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Dealing With a Loss in Adoption

Drowning in grief

I was her mother from the first time she called me mommy and even though I only got to parent her for 5 months, I will be her mother for the rest of my life. It has been one month since the last time I saw her and every day seems to get worse instead of better. It took me 3 weeks until I was able to pack up her room and even though my house has been returned to what it looked like before I became the mother of a two year old, everywhere I look I still see her. I feel like someone ripped my heart out and left me here to die. When I am home I drown in grief, when I leave my house and go into public I cry every time I see a little girl that reminds me of her. I can’t even walk through Target or the grocery store without crying when I see the baby sections. And no one in my life seems to understand how absolutely excruciating this is. She wasn’t my “real” daughter, I can just adopt another child later, I only had her for 5 months, it wasn’t like I had her for years… not only was she my daughter she still is and always will be. Only I have to spend the rest of my life grieving all of the parts of her life I’m missing out on. Every milestone, every birthday, I will never get to see the amazing woman she will become. And she is only two so she won’t even remember the woman she called mama for nearly six months once upon a time. The woman who sang to her every night and read her Sparkle the Unicorn so many times we both had it memorized. I have 700 photos saved on my hard drive and almost 10 gigs of videos that I will probably never be able to bring myself to watch again, but that I also will never be able to delete. How am I supposed to move on from this????


I am SO sorry you are going through this loss. I know it is extremely painful and real to have lost a baby you fell in love with and thought would be yours forever. I urge you to go to a good counselor for grief counseling. It helped me a lot, though it takes time to heal. You have been through a huge loss and shouldn’t have to deal with this alone. Hugs and many prayers to you.

Posted by tls on Mar 08, 2017 at 1:43pm

I am so very sorry. My heart hurts for you so much. I cannot imagine how devastating this is for you. I agree with tls about getting grief counseling. It might help. But really, the only thing that will truly help is time. Over time it will start to get easier. Not that it will ever fully go away, but it will get easier. Sending you hugs :(

Posted by KChiarilli on Mar 08, 2017 at 3:14pm

When we first lost our little man I was certain I would never be able to breath a full breath again without falling apart emotionally.  It has been 6 months now, and I find myself getting through full days without crying and finding more peace in moving forward than I ever thought I would.  My husband and I have found ways to hold on to our little guy - for me a special necklace and for him a tattoo.  Something to subtly help us feel like he is always with us as our greatest fear is feeling like we are forgetting him.  This sort of loss is impossible for most people to understand.  Find comfort in the people who stand with you in the pain even if they can’t fully understand it.  Let tears happen as they are part of the healing.  This grief is not something you get over - but you will find a place for it and a way to let yourself heal that still honors the love you will always have for your little girl.

Posted by jbado0607 on Mar 08, 2017 at 5:49pm

I am curious about why these children were removed from your homes?

Posted by Annab on Mar 08, 2017 at 6:07pm


Your wording suggests that you think the babies were removed because of something these foster parents did wrong. Perhaps you didn’t mean it, but that’s the way it probably sounded to the original poster and the folks who replied to her.

In fact, the primary goal of the foster care system is reunification of a child with his/her biological family; foster care is meant to be a temporary solution to a situation in which a biological parent cannot provide adequate care for a child at a point in time, but may be able to do so in the future.  It is only when it becomes clear that reunification is not possible that a foster family can apply to adopt the child. 

Foster parents are taught to view placements as temporary, but it is common for them to become very attached to the children they are fostering, especially if those children are with them for a period of months or years.. It is also common for foster parents to feel a certain degree of anger, mixed with the sadness, if a child is being returned to a parent whose past behaviors caused lasting emotional harm to him/her, or whose problems, such as drug abuse, could easily recur.

Foster parents may go through a significant period of grieving after a child leaves.  Sometimes, counseling and/or medication become necessary, and some foster parents decide not to accept any future placements, because they realize that they simply can’t handle it when a child returns to the bio parents or to close relatives who express a desire to adopt.  (Close relatives who meet basic qualifications have priority over foster families, in most cases.) 

