Easing the Home Study Jitters: What the Home Study Really Involves

 

My husband and I were asked to share about our experience with the home study process. It’s definitely a big part of adoption and can cause anxiety looking at it from afar. We were happy to provide our first-hand experience and hope it encourages you, wherever you are in your adoption journey.

Jay and I had gone to some foster-to-adopt classes before moving forward with domestic adoption, so we had heard about the dreaded home study and how intense it is. Going into our home study with Nightlight we expected it to be similar to what we had heard from the state. We thought our house and our lives would be picked apart and dissected for flaws. Thankfully we were completely wrong.

We had Katherine as our home study coordinator, she is so kind and made the process as comfortable as it could be. I don’t want to sugar coat it, there is quite a bit involved in a home study with paperwork and taking classes but as far as the part where you are interviewed and your house is “studied” it was nothing like we expected. We actually looked forward to having Katherine over and “chatting” because that’s what it felt like, a conversation. It was fun to talk about the future, how we would parent, our goals and aspirations for ourselves and our family. We never felt judged by any of the questions asked, it was clear that they were meant to make you dig deeper and really think about what is involved in parenting a child. Our favorite question to answer was, “What do you think will make your spouse a great dad/mom?” This was asked during our one-on-one interviews and later that day Jay and I talked about what our answers were, it got us even more excited and confident in our choice to pursue adoption.

We also expected our house to need a lot of adjustments based on the requirements of the state for foster care. With Nightlight it was just about making sure there was no glaring safety hazards, we didn’t have to show a lockbox for medication or have every inch of the house baby-proofed. They make it clear that they trust you to have your house ready for a little one when the time comes.

The process definitely takes dedication but if you’re pursuing adoption you already have the dedication you need. Nightlight will be there to support you from beginning to end and afterwards you’ll even be a bit sad that it’s over, except that you’re one BIG step closer to bringing your baby home!

 

Submitted by Katherine Calvin, MA | Home Study Coordinator

Written by the ‘K’ Family | NCA Adopting Family

Commonly Asked Questions About the Snowflakes Family Evaluation Process

  • Q:  What is the cost? 

A:  The fee for a Snowflakes Family Evaluation (SFE) is $1,500 plus the social worker’s travel expenses.  These travel expenses could range anywhere from just a few dollars for families who live near one of our offices to several hundred dollars for families who live outside the U.S.  The average is $300.

  • Q:  What is the timeline for the completion of the report?

A:  The amount of time it takes to complete the SFE is mostly controlled by the adoptive family and their speed in gathering and completing the necessary paperwork.  It is possible to complete the report in 1-2 months, though for most families it’s 3-4 months.

  • Q:  How many face-to-face visits with a social worker are required?

A:  Because long-distance travel is often involved, generally only one face-to-face visit in the home is required, which can often help speed up the overall timeline of your adoption process.

  • Q:  How much paperwork is involved?

A:  Because Snowflakes uses an adoption model, the required paperwork is similar to what is used in a home study.  However, it is often a smaller amount than what’s required for a home study and the requirements are more flexible since we aren’t having to follow the regulations of any government entity.

  • Q:  Are there other “hidden” fees involved?

A:  All of the SFE parent education is in the form of webinars and pdf articles, which are provided to you free of charge. We do require current infant/pediatric CPR and first aid certification, so you may incur a fee for this.  Background checks (criminal and child abuse) are required for any home study and are required as part of the SFE process as well.  FBI background checks cost $18-$50 per person.  Child abuse and neglect background checks are provided free of charge in many states, while other states charge fees of up to $20 per person.  For married clients, we also utilize an online assessment that has a fee of $35 per couple.

  • Q:  Are post-placement visits required?

A:  Snowflakes requires one post-birth visit, via video conference, within 6 weeks of the child (or children’s) birth.  The cost of this visit and report is included in the $1,500 SFE fee.

