The loss of a child to adoption is the most devastating experience a parent can face-and missing the child never goes away. A piece of yourself is lost and your future is forever changed.
Many grieving birth mothers question whether life will hold any meaning for them and wonder how they will survive the pain of their loss. Mothers describe the feeling as having a hole in their heart that will never heal, and may blame themselves and ask, "If only I had." Or they may be angry with their spouse, the physician, God, or the government.
Mothers feel alone and isolated in their grief, as friends and relatives are often at a loss as to what to say. But it is important to talk to people who understand the loss. This may be other first mothers, adoptees, therapists, or support groups.
Everyone suffers loss in different ways depending upon their beliefs, culture, family history, and relationship with the person who fathered the child. It doesn't mean that others care less if they mourn differently than you do. Grief can also vary greatly depending upon the openness of the adoption. While some losses are less visible, such as miscarriage, other experiences of loss are more traumatic.
- Miscarriage affects about 25 percent of women who become pregnant during their lifetime. The experience of pregnancy loss can be devastating to couples, yet the majority of women who miscarry become pregnant again soon after the loss. This can become emotionally and physically challenging for the couple. They are often plagued with concerns about the possibility of another miscarriage and whether they made an appropriate decision to conceive again.
- Stillbirths, occurring in about 1% of pregnancies, can leave a feeling of disorientation, yearning and despair. Hospitals will give parents the option of spending time with the baby to say goodbye, and many parents have said that seeing their child was important for their grief process and enabled them to see the baby as a part of themselves. Another form of infant loss is Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)-the most frequent cause of death in children under one year of age-that creates a profound void and sense of loss in the family.
- Approximately 2,000 children are reported missing every day, and these kidnappings and cases of missing children cause parents almost unbearable pain. Not knowing whether a child is dead or alive results in confusion, fright and anxiety. When the bodies of kidnapped children are found, parents may express saddened relief that their children can now have a proper burial and healing can finally begin.
- The parents of murder victims face many unique struggles in their process of bereavement. A sense of loss of control is common, and the suddenness of the death is so overwhelming that, for a period of time, parents are often incapable of processing through the grief. For this group, dealing with spiritual beliefs, attitudes toward life, and general physical health may hold special importance.
- Each day, 46 children are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S., and 35% of those will die. Cancer remains the number one disease killer of children. The anguish and extreme pain parents experience begins with diagnosis. One part of the parents' heart hopes for a cure, while the other part begins the quiet process of impending grief.
- Losing a child to adoption is almost never included because it was the mothers choice. Some mothers especially those of the baby scoop era felt like they didn't have a choice. They were uninformed about the trauma and loss.