Ways to Cope When an Adoption Plan Falls Apart

. . . even when YOU are falling apart.

Kenna Shumway January 12, 2016
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So I’m just going to come out and say it. When adoption plans fall apart, we fall apart. Our hearts and hopes drop from cloud nine to the underworld. Like many of you, I’ve had a failed placement—and a reversed adoption.

The reversed adoption, where we had “our” daughter Kate for two weeks, left me needing emotional life support. Oddly enough, I masked my need for support, and I paid for it when a failed placement followed four months later. I sunk deeper into myself, building brick and concrete walls around my heart and isolating myself from those who could love me best. 

Eventually I started to emerge and slowly (like, s l o w l y) process the emotions that I had buried. I really thought I could ignore the pain and move on with my life like it all never happened. Sometimes I STILL try to act like it didn’t happen. However, I’ve been lucky to find ways that aided me in coping when adoption plans fell apart, and I’d love to share them with you.

1. Find yourself a good psychologist. Seriously. Even though you may think you don’t need one, or that your situation isn’t severe enough, or whatever other excuse you may use, just find one. It took me months to see a psychologist regularly, but it made the most difference. She helped me be aware of how I processed negative emotions and taught me how to sit with and then move through the pain. This is a hard, and most times a lengthy, process, but friends, please take my word on it.

2. Cry, sleep, repeat. Get it out of your system. If you are like me and can’t handle anyone seeing or hear you cry, find a place where you can be alone. I would start a hot shower and cry until I had nothing left inside. At first, I figured I could cry myself silly a time or two, and be done with it. That was naïve. Even after a successful placement, I would cry. I felt like such a large piece of my heart was gone and I was terrified it would never heal. After you cry it out, go take a nap. Seriously. Your body is going to be so spent emotionally and physically, so let it rest.  There is nothing wrong with a little day sleeping, or going to bed at six o’clock. Your body, brain, and heart need it.

3. Wake up, make your bed, shower. Even if you get right back into your bed after your shower.  This was advice given to me by my father, and it remains the best advice I’ve ever received.

4. Get to work. I was a personal assistant during these tumultuous times. My bosses were extremely kind and flexible. There were days when I simply couldn’t get out of my bed before noon, and they understood. Once waking up wasn’t too daunting, I put my head down and plowed through each day. It took my mind off the pain, and while I know I wasn’t emotionally available and probably acted like a drone at work, it didn’t matter. “Get to work” can mean anything that gets you moving. Helps you be productive. Fills your days.

5. Find those who will love you best—regardless of how you respond to the pain and loss of an adoption plan that falls apart. There were times when I was mean to those closest to me because I was in so much pain. I’ll be honest, some friends I thought would stand by me didn’t.  It hurt. However, there were new friends that helped me heal and old friends that stuck with me through it all. You need friends and family who can have hope for you and your life when you can’t find it. You need friends and family who know they can’t fix or erase your pain. Sometimes we need people to walk through the fire with us, even if it’s not their fire.

These are just a few of the ways I coped with the pain and loss of our reversed adoption and failed placement.  How have you coped?

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Kenna Shumway

Wife. Adoptive mom. Writer. Photographer. Endometriosis survivor, infertility warrior & adoption advocate. Rock star on weekends. Currently calls Ohio home with her pharmacist husband and their ginger son. Read more from her on her blog.


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