So, this article may bore some of you. I wrote it for the FSA (Families Supporting Adoption) Colorado Chapter newsletter. I don't know if anyone who reads my blog has experienced a failed adoptive placement or knows someone who has but this is just a simple article on our experience from this summer. I know many of you were there for us as we went through this and we thank you for that!
Coping with a Failed Adoptive Placement
“She has decided to keep the baby,” the social worker told us. With those seven words, our hearts were broken and our arms, that had just held a beautiful baby girl the day before in the hospital, were now, once again, empty. We weren’t surprised by those words. We knew from the moment that the baby was born without the special needs the doctors and her birthmom had anticipated, that her birthmom might change her mind. But, here we were, in another state, having already held that beautiful child that we had planned on being ours. And now we were told to go back home with empty arms and broken hearts.
Most of us have come to adoption having already experienced much grief and loss while trying to build our families. After so much pain, it felt like a cruel trick by God to be chosen to adopt a child, only to have our hopes and plans shattered again due to a failed placement. Working through the grief of a failed placement is similar to working through the grief and loss of infertility. Much of the same feelings of anger, sadness, and denial at not being able to control your own destiny of how and when you build your family start to resurface with a failed adoptive placement.
Adoption.com offers these helpful tips on how to cope with a failed adoptive placement:
1) Allow your friends to help you
2) Let your spouse grieve in his or her own way
3) Seek closure and
4) Make peace with God.
Allowing our friends to help
Of course, all of our friends and family knew we were rushing off to another state for the birth of our child. We had so many people cheering us on and supporting our decision to adopt this child, who had the possibility of having special needs. When the placement failed, we allowed our friends to grieve with us. We emailed all of our friends who had anxiously been awaiting the birth and placement announcement to tell them that the adoption would not be going through and we found many supportive people waiting to comfort us when we arrived home. We notified certain people such as work and other responsibilities that we would be taking a few days to ourselves to regroup when we got home and we were appreciative of the supportive emails, phone calls, and visits we received. Friends and family even brought us meals for a few days, which we realized helped them to not only support us in our loss but to also take part in our healing. I will always remember the kindness we received from so many people during that very difficult time.
Grieving in our own ways
My husband decided he was done with adoption for awhile. We had had a rollercoaster ride of a year leading up to this failed placement and he just wasn’t interested in opening his heart to more pain. He became silent and withdrawn on the subject of adoption for a few days. He wanted to move on and not dwell on the experience. I, on the other hand, wanted to talk endlessly about it and I wanted to think and plan and dream about where our future children would come from. We definitely were not on the same page with how we were dealing with our grief but after working at it, and trying not to “force” the other to grieve in our own way, we sought understanding on how the other was dealing with the grief. It was then that we were able to support one another’s grief in a way that was comfortable for each of us. I tried not to say every thought about adoption that popped into my head, only the thoughts that I really wanted to talk about. And, he expressed more to me about what he was feeling, while still maintaining a healthy emotional distance on the subject. Grief is so personal and each person will express it in his or her own, individual way. Respect that your spouse isn’t you, and therefore, may work through his or her own grief differently. Allow your marriage to be strengthened by inviting your spouse to understand your way of coping with the loss and seek to do the same for him or her.
Everyone will seek closure in their own way. Journaling was a great way for me to continue to think about and express my thoughts and emotions as I sorted the experience out in my head and heart. Journaling allowed me to review and analyze the events from every angle and then to let it go. I also recently emailed the birthmother’s aunt to find out how the baby and birthmom are doing. Although I now feel completely resolved and good about the whole experience, I am still curious and I will always remember that little girl. After all, for a few moments, she was ours.
Make Peace with God
This was the most important step for me. Knowing that this child was likely to have some special needs, we sought an answer from God before moving forward with the adoption. Once we felt the confirmation to seek after this adoption, we knew it was right and we felt happy and excited for her birth and life. After the placement failed, we felt confused and angry at God for allowing us to go through this. We didn’t understand why he would give us an answer that would be completely contradicted by the experience of our failed placement. But, we quickly remembered that God’s ways are not our ways and that his plan is perfect. We learned so much from that heart wrenching experience and can testify, that “these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7). Some of the things that we learned from this experience are too personal and spiritual to share here. But, I know that I am a stronger person, having gone through it, and I am actually grateful for what I’ve learned. Furthermore, in our case, we were chosen for our son just one month after the birth and loss of that baby girl. We now know that we would not have been available to accept placement of our son had the other adoption worked out. This is something that we never could have foreseen and we know that, when it comes to eternal families, God makes no mistakes.
It is my hope that you will not have to go through a failed adoptive placement. But, if you do, know that there is a reason for all things. I encourage you to seek to understand God’s purpose for your family’s experience and to have an open heart to hear his divine answer and to receive his consuming comfort.