 

written by Beth Button

Reasons to Partner with an Adoption Agency

Success. Some facilitators of infant adoption will continue working with a birth mother, even if they think she will ultimately change her mind about placing her child for adoption.  They operate on wishful thinking and want to collect fees throughout the process.  Non-profit adoption agencies are more interested in the well-being of the child than in collecting fees.  For that reason, we will only match a birth mother with adoptive parents if we believe the birth mother will not change her mind.  In fact, Nightlight is careful enough to prevent shattering the dreams of adoptive parents, that our domestic matches result in adoption 96% of the time.

Wise contracts. Some websites offer couples a place to connect and carry out their own embryo adoptions.  But they often do this without a contract, or with an insufficient contract.  Since Nightlight has helped with embryo adoptions for over a decade, we have crafted contracts that avoid pitfalls, disappointments, and future conflict.

Realistic promises.  Some facilitators make unrealistic promises about the costs, time involved in adoption, and likelihood of placement.  Obviously, they do this in order to win your business.  But non-profit adoption agencies like Nightlight know that this is a bait-and-switch approach.  False promises ultimately hurt the client and the reputation of the agency.  We would rather risk losing a few potential clients than make unrealistic promises.

Thriving families.  Adoption agencies are committed to life-long support and education for families.  They do not simply complete an adoption but give resources to adoptive families and birth mothers, who keep coming back for advice and help in years to come.  In addition, adoption agencies use decades of experience to assist in matching, as well in helping adoptive families make decisions about adoption that will help them thrive.

Convenience.  Adoption agencies are a “one stop” place to complete an adoption.  If you work without an agency, you will still need an agency to complete a home study, and to act as the “adoption service provider” to complete some necessary steps.  But with an adoption agency, you do not need to work with any other party to complete the adoption.

Protect children.  Adoption agencies incur stiff penalties if they do not comply with laws, such as the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC).  These laws protect children from trafficking, and also prevent families from fraud.  Since in most states facilitators are unregulated, they do not have the same level of regulation.

Experience.  Many agencies have been working with adoptive parents for decades, and it is a rather recent utilization of a “loophole” that has allowed other parties to offer adoptive services.  With an agency, you benefit from years of expertise.

Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D. | President

Meaningful Ideas for Birth Parent Gifts

 

Having a prospective birthmother choose you to raise her child is a priceless gift that you can never truly repay. Many adoptive parents choose to express their feelings for a birthparent by giving them a meaningful gift at the hospital when the baby is born or at placement- something a birthparent can treasure for the rest of their life. With the holidays approaching you can also be mindful to continue celebrating and loving your birthparents, even if the placement has already happened. For birthparents, the holidays can be a difficult time, filled with reminders of loss and grief. This is completely normal. Adoption can hold a lot of pain, loss, heartbreak, and grief, but also a lot of forgiveness, redemption, and love. The sheer definition of the word “gift” is: “a thing given willingly to someone without payment; a present.” It is a simple act of kindness to show someone that they are cared for, thought about, and loved.

 

Because giving birthparents gifts can be a sensitive topic, it’s important that you talk to your agency caseworker about what gift is appropriate in your situation, whether it is for placement or after. Your caseworker will be able to give you input about which kind of gift is best for the birthparent’s emotions at that time, as well as remind you of your state’s legal standards regarding living expense laws before or at placement.

 

Here are some gift ideas for birthparents, whether it is for the adoption placement or a “just because” gift throughout the years as you continue to grow with one another in the adoption process:

 

  1. Flowers: Flowers are always a cheery sight for anyone. For a first match meeting, the hospital, or an annual visit, this can be a great idea to bring with you and give directly to her – or have them delivered. This could also be a fruit or chocolate bouquet.

 

  1. A commemorative piece of jewelry: Many adoptive parents choose to give their child’s birthmother a piece of jewelry she can wear as a reminder of the child she placed for adoption. It may be engraved with her baby’s initials or feature the baby’s birthstone. Whatever personalization you choose to give it, make sure it’s subtle so that your child’s birthmother is not constantly having to explain it to people she may not want to share that part of her story with. We have also seen adoptive families gift their birthmother a beautiful necklace called the “Adoption Triad Necklace”. It is simple, delicate, and a subtle chain necklace with a gold triangle; representing the adoption triad.

