Is Open Adoption the Cure for Adoption Loss?

image c/o missleaman.com

Sometimes it seems like all we ever talk about here at Adoptions Together is Open Adoption.

We talk about the research that shows that birth parents who have ongoing contact with their adopted children have lower levels of grief after placement and feel more at peace with their decision than do birth parents with closed adoptions.

We talk about how open adoption can provide reassurance for birth parents who might otherwise assume the worst about how their child is doing.

We talk about how openness mitigates any feelings of abandonment that children may have and helps them form a strong sense of self.

We talk about the importance of post-placement contact agreements and how much we wish they were legally enforceable everywhere.

All these things that we talk about are true – but they are not the whole story.

A few years ago, one of our birth parent counselors explained it this way: “openness is not the ‘solution’ to the pain of loss.” Yes, open adoption is the healthiest form of adoption when it’s possible – but it doesn’t “solve” the grief and loss that every birth parent experiences. It helps birth parents to process those painful emotions, but it doesn’t get rid of them.

In some ways, open adoption is more difficult for birth parents than is closed adoption. Some birth parents worry that they may be confusing their child about who their “real” parent is (although we have not seen this happen in the adoptions we’ve facilitated). More significantly, seeing and hearing from your child is wonderful, but it can also serve as a reminder of your loss.  It’s a tradeoff – you might experience negative feelings and memories, but you also get to see your child living and thriving in the world.

We hope you know that our strong feelings about open adoption don’t mean that we don’t understand how painful adoption can be, even in this form. People with closed adoptions and those with open adoptions both struggle with grief and loss; choosing which one is right for you means carefully considering both your emotional needs and the needs of your child.

What have your experiences with open or closed adoption been like? How do you feel about having one type of adoption versus another? Please tell us in the comments section below.

 


Does Time Heal All Wounds?

 

image c/o itwillmakeyousmile.tumblr.com

Adele threw up three times during the car ride to her first open adoption visit with her child and their adoptive family.

She felt sick and irritable, snapping at her social worker, who was driving the car, and listening to angry music on her headphones while she stared out the window.

It turned out that the lead-up to that first visit was the hardest part of the whole thing. When they got there, saw Adele’s daughter and her adoptive family, and started talking and playing, Adele’s queasy stomach and bad mood faded. But when they left after a few hours, her anxiety was replaced with sadness. She spent the ride home thinking about how different things would have been had she chosen to parent her daughter instead of making an open adoption plan.

The following year, Adele had butterflies in her stomach on the way to the visit, but she didn’t get sick. She chatted with her social worker and left her headphones at home. The visit itself was as lovely as the first, although the sadness returned when Adele got back in the car afterward.

Open adoption is always painful, but the emotional crisis itself does pass. Often, a birth parent’s first visit with their child and their child’s adoptive family is extremely emotional. The pain of the separation is still very raw, and the hurt – and even regret – might seem unbearable.

Time doesn’t “heal” the pain of adoption any more than it “heals” the pain of the death of a loved one, but it does change the pain. The first year after an adoption placement can feel like an emotional thunderstorm, but as time goes on, the storm ends, the clouds start to part, and the sun starts to peek out from behind them. It might not turn into a beautiful, sunny day, but it can slowly become calm. It can become peaceful.

Adele told her social worker after both her first and second visits with her daughter that she felt very sad but also extremely glad she’d gotten the chance to spend time with her and see how happy and healthy she was.  Today, several years after placement, she still feels anxious before her visits and sad afterward, but she loves those visits and she never gets sick before them. Time might not have healed her wounds, but it has taken away the sting.

What do you think? Does time heal all wounds? How have your emotions about your placement changed over time?