Friday, November 12, 2010

12. Stages of Grief

The Six Stages of Grief

1. Shock
2. Denial
3. Anger
4. Sadness/Depression
5. Numb
6. Acceptance

In the adoption world, everyone goes through the stages of grief.


The grieving process can begin before the baby is born and happens long after placement, of course. Birthparents grieve the same way someone grieves over the death of a loved one.

Adoptive parents:

They can grieve over the hurt and pain the birthparents feel. But they also grieve with infertility. They grieve that they have to give someone else pain and heartache for their happiness. They can't have babies the "normal way." They have to see that everyday when they look at their baby. Some parents are sad when they look at their baby and know their baby will never look like them.

Grieving is NORMAL. Completely. Also in the stages of grief, you don't have to follow them all in that exact order. Grief takes on so many forms. Half of them aren't even recoginzable. So many people can believe they went through the acceptance stage, but one day they can see something or remember something and then they're back on the grieving process all over again.

Here is a list of appropriate grief expectation you can have for yourself during grief:

  • Your grief will take longer than most people think (minimum 1 year).
  • Your grief will take more energy than you would have ever imagined.
  • Your grief will show itself in all spheres of your life: psychological, social, physical, spiritual.
  • You will grieve for many things both tangible and symbolic, not just the placement alone.
  • Your grief will depend on how you perceive the loss.
  • You will grieve for what you have lost already and for what you have lost for the future.
  • Your grief will entail mourning, not only for the actual person, but for hopes, dreams, and unfulfilled expectations you held for and with that person.
  • Your grief will involved a wide variety of feelings and reactions, not solely those that are generally thought of as grief (i.e. depression, anger, sadness, etc.).
  • The loss will ressurect old issues, feelings, and unresolved conflicts from the past.
  • You may have some indentity confusion as a result of this major loss.
  • You may experience reactions that may be quite different for you.
  • You may have a combination of anger and depression, such as irritability, frustration, annoyance, and interolance.
  • You may feel anger and guilt, or at least some manifestations of these emotions.
  • You may experience sudden grief episodes that occur without warning.
  • You may have trouble thinking or making decisions.
  • You may feel like you're going crazy.
  • You may become obsessed or preoccupied with the adoption.
  • You maybe being to sense an increase in your spirituality, religion, or philosophy of life.
  • You may find yourself acting differently in your social interactions.
  • You may experience a number of physical reactions.
  • Certain dates, events, or stimuli may bring upsurges of grief.
  • Experiences later in life may ressurect grief reactions for you temporarily.

With the list of grief I thought I would add the list of Taking Care of Yourself while during grief and what rituals you can do to remember our loved ones in loving, healing ways and with a sense of peace. You don't need to "hold on" to the pain in order to remember the person.

Taking Care of Yourself
  • Eat well-balanced meals
  • Try to get adequate rest- try going to bed earlier and sleeping a little later.
  • Try taking slow deep breaths in through your nose, exhaling through your mouth.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Avoid making big decisions- let things stay the same for a while.
  • Avoid taking on additional commitmnets, large or small or a while.
  • Make a list of things that you used to enjoy and do one thing daily- even if it is small.
  • Keep a journal- it helps you gauge your progress over time.
  • Keep track of your dreams- they may help you understand what is going on inside.
  • Engage in a creative activity.
  • Try reading a book on grief, it may help you understand what you are experiencing.
  • If Sundays, holidays, or other dates are difficult, schedule comforting activities.
  • Express your feelings to someone you trust. All feelings are okay.
  • Invite other living things into your life, a new plant, a pet, etc.
  • Take time to be by yourself, but don't spend all your time alone.
  • Avoid napping during the day, it can offset your sleep at night.
  • Take a warm bath.
  • Engage in relaxing activities.