 

  1. A post–partum recovery basket: Recovering from giving birth can be both a physical and emotional act. A birthmother could not only be dealing with the emotions of placing her child for adoption, but also may have had to take time off work. You can make that process easier by creating a spa, self-care basket (lotions, bath items, etc.) so she can pamper herself during this time. If approved by your lawyer or agency caseworker, you may wish to also send a gift basket of meal preparation, gift cards and other practical things to help her during this time.

 

  1. Stuffed Animals: Birthmothers will likely be looking for comfort after placing their child for adoption. I recommend getting two identical stuffed animals: gift one to the birthparent, and one to the child. I then encourage adoptive families to take monthly/yearly photos of the child next to the stuffed animal as they continue to grow and send these photos to the birthmother. This is so the birthmother can see how big the child is growing and will be able to compare it to the same stuffed animal she has. To go a step further, you could even purchase a stuffed animal with a recording in it and record the child’s voice or heartbeat to gift to the birthmother. Another option is taking an outfit your child wore during their time in the hospital and have it turned into a bear.

 

  1. An engraved watch: Like jewelry for birthmothers, an engraved watch is a great way for a birthfather to carry around the memory of his child and your relationship with him. As you would with the jewelry, make sure the engraving is subtle (perhaps on the inside of the wrist) so he doesn’t have to answer unwelcomed questions about what it means. Ideas for engravings could be the child’s time of birth, the child’s date of birth, or initials.

 

  1. A meaningful book or an adoption memory book: If you know the birthparent has a particular interest in something, consider buying them a book about that subject. This goes hand in hand with hobbies. If you know your birthparent is interested in a particular hobby as well, consider gifting them something along those lines. Sometimes adoptive parents have created a more involved memory book as well for their birthparents. In addition to photos, it can include mementos from the adoption process, like your original adoptive family profile, things from the hospital stay, baby’s footprints, etc. You can leave blank pages for the memories still to come. Some families purchase a recordable children’s book. Have the birthmother record her voice by reading the book. This will allow her voice to be heard by the baby and it is a wonderful way for her to feel connected with her child. As the child gets older and is able to read, you could also have the child record their voice and gift the book back to the birthmother.

 

  1. Beautiful Framed Art: If you and the birthparents live in different cities or states, you could gift them with a beautiful art piece of the two cities or state maps overlapping one another. This could be found online, such as Etsy. A framed copy of your child’s footprints or handprints would be meaningful too if your birthparent did not receive this from the hospital. Even as your child grows up, don’t forget to gift your birthparents some of the child’s artwork that they will create throughout the years.

 

  1. Photo frame or photo album: A birthparent may appreciate a memorable, engraved frame or photo album with several photos of their child. This way, they can store or switch out photos they receive from you or the agency over the years as their baby grows up.

 

  1. Journal: Gift your birthmom a journal. This can not only be healing and therapeutic for her, but also a way for her to write notes and letters to her child. You could also do a stationary set that includes envelopes and stamps so that she can send letter to her child.

 

  1. Keepsake box: A memory box or a keepsake box contains a selection of memorable and meaningful items or memorabilia that belonged to a loved one. Gifting your birthmom a memory box can be a significant and meaningful way for her to store precious memories and gifts that you send her.

 

Remember, each adoption relationship is different, and it may not always be the right thing to give a gift to the birthparents. However, if you do choose to give your child’s birthparents a meaningful gift, it can be an important step in solidifying a strong relationship between you all for many years to come.

 

Written by Caidon Glover, LMSW | Pregnancy Counselor

Where does all the money go?

The National Council for Adoption answers this question, in a blog post.

Written by Daniel Nehrbass, Ph.D.

I was speaking on a panel about intercountry adoption recently at a conference, and during the Q&A time an adoptive mom in the audience asked, “where does all the money go?”

She was wondering in particular about how much money adoption agencies make, and the compensation of personnel. She had heard that “there’s no money in intercountry adoption” but she was skeptical. Her skepticism is understandable, since, in her words: “I spend forty thousand dollars…where did it all go?”

Click here to read the article

Adoption Issues: What is the Indian Child Welfare Act?

