are the days and years following placement. It can be even more difficult when ceremonies and celebrations roll around. It can be a time of loneliness, sadness, confusion, and despair. But it doesn’t have to be. While it is different for each person, here are some ways to find that essential support after placement during ceremonies and celebrations, birthdays and holidays.

Support System: It is important to have people you love and trust—and who love and trust you—around, especially during these hard times in your life. Be open with your support system. Be honest with them. Share about your experience, feelings, doubts, and fears. Only then can they really help and support you. If they’re not aware of what you’re going through, they won’t know how to comfort you. Your support system can consist of family, friends, adoption professionals, or legal representatives—anyone that you trust.

Have Your Own Celebration: As the years progress—even if you don’t have an open adoption—you’ll be aware of your child’s birthday and life milestones, such as driving age, high school graduation, and adulthood. It can be difficult if you aren’t in contact with your child’s adoptive family because you won’t be able to directly interact and celebrate with your child and his or her adoptive family. But you can still have your own celebration with your support system. Celebrate the life you created, and the life you have given him or her. Celebrate their progression through life. Celebrate your own progression. If you feel that you may be able to re-establish contact after your child grows to adulthood, consider celebrating his or her birthdays by writing letters. Save these letters for your reconnection. It will let your child know that you’ve been thinking about him or her.

Talk with the Adoptive Parents: Depending on the type of adoption, speak with the adoptive parents about participating in the celebration or ceremony. Remember to only do this if you have already established contact with the adoptive parents prior to these events. Everyone involved should feel comfortable with any meeting or participatory situation or event. Make sure you come to a common understanding or agreement.

Yes, ceremonies and celebrations will be sometimes overwhelming as a birth parent. It can be painful and saddening. Remembering the time that you did spend with your child is important. Consider how much you’ve grown and remember that life is a progression. Your painful experiences can make you a stronger person. Find happiness again. Find joy. And enjoy life.