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Guilt and Adoption [How to Cope]

Every adoption is as unique as the adoptee at the center of it. Not every adopted person will feel the same way about their adoption story.

Even if you have had a positive adoption experience, there may come a time where you experience difficult or complex emotions about being adopted. And that’s OK. Nobody can tell you how to feel about your adoption.

Any and all your emotions about your experience are valid. If you have found yourself struggling with guilt about your adoption, you are not alone. There are many adopted kids suffering from guilt. While this is an understandable emotion, it is often misplaced.

In this article, you can find tips on adoption guilt and how to cope with guilt and shame in adoption.

Guilt and Shame in Adoption

For many adoptees, adoption guilt can stem from two places:

  • Feeling like they did something wrong

  • Wanting to know more about their birth family

Many adopted kids suffering from guilt feel as if they are responsible for their birth parents choosing to place them for adoption. This adoption guilt often stems from internalized feelings of rejection and fears of “not being wanted” by their birth parents. You might be worried that your birth is viewed as a negative thing or that you weren’t enough.

These feelings are especially common in adoptees who are told potential reasons why their birth parents placed them for adoption. You may have been told that your birth parents couldn’t afford to raise a child, they didn’t want to parent or they were not well enough to support a family.

You might begin to feel like you compounded a difficult time in your birth parents’ lives. This couldn’t be more untrue.

You have done nothing wrong because you had zero control over the situation. Your birth parents’ decision was fueled by love and the desire to give you a better life. Yet, even if you know this, emotions don’t always align with what we know. That’s what makes guilt and shame in adoption so complicated.

Another common place adoption guilt comes from is when adoptees want to learn more about their birth parents. If you want to connect with your birth parents, you might feel like you are betraying the family who cared for and raised you. You may be worried about hurting them and that this curiosity is disloyal.

This is, of course, also untrue.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to know more about your adoption story and where you came from. In fact, nothing could be more natural and right.

If your adoption is open, you have likely been encouraged to have a relationship with your birth parents. Unfortunately, in the case of some closed adoptions, adoptive parents may discourage this curiosity. They may feel like they’re looking out for their adopted child or they are worried about being “replaced.” This can further contribute to adoption guilt.

Understanding What You’re Feeling

If your adoption guilt comes from a place of feeling personally responsible for your birth parents choosing adoption, it’s important to remember that you have done nothing wrong. W

hile unplanned pregnancies can create a difficult situation for expectant birth parents, the emotions they experience aren’t because of anything you did or didn’t do. Accidental pregnancies are nobody’s fault, least of all yours. The difficult emotions expectant birth parents experience often stem from the awareness that they cannot or are not ready to give you the amazing life they know you deserve.

That’s why they chose adoption. While you may have heard that your parents “gave you up” for adoption, adoption is never giving up. Your birth parents wanted to give you a life full of happiness and opportunity, that they couldn’t give you in their current situation. This was a choice fueled by love and selflessness, not resentment.

If you feel guilt and shame in adoption because you had a closed adoption and want to connect with your birth parents, bear in mind that this desire is completely normal. You may have questions that only your birth parents can answer. Or you just want to learn more about where you came from.

Regardless of whether or not your adoptive family is supportive of your curiosity, you are valid. This isn’t an act of betrayal. You just want to better understand yourself and the people or person who chose to give you a better life through adoption.

How to Cope with Adoption Guilt

Adoption guilt can show up at any point in your life, even if your adoption experience has been mostly positive. Every adoptee’s experience is different, each with its nuances. How you choose to cope with adoption guilt will depend on your situation and what works for you specifically.

Maintain a Healthy Relationship with Your Birth Parents

If your adoption guilt is based on feeling like you had made your birth parents’ lives difficult, having an ongoing relationship with them can help you learn more about your adoption story. If this is an option in your situation, it can be very helpful. Of course, if your adoption is closed, then this may not be possible.

If you can talk to your birth parents, ask questions, talk about how you feel. Your birth parents may be able to offer reassurance to ease your adoption guilt.

Be Gentle With Yourself

No matter why your birth parents chose adoption, or how your adoptive parents may feel about you connecting with your birth parents, you have done nothing wrong. You are not responsible for your adoption situation and there is nothing wrong with wanting to know more about where you came from.

Ask for Help

Guilt and shame in adoption are complex emotions with a lot of layers. Sometimes you might need the help of a professional to get to the bottom of them, and that’s okay. There are many types of therapists and counselors who have worked with adoptees who have been in your shoes. They can give you a space to talk about these emotions and help you work through them

Adoption guilt can be a lot to cope with, but you are never alone. Remember to be kind to yourself and that adoption is always a choice made out of love and compassion.

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