 

The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978 as a response to the crisis affecting Native and Alaskan American children who were separated from their families, communities and cultural heritage.  To best understand why this law was necessary, it is important to know the practices leading up to the passage of this federal law.

In United States history, there have been a few specific events that contributed to the destruction of Native American heritage and culture, in addition to the general widespread racism that existed as a whole.

Devastation of Native American Communities

One of the first boarding schools called the Carlisle Indian Industrial School opened in 1879. It served as a model to the nearly 150 such schools which opened in the following decades. These boarding schools were government funded and served as forced assimilation. They forced the children to cut their hair, use Anglo-American names, didn’t allow them to speak their native languages, prohibited them from eating traditional Native American foods, and forced them to dress in Anglo-American clothing. They effectively separated these children from their home, families, community and culture. If the children survived the deplorable conditions at many of the boarding schools, many of them had difficulty returning to their tribes. It devastated Native American communities.

Indian Adoption Project

In the decades after WWII, hundreds of Native American children were removed from their communities and placed with white families through adoption or foster care. The dominate belief was that Native American children were better of being raised by white families.  From 1958-1967, 395 Native American children through a program called the Indian Adoption Project. The goal was to assimilate children into white culture. It aspired to systematically place an entire population of children across lines of culture, nation, and race. Ironically, this was a practice that, at the time, was generally discouraged within the adoption community. During that time, it was standard practice to match adoptees with adoptive parents who shared their race. Transracial and International adoption was uncommon at that time.

Response to Egregious Removal Practices

Leading up to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, research showed that 25-35% of all Native American children were removed from their families and placed into white foster or adoptive homes. Of these children 85% were placed outside of their community even when they had a fit and willing relative available to care for them. This rate is much higher than compared to non-Native American children who were placed in foster and adoptive homes. The passage of this federal law was vitally needed to address the longstanding and egregious removal practices which specifically targeted Native American children. ICWA sets forth federal requirements that apply to state custody and adoption hearings involving a Native American child who is a member or eligible for membership of a federally recognized tribe. Currently, there are 573 Federally recognized tribes in the United States.

 

written by Regina Smith LSCW | Pregnancy Counselor & Home Study Provider

Why Isn’t Adoption Free?

Our staff at Nightlight often are asked, “Why isn’t adoption free? As wonderful as that would be, in order for an agency to process an adoption in such a way that all parties involved are assured ethical treatment, adequate training, and proper legal oversight (not to mention the cost of licensing, liability insurance, international accreditation, and ongoing professional staff training) fees are inevitable.

 

Accreditation Costs: The costs of accreditation have risen every year and many agencies have been forced to close due to the high costs, unfortunately some of those costs are passed on to the families.  Adoptive families are best served by trained and qualified staff who meet state and international requirements in the areas of education and professional licensure.  The services that families receive are getting better and better because of the education the staff is receiving and adoptive parenting training that has been developed.

 

Post Adoption Services: With an adoption agency our services do not necessarily end with an adoption finalization.  Even after the adoption we continue our support for the adoption triad.  It is always a good idea to review the fee schedule of the program that you are interested in and to discuss those fees in detail with your provider.

 

Frequently Asked Questions: A couple more common questions prospective parents have regarding adoption fees would be–

 

“Are adoption fees refundable?” Adoption fees are not typically refundable due to the fact that an agency is working on your behalf through every stage. Agencies do have exceptions for situations where a family has a disruption or a family decides to switch programs. Every agency has different policies regarding these things, so it would be helpful to discuss this questions in detail with the program coordinator.

 

 “How much does an adoption cost?”  That will vary among programs and agencies. International adoption tends to be higher in fees as international travel can be expensive, and each country varies in the required number of trips for an adoption.

 

Reducing Costs: There are some things that families can consider in order to help reduce the cost of their adoption.  Some employers offer adoption benefits; you should check with your HR department.  There are various financial institutions that offer adoption loans.  Families can apply for adoption grants; we have a list of adoption grant providers on our website.  Families can take advantage of the adoption tax credit; you should consult with your tax advisor for further information.  In addition to domestic and international adoption programs families may choose to adopt a waiting child or foster a child, as those options often offer a reduced financial obligation.