Personally, I have the greatest admiration for foster parents, who have the strength to step in when a child needs a temporary home.  Frankly, I do not have that strength, and would be devastated beyond belief to return a foster child.  I adopted my daughter internationally when she was 18.5 months old, and I can’t possibly imagine how I would have felt if she had been taken from me at some point.  She’s 21 years old now and doing extremely well on her own, and I must admit that I’m even having a terrible time adjusting to being an empty nester.

Please try to word your questions in a more kindly manner on this forum, especially when a person is clearly experiencing strong emotions.  This should be a place of help and healing.


Posted by sak9645 on Mar 08, 2017 at 6:57pm

Sharon, My intentions were simply to inquire about the situation. There was no judgement intended. I am aware that foster care is supposed to be temporary. The original poster may have been misled. It seems to be a common occurrence in my area. The goal of foster care is supposed to be to reunite families. There have been many families hoping to adopt who have been misled. I have been involved in adoption for quite a while now. I know that you intend to educate people, Sharon. I was really not in need of the lecture.

Posted by Annab on Mar 08, 2017 at 7:08pm

sorry annab, but you obviously did need the lecture if you’re posting something so insensitive! your response seems to imply that the OP did something wrong to have the child removed. does it really matter if the child went back to bio parents, kinship care, or another foster home? either way the child is gone and the OP is hurting. to stillhermother, I am sorry that I do not have anything helpful to offer you. there is such a need for families who will risk loving a child who is not going to stay. I personally could not do it. thank you for giving of yourself to that child

Posted by rn4kidz on Mar 09, 2017 at 12:15am

I wanted to know if the child went back to the bio parents etc. In my state, they are removing foster children from families who wish to adopt them and sending them 3,000 miles away to distant relatives who they have never met. The DCF social workers here are misleading a lot of families. I wanted to know if similar situations were occurring in other places.

Posted by Annab on Mar 09, 2017 at 12:21am

stillhermother, you might not realize it but you have taught that child some very important concepts that she will carry with her throughout her whole life. my daughter entered foster care at age 2, I adopted her when she was 4. the foster home she was in had taken in over 200 children over the years, and they took great care not to become too attached. in fact, they went overboard with it, to the point that they didn’t show their foster children any love or affection at all.basic physical needs were met, and that was it. I brought home a very sweet and caring little girl who was starved for attention, who would beg to be cuddled then lay next to me stiff as a board, having no idea how to relax and snuggle against me. it took her years to learn to accept a hug or kiss or to hear the words “I love you” without feeling embarrassed. 4 years later and she still will not give hugs and kisses or tell me she loves me. She is very attached and is actually very loving, she just never learned to be comfortable with some of the ways most people show love and affection. So you have taught her that at least, and while it hurts you to have lost her, just think how much worse it would have been for her if she had ended up in a foster home where they didn’t show her love because they feared becoming attached.

Posted by rn4kidz on Mar 09, 2017 at 1:03am

m4kidz She needs to get comfortable think about her unborn children

those issues can be worked on with the right person. Try Theraplay (not play therapy that is different) or infant (I know she is older) massage.

Some attachment therapists can help you also it depends on the fit.

Posted by Regina on Mar 09, 2017 at 1:37am

regina, I do worry about that, and I worry about how she will be with relationships when she is old enough to date. we are seeing a play therapist who specializes in attachment disorders and adoption issues, she is supposed to be really good, especially considering the limited resources in our area.

Posted by rn4kidz on Mar 09, 2017 at 1:51am

It seems that there are two different conversations going on here, the first being that the OP is feeling incredible grief, and the second reacting not necessarily in a way intended to be mean but trying to point out that that is what happens when you care for a child that you know is not you own. I don’t think the commenters were trying to dump on the OP, but maybe prepare her for a future in which she might have to decide whether to open her heart again to another child with the aim of that child being reunited with her family.
I don’t think there’s any way to minimize that grief—it should be honored, regardless of what the OP knew, or should have know, what was likely to happen.
Just as there is no way to minimize the grief of a mother whose child was adopted,regardless of what she knew would happen if she signed papers.
Love of children is a good thing, not a bad thing, however it comes about, and the profound experience of loss is personal and not minimized or diminished by what someone “should” feel.

