The Unique Pain of Adoption
By Amanda Hogue
If you are considering adoption as a result of delayed fertility or failed fertility treatments, it can be accompanied by an enormous sense of loss. After we decided to pursue adoption, we started our research on agencies. I remember sitting through endless agency information sessions and not hearing an entire word because my brain was numb. My mind was numb a lot those days. I didn’t recognize it at first, but I was dealing with a deep sadness, an uncontrollable burden of grief.
That was hard for me to recognize and understand, since I didn’t actually lose anything tangible. I love how Dr. Kenneth J. Doka acknowledges it, “Losses like this are often disenfranchised- they are unrecognized and unsupported by other members of society…. We feel disenfranchised grief over losses that are not openly acknowledged… experiencing these losses, but we come to believe we do not have the right to grieve them” (p.7). Dawn Davenport interviews him on her “Creating a Family” podcast, which I’ve linked to here. This podcast was a turning point for me because I finally realized why I felt such a burden of grief.
If you’ve been trying to grow your family through natural conception or through fertility treatments, you can feel this loss, especially if adoption wasn’t something you’d previously considered. Adoption is a beautiful way to grow your family, but if that’s not your plan A, there can be an enormous amount of grief that surfaces. I wish I could say that I recognized the grief that I needed to process through before we were actively pursuing adoption, but I didn’t. We selected an agency and rushed through the home study process. Finally, once we were an approved, waiting family, the whole mix of emotions assaulted me.
Most of those emotions were channeled into anger. I was angry at how invasive the home study process was. Angry at the misinformation we received from our agency. Angry that friends were getting pregnant when they weren’t “supposed too”. And angry that we weren’t able to conceive naturally AND we had to wait for our baby to come to us.
Maybe you know what I’m talking about. Maybe you’re sitting there, with a cup of coffee in hand, reading these words and recognizing your own disenfranchised grief. I hope you realize how important it is that you work through it before you bring your own little one home; so stay with me here…
I didn’t care to open my bible and hear from God, so I turned to this ministry, “I am Fruitful” and listened to Lauren’s Word of the Day. I listened to podcasts that helped me hope that we would be matched with our own child.
The first step in working through your grief is recognizing and acknowledging it. I did this through journaling in the style that David does in the Psalms. For example, in Psalm 7, he starts out by writing out all of his fears: “save me from all my pursuers and deliver me, lest like a lion they tear my soul apart, rending it in pieces, with none to deliver” (v1b-2). Obviously, my fears sound a little different than that, but no less dramatic, I assure you! David then writes out his prayers: “Arise, O Lord, in your anger, lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies…” (v 6). He continues to come up with descriptive ways for God to protect him and reminds Him of the ways he’s protected him in the past.
He wraps up the Psalm with “I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High” (v17). He was praising God even before the deliverance came. He trusted God to come through for him. This is how I approached my journaling. I came to God with my problem/complaint/struggle and wrote out my prayers. I reminded God of the times He’s “come through” for us and/or the miracles he’s done for others. This postures my heart to actually praise God for His goodness, and trust that he is working to build my family.
Dr. Kenneth J. Doka (2016) Grief Is a Journey: Finding Your Path Through Loss