 

For more information, you are welcome to schedule a call with our inquiry specialist by calling 502-423- 5780 or by emailing info@nightlight.org. We also have a great webinar that may answer more of these questions!

 

Written by Lara Kelso | MA, PLPC | Domestic Program Manager

What Does A Healthy Open Adoption Look Like?

Open adoption looks different for every family. The relationship between an adoptive family and birth family is a special relationship, in which you are connected by the child. Each adoptive family and birth family is unique and therefore, the relationships are unique. There are a few things that adoptive parents should keep in mind when thinking about what makes a healthy open adoption, regardless of what your particular relationship looks like.

 

  1. Establish Boundaries

It is important to make sure you establish a plan for openness and contact with your child’s birth family early in the relationship. If possible, you should do this before the child is even born. This will help to avoid hurtful situations in the future. You should both feel comfortable with the established plan and you should always keep your word in what you agree to, as long as it is best for the child.

Even with a solid plan, it is essential to remember that children grow up and people change. There are times where contact with birth family may ebb and flow. There may be times that you or the birth parents feel that they need a bit of time to step back from the current level of contact. This should never be viewed as a permanent change in the relationship and it is good to keep the lines of communication open so that the relationship can reopen later in the child’s life. As your child grows, you will need to take their desires into consideration and both parties should continue to respect the child’s wishes.

 

  1. Remember your role as the parent and embrace it

Regardless of what level of openness you have with your child’s birth family, you should always feel confident and comfortable in your role as the child’s parent. You are the person responsible for making decisions for them and ensuring their well-being. Do not let your insecurities get the best of you. This can be damaging to a relationship with your birth family.

 

  1. Don’t create a power struggle

            The dynamics between an adoptive and birth family can seem to create an invisible “power struggle.” Before your child is born, it can often feel like the birth mother holds the power. Once the child is placed, that power tends to shift and the adoptive family holds more of the power. This can be a negative burden placed on the relationship and you should always strive to ensure that no side feels powerless in this. Remember to never hold this power over your child’s birth family and to always keep your relationship respectful.

 

  1. Have acceptance of and grace for individuals different from yourself

Often times an adoptive family is coming from a different background than the birth family in terms of socioeconomic status, race, location, and other factors. Adoptive families should have grace and acceptance for people of different backgrounds than themselves. This is your child’s history and that should be embraced if they are to feel accepted in your home.

This can become especially important if you have adopted a child of a different race or ethnicity than yourself. As an adoptive family, you should be intentional about having individuals in your family’s life that are diverse, whether this be the church you attend, the doctor or dentist your child sees or the friends that are welcomed into your home. This can help your child feel more comfortable in their own skin. Find ways of celebrating the differences you may have with your child and allow them to see that you love their culture and embrace other people who look like them.

 

  1. Love your child’s birth family

Families need to have love and compassion for their child’s birth family. The birth family you have a relationship with will look different for every child. For some families this may only be the birth mother, others may include the birth father, and still others may include the extended family of the child. Whether this includes siblings, parents, grandparents, etc. you should always strive to love your child’s birth family and to nurture that love and connection within your child.

The child’s birth family will become like an extended part of your own family. You may have differences in opinions, but you will always have a special bond because of your child. When differences arise, one way that you can think about this dynamic is the “Slightly Annoying Grandmother Rule” (Davenport, 2017). This means that when your child’s birth family does something that you don’t understand or may not agree with, you try to think of them as you would a grandmother that did something you do not like. You may feel frustrated, but it is important to treat them with respect and not say anything that would hurt feelings and damage relationships.

 

These are just a few suggestions for maintaining a healthy open relationship with your child’s birth family. There are many resources that can help you to better understand open adoption. The more you understand this concept, the easier it will be for you to decide what would be most comfortable for you. I recommend reading more about open adoption on our website HERE. I would also recommend reading The Open Hearted Way to Open Adoption by Lori Holden.

