It’s been more than four years since I placed my son for adoption, and even now, as I write this article, I struggle with it. I tear up. I ache. I get angry with myself. Knowing I did the right thing is not enough to prevent the bad days. Nothing I do can make them disappear. It’s hard not to think about what could have been should I have chosen to parent. It’s hard to not see my son more than half a dozen times a year. It’s hard to hear him call someone else mom. And it’s hard to love him so unconditionally, but not hear it back from him.

It’s days like today, when I still have to go to work, talk to clients, run errands, and take care of my daughter that get to me. But what can I do? What can any of us do to deal with the bad days? The answers are not simple, nor are they always going to help, but I can at least guarantee that they’ll be honest and filled with empathy.

To deal with days like today, I would recommend not holding back the tears. Even if you’re busy and in a setting where crying is both embarrassing and somewhat inappropriate, find a small amount of time, in a private place, to let out the emotion. Beating yourself up for hurting just makes things worse. Another birth mother I know once told me that she viewed the placement of her daughter as a death–the death of her role as a mother to that child. Just as we mourn the death of a loved one, it is very appropriate to mourn the placement of a child.

Make your child proud by working towards becoming a stronger, better person.

I would also recommend not keeping your thoughts and feelings to yourself. Tell someone you can easily confide in about what you’re going through so you don’t attempt to carry the burden alone. This person can be a friend or family member, or he or she can be a stranger who you’ll never see again. He or she could be a therapist, or a journal, or a pet, or even a member of the the adoptive family if you’ve built up that kind of bond and relationship. Every person has his or her limits, and I can only hope no person ever has to reach those limits because they tried to do this alone.

Something else I do is pray and meditate. When I feel like I’m falling apart and other people don’t help, I go to my Heavenly Father. I recognize that many people aren’t religious, so meditate. Take time to sort through your thoughts and feelings, making sure you try your best to recognize those that are legitimate and those that are irrational. The hard times can lead to putting yourself down, so do what it takes to get into right state of mind.

Another recommendation is to keep yourself busy; don’t allow your mind to wallow and become consumed in negativity. Make your child proud by working towards becoming a stronger, better person. If you have a job, do your very best work. If you’re in school, study your hardest. If you have hobbies, put your heart and soul into becoming better. If you’re a parent, do everything you can to make your children feel loved. Do everything with purpose so your bad days can still count as successes.

Lastly, just know that the child you placed for adoption will always be your child. Nothing and no one can take that from you. Not distance, not other people, not circumstance, nothing. You are that child’s mother. Everyone has bad days, but only you can ever be their birth mother.