Placing a baby for adoption affects more than just the birth mom–it affects all her friends and family too. They grieve both for her and the child. If you love a birth mom, you might be wondering what you can do to support her. It can be tricky to know how to help in such a unique, difficult situation. Here are five things to keep in mind.

Don’t treat me differently

Just because I placed a baby doesn’t mean I’m damaged. Don’t feel like you need to walk on eggshells around me. Most of the time, I’m doing great. I’m the same person I was before I placed. I still want to go out and have fun with my friends. I want to be supportive of my friends, and it makes me feel sad when I find out they’ve been going through something hard and not telling me just because sometimes I’m having a hard time too. Remember, your friend can be a birth mother and a regular person all at the same time!

Talk about it

One of the hardest things about adoption for me is that people tend to be so hush hush about it. I think sometimes people want to avoid bringing up a painful memory, so they avoid talking with me about my birth daughter. But Baby R is adopted, not dead. It’s okay to acknowledge her existence. It’s okay to acknowledge her child, her joy, and her pain. If she’s uncomfortable talking about it, you don’t need to push it. But you can’t go wrong in making an effort to talk with your friend about adoption. Show her that you care about the things she cares about.

Ask Questions

I absolutely love it when people ask me “So, how are baby R and her family?” I am no different than any other proud mama in that respect- I will whip out about a hundred photos and tell you all about her milestones and the cute things she does. I will tell you about how cool her adoptive parents are and how much fun her brother is. Again, if she seems uncomfortable you don’t need to push it, but she will appreciate that you care enough to ask.

Listen to understand, not just to respond

A birth mother’s grief is complicated–yes, I chose adoption because we felt it was the right thing to do. No, that doesn’t always mean I am at peace with it. Yes, I love and advocate for open adoption. No, that doesn’t mean I don’t wish it could be different in some ways. If you’re not a birth parent, you will never truly be able to grasp the emotions that go along with placement. Don’t tell me you know how feel, or how you think I should feel. Unless you are my therapist, it’s your job to sympathize, listen, and love me–not to tell me how to process my grief.

Cry With Me

Sometimes I don’t want to talk. Sometimes I just want to sit and have a good cry. You don’t have to know what to say–just be there for me. My best friend is great at this. He tells me, “It’s okay to feel how you feel.” And then he sits in silence with me while I cry. Most of the time, that’s all I need.

If you’re reading this article, it means you are already a great friend. Any effort you make to try and be supportive of your loved one who placed a baby will mean the world. Your friendship is invaluable and your love can do so much to help heal and lift their spirits. Keep it up.