 

References:

Davenport, D. (2017, September 2). My #1 Secret Tip for a Successful Open Adoption. Retrieved from https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/1-secret-tip-successful-open-adoption/

Top Ten Tips for a Successful Open Adoption. (2019, June 3). Retrieved from https://creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/top-ten-tips-successful-open-adoption/

Jordan, L. (n.d.). How Do I Establish Healthy Boundaries in My Open Adoption? Retrieved from https://adoption.org/establish-healthy-boundaries-open-adoption

 

written by Rebecca Tolson | | International Program Assistant & Inquiry Specialist

How Can I Love My Child’s Birth Mother Through Her Grief?

 

“I can’t imagine how you’re feeling right now.”

“What a hard decision you are making.”

“Thank you for trusting us with your baby.”

“You are so brave.”

“I admire your strength.”

 

These are all statements that one might hear being said to a birth mother in the hospital or at placement. How many of us have stood in that moment and wished we had something better to say than the typical “thank you” or “I can’t imagine”? How many birth mothers have wished there was something that could be said that would make the whole situation hurt just a little bit less? As I have had the opportunity to walk alongside birth mothers throughout their pregnancy and placement experiences, I have learned that you can just never be fully prepared for how differently each and every birth mother will feel during the placement process. Some cry, others rejoice, some are disengaged, and others decide that adoption is no longer the choice they wish to make. No matter what emotions are being shown on the birth mother’s face, there is grief involved. This grief feeling may not hit immediately, but it will.

 

As adoptive families and adoption caseworkers, we have the incredible opportunity to support birth mothers through this grief. While all of the above statements are true and the birth mother is strong, brave, selfless, and worthy of admiration, what are some things we can remember about her and ways we can support her through her grieving? Remember that she just went through the 9-month experience of carrying your baby inside of her body and loved that baby enough to choose life. Remember that she just spent “X” number of hours giving birth to a baby that she is choosing not to bring home with her. Remember that this experience is painful and remember that she is incredible.

 

No one has all of the answers in regard to making the pain of adoption go away. No one can pinpoint exactly how each birth mother and adoptive family will feel and respond to the placement of a child, but here are some pieces of advice I would give to adoptive families during all phases of the adoption process:

 

  • Respect your birth mother’s wishes. She is trusting you to care for her child for the rest of his or her life, and while you have the tremendous joy and responsibility of being the baby’s parents, she will also ALWAYS be his or her parent too. The power of DNA is strong and respecting a birth mother’s tie to her child is necessary for both the child’s growth and the birth mother’s growth. Send the pictures that you promised, post or mail the update that you said you would write, make that visit happen even if it is not the most convenient for your schedule. Your birth mom/birth family is worth it!
  • Encourage her to seek support. If your birth mother has a wonderful support system or if she has no one, encourage her to continue healthily processing her emotions and feelings toward the placement of your baby.
  • Tell her you are thinking of her. Even if you do not have the most open of relationships, she wants to feel special, known and remembered (we all do!) so keep trying. Just because your birth mother is not comfortable with contact or gifts right now, that does not mean the door is closed forever. Send your letters and pictures to the agency for the day that she does decide she is ready to know your family and build a relationship with you and your child.
  • Build a genuine relationship with healthy boundaries. While this is easier said than done, be open and honest with each other about your desires for this relationship and do not promise more than you can provide. Set a schedule for picture updates, texting, visits, etc. This relationship is ongoing, so make a plan with your caseworker and your birth mom regarding how everyone’s voices can be heard and how you can ensure that all involved know what to expect for the days ahead.

 

Enjoy your baby and enjoy building a relationship with their birth mother. You have embarked on one of the sweetest and difficult journeys a family can choose to take, and it will be worth it! It will not always be easy, and you will not always be comfortable, but listen to your birth mother, think about her, respect her, and love her- no matter what! She will grieve and you will grieve for her. Continue to pray for her every day and speak highly of the incredible woman that gave your baby life.

