Grief and Loss: Emotions to Expect When Pursuing Adoption

Finding Acceptance with Your Decision

You may have heard of people experiencing the seven stages of grief after the death of a loved one or a failed relationship, but did you know women who face an unplanned pregnancy and choose adoption experience a similar grief and loss process?

If you are thinking about placing your baby for adoption but feel a sense of fear, guilt or anger, understand that these are normal emotions of "giving your child up" for adoption and do not mean that you are headed down the wrong path.

Reaching the “acceptance” stage is the goal of every person moving through the grief and loss process. You know you’ve reached the acceptance stage when you find peace with your adoption decision, and the rest of these emotions begin to fade away. However, you may still experience some sadness or even anger after finding acceptance, which is normal and just part of being a mother who loves her child.

You will begin to find acceptance as you continue to get to know the adoptive family and receive picture updates of your baby being safe, happy and in a good home.

The following are the seven stages of grief and loss and what they might look like if you pursue an adoption plan for your baby. Remember, on the way to the acceptance stage, these stages can be experienced in any order, some more than others and some not at all.


Some women feel a sense of denial when finding out they are pregnant, regardless of whether the pregnancy was planned or has come as a complete surprise. While denial is often cited as one of the first stages of grief, the feeling of “I can’t believe this is happening to me,” can happen at any point throughout the grieving process of an unplanned pregnancy and the adoption process.


It is common for women to feel anger and resentment when learning of an unplanned pregnancy. This anger can be directed toward the father of the baby, who may be unsupportive of your adoption decision or unsupportive of you altogether. Being angry about your situation is natural; just make sure you express your anger in healthy ways.


Shock is the feeling you get when first finding out you are pregnant and unsure of what to do next. Finding yourself in such a situation and facing a life-altering decision can make you feel frozen in your decision-making process.


Everyone experiences situational depression, but the thought of someone else raising your baby can elicit a much greater sense of depression. Many women who choose adoption begin to feel their depression subside once they begin looking at potential adoptive families. After selecting a family and getting to know them, a woman’s depression can sometimes turn into excitement when thinking about her child’s future life.


For many women, an unplanned pregnancy is downright frightening. The prospect of parenting at this stage of life can bring about deep feelings of insecurity and fear, while the thought of your child living in someone else’s home can bring about a different sense of fear. This feeling will begin to go away when you learn about the adoption process and become comfortable with the adoptive family.


When considering adoption, a sense of guilt can come from within. It can also come from others around you who are ignorant about today’s adoptions and who may call you “selfish” or “irresponsible” for putting your baby up for adoption. This guilt will often subside when you know you made the right decision for your baby, whether that is choosing adoption or parenting.


Acceptance is a gradual process that happens over time. Contact with the adoptive family, such as receiving pictures and letters or exchanging emails, can be very beneficial in reaching the acceptance stage because it will be a reminder that your child is happy. Knowing and accepting that your child has a great life is oftentimes the end of the grief and loss process, but certain emotions will obviously still be felt for the foreseeable future.


American Adoptions offers free adoption counseling to women throughout every stage of the adoption process. Adoption Specialists are available at any time at 1-800-ADOPTION for you to discuss any of these feelings or answer your adoption questions after finding out you are pregnant.

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