Grief Rituals
  • Buy a very special candle and light it at times that are special to your loved one's memory (i.e. birthday, anniversary, holidays, etc.)
  • Write a special note, tie it to balloons and let them go.
  • Help feed the hungry/homeless at Thanksgiving, or other holidays.
  • Create a scrapbook of memories/photos.... a memory book.
  • Donate gifts, quilts, etc. in your loved one's name.
  • Plant a strong healthy tree or rosebush in your loved one's name.
  • Find a tree in the canyons or woods, tie a yellow ribbon around it, go frequently to remember (this is especially helpful when ashes have been scattered and there is no gravesite.)
  • Let balloons go, along with a prayer or special wish, to your loved one.
  • Offer a scholarship in the loved one's name.
  • On birthday's, holiday's, anniversaries, etc., buy your loved one a gift and donate it to a hospital, nursing home, or charity of your choice.
  • For Christmas, hang up a stocking for your loved one and let everyone write a special note to put inside.
  • Buy a Christmas ornament each year to remember your loved one.
  • If you go on a trip at a special anniversary time, do something special to remember your loved one on the trip (toss a rose in the ocean, light a candle, etc.)
  • Have a wedding ring made into a new setting for a necklace.
  • Have a birthday party for your loved one on his/her birthday.
  • Have a family "memory" evening where you share photos, memories, reminisce about special times, and create a scrapbook of this occasion.
Being a birth mom is a chance to tell our story. About the atonement.
The Lord will put the words in your mouth and what you want to say.

There are thoughts about how your life is over and that it's the end, but placement and adoption is just the beginning of life.
Because you have been given much you too must give.

Satan hates adoption and wants to confuse us. He will do it before, during and after. I definitely got confused after I had Olivia and right before placement. I wasn't sure if it was what I was supposed to do.
Birth mothers who place are the MOST stable people and make the best mothers because they are able to put their child first in the situation.

A lot of people will not understand your story. It's frustrating. I've been there. I've told them time and time again why I've done it. I have started an epidemic at work. Haha. Not really. But one girl got mad that another girl said that she was proud of me for placing my baby. Placing your baby for adoption is not a bad thing. Personally, I love telling my story.

A lot of people will also not understand your grief. I remember a girl that I did a panel with and her caseworker had told her or her family that she would be feeling "back to normal" or okay in 3 months. Once the 3 months hit if she showed that she was sad, they wouldn't understand. They didn't get why she would still be sad over it.

Please, don't ever tell us to move on. To forget about it. Or to get over it. Also another thing that you can say that can hurt is, "It turned out for the best." So, what was best for my baby is that she's supposed to be in another home? That I was always incapable of raising my baby?
You don't tell somebody who has recently lost a loved one that, "Oh, well. At least you know they're in a better place." No, you know they're hurting. So what's different with this situation? Oh. Because we get to see our baby? It's as if the title of mom died, within us. We have felt the pain and the hurt of losing a child. Yes, we can watch them grow in pictures or in visits. Oh, and my favorite. We shouldn't grieve because we CHOSE that. We knew it was coming, so we shouldn't hurt? No amount of prayers can keep you from the pain. You know that someone close to you will die. Anyone could die anyday. Your parents, your siblings, your grandparents or your pets. You know that it's coming, so you shouldn't hurt when you lose them right? It's no different the pain that we experience.
There is no interest in moving on or getting over the adoption or the placement. If you are being blessed throughout your life because of it then why would you change that?

The Lord will put you through the fire but to solidify you.

There is no randomness or coincidence.
Satan will try to disrupt the happiness that we're entitled to and what we deserve.
Either you can use this experience as a stumbling block or as a stepping stone.

"Your sadness is real, yet it need not be final. While it brings you pain it can also bring wisdom and strength. From it you will learn secrets about yourself and truths about others, You have known deep joy before;you can yet again. Despite your brokenness, and somehow even because of it, wholeness awaits you. Despite what you have lost, and some how even because of it, you stand to gain. You hold the possibility of experiencing life with a maturity and a compassion and appreciation you have never known before. So be open. Know that the life which flows through you has been given as a sacred gift. Cherish that gift. Nurture it. Above all else, hallow the preciousness of each passing moment that is yours, for this is where the miracle of life resides, and this is where you must go to find it. Finally, remember that your destiny was predicted by the writer of the Book of Job: "You will forget your misery, you will remember it as waters that have passed away, and your life will be brighter than the noonday; its darkness will be like the morning. And you will have confidence, because there is hope"! (James E. Miller from the book Listen to your Sadness; Finding Hope Again After Despair Invades Your Life)


  1. Thank you for your post. I have been gaining insight from your blog while we were hoping to adopt, and now as we are nearing our 6th month and sealing of our sweet baby boy. I appreciate your blog. I wanted to thank you for taking the time to share and let you know how it has helped us in our journey!

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this! I can tell your are one amazing woman. I'll always have a special place in my heart for birthmoms! They are incredible- yeah, that includes you.

  3. Thank you so much for this Stefanie. It is so important for us to recognize that grief exists- for birthmoms and adoptive parents as well. Society as a whole needs to learn that it is ok to talk about grief and your suggestions about it in this post are wonderful.