 

written by Phoebe Stanford | MSW intern

Understanding Birthmother Grief

In my career as a licensed clinical social worker, I have been honored to counsel women walking through the process of grief after placing a baby for adoption.  One such woman, Mary (name and information used with permission) captured her journey in a heartfelt essay entitled “The Beautiful Side of Grief,” which she wrote shortly after the adoption of her daughter:

 

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

 

“Grief. Mourning. Bereavement. There are countless different words to try and describe something that is utterly indescribable, and none of them really pinpoint exactly what grief is. Grief is not the movies. Grief is not Hollywood, where you hold a black umbrella and shed a few tears in the rain at a funeral. It’s not walking around donned head to toe in dark colors. It is not a simple psychological process of five clean-cut stages.

 

“Grief is waking up every single morning and asking yourself if you’re in a dream. Grief is hearing people talk, but you find yourself not really listening anymore. It’s walking into a grocery store completely fine, and leaving barely holding your tears in. Grief is the constant stream of “would haves,” “should haves,” and “could haves” playing through your thoughts. It’s getting to the end of the day and realizing that you’re not really living, you’re just going through the motions. Grief is that ever-present indefinable ache in the bottom of your heart. It is the constant feeling of exhaustion that no amount of sleep can alleviate. Grief is the time when tears take the place of words.

 

“But grief, in a sense, is beautiful.

 

“There is beauty in the process of grief. It comes after the shock, after the initial sting to your heart. It might take months, it might take years, but the beauty will reveal itself. The beautiful side of grief is found in the reassurance and understanding in the words you can now lend to those who are walking the path you once walked. The comfort of, “I know how you feel,” or “I understand what you’re going through,” now replace the blind guesses of, “I’m sure this is hard,” and “I can’t imagine how heartbreaking this is.” The beautiful side of grief is found in the supportive friendships that have risen from the ashes of tragedy. The beautiful side of grief is seen in the ability of those who have traveled an unbearable path to hold the hands of those who are being forced down the same lonely road.

 

“When you are faced with a heartbreak so unbearable it brings you to your knees, you are also faced with two choices: to let that heartbreak consume your every thought and action until it kills you, or to act in the same love that you had for that person and use your experience to be the guiding lamp for those now embarking on that dark journey.

 

“If you have ever grieved over the loss of someone, consider yourself lucky. Yes, read that line again. Consider yourself lucky. You are lucky to have had something so precious, so special, a type of love so genuine, that you have a reason to grieve. Without that kind of raw love, there would be no grief.

 

“In my eyes, the best way to pay that type of love forward is to show it to those who need it the most, and coming from firsthand experience, those who are grieving need understanding and genuine acts of love more than anyone else. Those acts of warmth and affection from those who have mourned the same loss as you, who have carried the same burden as you, are the very stepping stones that lead you from the suffocating depths of grief into the joyful light of remembrance. If you have the rare chance to pave these stepping stones for someone, why wouldn’t you?

 

“I was once told that grief is like treading water in the ocean. Sometimes you’re doing just fine, and you can handle the waves that come at you. It takes effort, but you’re getting by. Then other times, a wave will come out of nowhere, catch you off guard, and you’re pulled under into the dark and cold depths once again. What is so important is that we keep treading, we keep fighting, and we come back to the surface no matter how hard or exhausting it might be. What is important is that we don’t give up on our own life in remembrance of someone else’s. All we can do is to take grief one wave at a time, and, if given the opportunity, help others stay afloat along the way.”

 

Mary put her experience and the words she wrote into action by counseling and mentoring birthmothers who were considering adoption, including Taylor, the birthmother in the Nightlight video entitled “Journey’s Story.”  Mary states she was propelled to help others because of the love she had for her daughter and the experience she gained in processing her adoption decision. As Mary faced her pain and reached out to others, she emerged stronger.  Like many brave birthmothers, she has journeyed to the beautiful side of grief.

 

If you know a woman considering adoption or struggling with the inevitable grief that comes when we say goodbye to someone we love, please consider referring her to one of the talented counselors and social workers at Nightlight. Processing emotions, negative thoughts, and unhealthy or ineffective behaviors can be extremely helpful within the therapeutic process. Nightlight can also connect birthmothers with others, like Mary, who have walked this path before them. Research has demonstrated that having a support system is crucial for grief work and emotional health. Nightlight is committed to the care of the brave women and men who are choosing adoption for their child.

 

written by Megan White, MSW, LCSW | Executive Director, Florida