Posted by Maryam on Mar 09, 2017 at 4:27am

I am not a foster parent, this was an independent adoption situation with a family I had known through my community since my daughter was an infant. In a nut shell, after I had fully bonded with her they changed their mind. There’s a lot more to this than I want to get into because I want this to remain as unidentifiable as possible, but I wasn’t her foster parent, so there was never a feeling it was temporary or that she wouldn’t be mine. I went into this with the full expectation that she was my daughter based entirely on them presenting it as such. They seemed unusually invested in my being her mother so this blow was completely unexpected. The adoption wasn’t finalized, so they had the ability to pull out and there’s nothing I can do about it. I had expressed fears early on about the uncertainty and the non-traditional ways they were going about this, but they had assured me repeatedly I had nothing to worry about. I should have listened to my gut. I knew something seemed off about them and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. I was blinded by the experience of being a first time mom so I ignored it. And now I have learned an extremely painful lesson.

Posted by StillHerMother on Mar 09, 2017 at 5:37am

Stillhermother, that makes it even worse. I am so sorry.

Posted by rn4kidz on Mar 09, 2017 at 3:25pm

I am so sorry for what you have been through.  Many of us on this site have been through failed adoption matches, so I can only imagine how difficult it can be for that to happen after five months.  My heart goes out to you. 

In retrospect it is easy to see the red flags,  but with our matches that failed I was completely blind-sided.  When we matched with our oldest I was much more guarded, and years later that is the thing I regret the most.  I agree with rn4kidz, this child’s time with you in a loving home will benefit her, and I hope that will give you some comfort as you work through your grief.

It will get easier and you will get through this.  We have become parents to three children through adoption.  But moving forward does not mean you will forget; I still think about our failed matches, especially the infant I held and loved that did not come home with us.  His mother was in an abusive situation, so, I still worry and wonder about them both.  I hope they are well, and I pray that they were able to escape the situation they were in.

Posted by jszmom on Mar 09, 2017 at 4:04pm

Hi Still Her Mother,

A few people have had parents who changed their mind, do an about face later, and been able to adopt. A few others have been able to keep in touch, honoring and supporting the bio parents and so being blessed with a relationship like a close relative with the child they had foster parented. Both of these are rare.

I think the words of jbado0607 are wise.

If you can find any strength or peace in the fact this child is still alive, and growing, and hopefully the parents have some feelings for their child and ability to care, as well as good qualities, then do.

Your grief is like that of anyone who loses or has a child die. It never goes away, only lessens. Save those videos and photos - she was a well loved part of your life and you of hers. It does matter.

Don’t beat yourself up over trusting where your intuition told you not to.Treat yourself kindly. Find strength in friends or family who do understand. Let yourself feel the grief. The only way out is thru.Take care of yourself and your family.

Posted by Happy Camper on Mar 11, 2017 at 4:46pm

Oh my dear Still Her Mother,

I understand completely how you feel. Our precious boy was reunified with his birth mother two days before this past Christmas after we had raised him for sixteen months. Not a day goes by where I don’t think of him and I can’t bring myself to look at his favorite toys or go in his room. I’ve been through this four times before and my heart just breaks for you, for all of us who grieve for the children we cannot keep.
All I can say is eventually it will get better. It might take a while but believe me one day you will look at pictures of her and smile. You will think of the wonderful memories and you will not drown in sadness. I urge you to find a support group, counselor or someone who can support you during this time. Having a support system is so helpful. It won’t bring her back but you won’t be alone. My dear you are not alone. There are many of us who go through the same thing and we survive. Even if she can no longer be with you she is just as much a part of your life, she always will be. You did an amazing thing loving her when she needed it the most.
Don’t feel bad that your grief is so powerful, it just means you loved her! You are just going through the process and that’s all a part of the situation. It’s a hard but necessary step to embrace your grief so you can get through it. Take care of yourself, find support and be kind to yourself. You will make it.

Posted by MsPennyLane on Mar 20, 2017 at 8:15pm

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