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The Emotions of Adoption

Adoption is an emotional topic. In adoptive placements, high level emotions are experienced by both parties – the adoptive parents and birth parents. Grief and loss are experienced by those who desire to grow their own family, but cannot.  Placement-minded birth parents also experience grief and loss because they care infinitely for the little one growing inside them.
Often, people can be at a loss on how to come alongside those in the process of adopting, and those seeking a family for their child. The Bible speaks to such emotions through the words of the Apostle Paul. He describes how believers in Jesus are to identify with each other’s emotions in our life together.  He says that we are to weep with those who weep and experience joy with those who are joyful.
For those involved in adoption, reminders of intense emotions are everywhere. Baby showers, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and a child’s birth date can be difficult reminders for those who do not have children as well as those who have relinquished a child through adoption.
Even in churches, people don’t know what to say to those experiencing infertility, or making an adoption plan. Clients have taught me to ask “How can I serve you today?” or, “Is there anything I can do to encourage you today?” Instead of trying to figure out what people need, I ask directly “What do you need from me today?”
Some may need a reminder about God’s truths. Some may want to talk about it, while others prefer to work through their feelings alone. Encouragement may be needed to express their thoughts, feelings, and questions to God.
Several practical steps can be taken to heed Paul’s admonition. Listening is one of the most important, especially without giving advice. Listening without judging is critical.   Also, several practical, tangible things can be offered prior to placement.  One is to contribute financially to a family’s adoption journey, or suggesting other sources of financial assistance.
Intentionally spending time with families who are adopting is often very much appreciated. Asking the question, “How can I be of help to you?” is a great place to start. Another good question, “Is it okay if I ask how your adoption process is going?”
Following placement, practical steps can be taken to reach out and help both adoptive families and birth parents as they adjust to the changes in their lives. Ideas include helping plan meals or providing food.  Families adopting internationally often need to travel long distances to receive their child. Offering to tend to their homes, watch their children, or mow their lawn may be helpful.
Birthparents especially need time to adjust but may hesitate to reach out for help. Look for subtle signs that someone may need support.  They will appreciate just being asked about their need. Remember, it is important to ask, and not assume, what they need.
Pray specifically and expectantly for these families. Pray that God will be near to them during their adoption or placement process. Telling them you are praying can bring encouragement, strength, and hope; especially at times when life seems to be out of control.
The Apostle Paul was right! It is up to each one of us to know how and when to come along side those who are confronting the real emotions of adoption.
Kate Roecker, MA, LPC,  Adoption Counselor

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