The holiday season is here. While many of us are looking forward to celebrating with our families, it is important to remember that some of us will be thinking of loved ones who cannot be there to celebrate with us.
Adoptions With Love would like to take some time to recognize the birth mothers who are coping with grief this holiday season – whether you have just placed your baby for adoption, placed years ago, or are in the midst of making an adoption plan, we understand that this time of year can be a difficult one. As happy as you are knowing your child is sharing this special time with their family, you may also be grieving their absence in your own home and plans. This is completely normal. Adoption is a beautiful journey, but it can also be bittersweet—and with so much focus on family, it is not unusual for the holidays to be especially tough on those who have experienced loss or grief in some way.
We want you to know that you are not alone. Whether you made an adoption plan just yesterday or twenty-five years ago, there are resources available to you. There are also things you can do to make the most of this holiday season, despite any complicated emotions that might arise. Here a few suggestions:
Contact your adoption agency for support.
Despite being surrounded by family and friends, you might be feeling especially alone this holiday season. Know that you do not have to handle this time of year by yourself. Reach out to your adoption agency or counselor for support. If you placed your baby with Adoptions With Love, remember that we will always be here for you. We understand what you have gone through, as well as the complicated grief that you are experiencing, and are here to talk you through this difficult time.
Your adoption agency may also be able to refer you to a local support group, where you can get together with other birth parents experiencing grief this season. At your request, your adoption agency may also set you up to talk with another birth mother who has walked in similar shoes as you.
If you worked with an open adoption agency like Adoptions With Love, you might also consider asking for updates or pictures of your son or daughter. Adoptions With Love would be happy to provide you with the letters and pictures we have on file, or get an update from your child’s family. For many birth mothers, this can bring great peace of mind. Here is what one of our birth mothers had to say about coping with grief during the holiday season:
“I think the thing that helps me the most is looking at pictures of my daughter. I love seeing her photos and reading the letters her parents have sent me, because it reminds me of the amazing life she has and how much she is loved. It brings me peace to know that she’s a happy, healthy kid in a loving family. That’s exactly what I wanted for her. So even when I miss her, I know that she’s happy.”
Create new traditions with your child.
Your child will always be a part of your life, no matter if your adoption is open or closed. This year, if it feels appropriate, find a way to include your son or daughter in your holiday traditions.
If you have an open adoption and the ability to connect with your child’s family, try to take advantage of it. Connecting with your child directly can help ease some of the heightened emotions this holiday. It will also benefit your child, who will also be thinking of you. This is a special time of year for families. More than likely, your child’s adoptive parents will be happy to hear from, whether that be through a phone call, a video chat, a holiday card, or an in-person visit.
If you cannot directly involve your child in your holiday plans, you can still find a way to honor them this holiday season and beyond. If you are in touch (but far away) from the adoptive family, for example, you might consider making or picking out a special ornament to send to your child. This could even become an annual tradition – each year, with each ornament, your child will be reminded of your love.
If you have a closed adoption plan and do not have contact with your child’s family, there are still other ways you can recognize your child this holiday season. For example, you can light a candle for your child. You can make a special decoration to hang each year in honor of their importance. You can also choose to write your child a holiday card, even if it never gets mailed.
Write a letter to your child.
If you cannot see or connect with your child this holiday season, you might consider writing a letter. It does not matter if you send this letter or not. Many birth mothers use letter writing as an outlet for their thoughts and to cope with feelings of grief.
This year, you might choose to write your son or daughter a letter and put it away in a box. You might choose to write one every year moving forward, too, and give this box to your child when he or she is grown. If you have a semi-open adoption and would like to communicate with your child right away, you might give this letter to your adoption counselor, who can then forward it to your child’s family.
Take care of yourself.
Adoption is not an easy decision, but it is one of the most loving decisions a mother can make for her child. You are very brave for making this sacrifice in the best interests of your baby. You have the right to be happy and enjoy the holidays alongside everyone else. Of course, you do not have to.
If you are feeling sad this holiday season, you do not have to pretend to be otherwise. You do not have to feel obligated to act a certain way during holiday celebrations, especially if you are coping with birth mother grief. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to feel during the holidays. Do what you feel you need to do as a birth mother. Give yourself space. Allow yourself time to grieve. Try to understand your feelings. Forgive yourself. Practice self-care. Do something to make you happy. Stay healthy.
Not acknowledging your grief and holding it in, will make everything more painful. By finding a way to include your child in your holiday plans, by reaching out for post-adoption support and counseling from your agency, and by taking care of yourself, you can and will find a way to make the most of this holiday season.
If you would like to speak with an Adoptions With Love social worker this holiday season, please call 1-800-722-7731. Amy, Nancy, Amelia, Claudia, and Nellie are available 24/7 to answer your call, no matter what time of day or which day of the week – that is our promise to you.