Grieving during the Holidays after Adoption
While the holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration and joy, they can also be difficult for you as a birth mother — especially if this is your first holiday season after placing a baby for adoption. You may feel a sense of loss since you may not be sharing in that child’s first Christmas, and you still might be going through the grieving process. Although these feelings can feel overwhelming at times, there are many ways for you to navigate them that are healthy and that can lead you to more easily processing them.
If you are struggling with grief over your adoption during the holidays, Adoption Choices of Kansas wants to make sure that you can still look forward to the joys of the holiday season. That’s why we are providing you with some ideas to help you if you are having some difficulty jump starting any coping and healing. Just as you were in control of your adoption journey, you are also in control of your healing process.
Let Yourself Grieve over the Adoption
Firstly, as much as you may want to simply get rid of any negative emotions you experience post placement, it’s important that you give yourself time and space to grieve and process those emotions. Simply trying to ignore them will not lead to any kind of resolution. Know that you are not weak for expressing your grief, and the fact that you followed through the adoption process is a testament to that. Having a good session of crying or venting can be cathartic, as it releases some of the internal emotional pressure that can build up when confronting a difficult life event.
At some point, it can be very helpful to unpack and reflect on your feelings. On the surface, your feelings seem to be explained very simply: you’re sad that you don’t have a child to spend the holidays with, and you’re grieving the loss of your motherhood. While this is likely true, there might be more reasons — sometimes conflicting reasons — contributing to your sadness at this time. These reasons might even have taken root prior to your pregnancy which are adding complexity to how you feel now. In some respects, it can be difficult to place your finger exactly on everything that is causing you to feel as you do.
In any case, taking the initiative to start untangling and sorting out all the moving parts of your emotional landscape will set you on the path to healing. Consider journaling to keep track of how you’re feeling day to day. Take special note of anything that triggers any negative emotions, as well as any moments when you find some peace of mind. The more you write and reflect on past entries, the more able you are to pick up on any patterns that can lead you on a path to closure. You may still need external input from others at some point, but starting this process with yourself may help you better articulate your struggles if and when you seek help from others.
Be Active while Healing from Grief
As important as it is to set aside some time for you to feel your raw emotions, it’s crucial that you don’t get stuck in a loop of just feeling without resolving. Many desire to be alone during a painful period. While being alone may be necessary for you at times, it’s important to balance it out by trying to engage yourself with other activities so that you don’t fall deep into isolation and become consumed by grief.
As a practical measure, make sure you are taking care of yourself physically. Getting enough sleep, eating well, and being physically active are key to getting through the day. Grief is exhausting, and you may find yourself wiped out at the end of the day more often. Not getting enough sleep can exacerbate any anxiety or depression you’re experiencing which leads to further exhaustion which can lead to burnout. Additionally, you may not be in the mood to eat as much as you regularly would if you’re anxious or depressed. However, putting off eating or not eating substantive and nutritious foods will worsen the anxiety and depression. So make sure you’re getting your proteins, vitamins, complex carbs, and fluids. For physical activity, even something as simple as going for a walk can be therapeutic. Such activities can be helpful in either getting your mind off of whatever is troubling you, or putting you in the right mindset to think more clearly when processing your emotions.
Give Yourself Something to Look Forward to
Another important healing method is giving yourself things to look forward to, and the holidays provide ample opportunity for that. Making plans to visit with family and friends can help take your mind off of the more difficult side of the holidays. By sharing your time with others, it gives you the chance to put things into perspective: it shows that your life does not have to revolve around your loss. By focusing on and engaging with the other aspects of your life that you are grateful for, the pain of your loss can gradually move away from the forefront of your thoughts thus allowing you to begin moving on.
Furthermore, if you are in an open adoption during Christmas or the holidays, use this time of the year to reconnect with the child you placed for adoption and their new family. Whether this means making an in-person visit, a video chat, a phone call, or exchanging letters with the family, you can look forward to the continuation of your role in the life of that child.
Rely on Your Adoption Support Network
Even when you put effort into taking care of yourself, reflecting on your adoption journey, and staying engaged in the different facets of your life, you will still have days that are hard to get through especially during the holidays. During such times, you may benefit from gaining a new perspective on your situation so that your grief doesn’t become a dominant force in your life.
Re-framing how you feel about your situation can be a long process, but seeking counsel from those in your support system is a great way to start. Whether you seek solutions through a professional counselor’s insights, comfort in the empathy of friends and family, or the understanding found in a birth mother support group, the wisdom of others can help you re-contextualize your pain so that it can become more manageable. It also serves to reassure you that you are not alone, and that you made the right decision when you chose adoption.
Take Control of Your Adoption Healing Journey
If you’re a birth mother in Kansas, and you’re struggling with feelings of loss and grief over your adoption during the holiday season, Adoption Choices of Kansas wants you to know that you don’t have to confront your fears, doubts, and sorrows alone. We can provide you with the resources you need to find a sense of peace so that your first holiday season as a birth mother can be a joyous one.
Meet the Author: Mary DeStefano is an Ohio native currently living in northern Virginia and works in the litigation consulting industry where she has experience in antitrust, product liability, and mass torts matters. She holds a B.A. in Economics (‘15) and an M.A. in Applied Economics (‘16) from the University of Cincinnati.
Mary finds great meaning in wielding the written word to develop impactful narratives and to help people stay informed. In her spare time, Mary can be found beachcombing and going on other adventures with her dog along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. She also has an affinity for antiquing and loves a good 80’s movie marathon.