For many birth mothers, the holidays are a difficult time. On top of the stress of the holidays, it can be hard to deal with all the family members you’ll see and nosy questions they ask. Plus, since the holidays are often centered on children, many birth mothers may struggle during this season and its traditions.
It’s perfectly normal to feel like you’re missing out during this time. While many birth mothers dread the holidays, there are a few ways you can get through the season. These 10 tips have helped many birth mothers manage grief and stress during the holidays. We hope that they’ll help you, too!
1. Grieve Your Loss
It is OK to feel a sense of loss during the holidays. Many birth moms have told us that it’s hard to see parents with their kids and not imagine what life would be like if they’d chosen to parent.
These feelings are completely normal, even if you keep in touch with your child and have a good relationship with your child’s adoptive parents. We encourage you to acknowledge your grief instead of holding it in.
2. Take Care of Yourself
If you feel overwhelmed and stressed out because the holidays are approaching, it’s fine to take a break. Focusing on self-care right now can really help. You might invite some friends over, bake some delicious treats, and have a “spa night.” Or, self-care to you could look like taking a hike at a nearby trail, devouring a new book, or going to get a mani/pedi.
Whichever self-care activity that you enjoy and that brings you peace, do it! Give yourself some time off of the holiday events when you need it. That means it’s OK to decline some invites. You don’t have to attend every holiday party you’re invited to.
Writing in a journal each day can do wonders for your mindset. Journaling can help you work through some of the heavy feelings associated with adoption. You can also use your journaling time to express gratitude for the positive things in your life, which provides you with something uplifting and positive to hold onto each day.
4. Honor Your Child
Many birth moms enjoy spending some time honoring their child during the holiday season. If you have an open adoption and can send gifts to your child, you might send something special.
Even if you aren’t able to mail your child a gift, you could make a Christmas tree ornament or decoration in your child’s honor and keep it for yourself.
5. Give Back to the Community
Now is a great time to volunteer for a few hours! Local animal shelters, soup kitchens, churches, and other organizations that support others need extra help during the holidays.
Sometimes, turning your thoughts and actions outward can provide some positive distraction and a sense of relief. You might even volunteer to speak with women considering adoption or moving through an adoption plan right now. Contact LifetimeFoundation.org to volunteer.
6. Reach Out to the Adoptive Parents
If you keep in contact with your child’s adoptive parents, you might reach out to them. Request photos and videos of the holiday festivities that your child is experiencing. Many birth mothers find it reassuring to know that her child is happy and healthy.
It can affirm that you have made the right choice for your child. If you can’t talk on the phone or meet up during the holiday season, you could write a letter to your child’s adoptive parents.
7. Prepare for Uncomfortable Situations
Prepare for uncomfortable situations and to be asked difficult questions. For example, some people use holiday gatherings to announce their pregnancy. Or a parent could ask you to keep an eye on their child, and you may feel awkward telling them that you don’t feel comfortable with that.
Being together with your family during the holidays can bring up some uncomfortable situations and questions. People may ask you if you have any kids, how many you have, or when you plan on having a baby. You might also get questions from people who saw you pregnant and are now curious about what happened. It can help to prepare ahead of time and brainstorm how you’ll answer these prying questions.
8. Seek Peer Support
You’re not alone if you’re coping with negative thoughts and emotions during the holidays. You may feel alone or like nobody understands, but there are thousands of other birth mothers going through a difficult time too.
What’s helped many women is to reach out to another birth mother, which is also called Peer Support. As birth mothers, you may find that you have similar experiences, and so you can share tips and empathize with each other. Visit LifetimeAdoption.com to learn more about our Peer Support Program.
9. Get Support from Friends & Family
Support from family members and friends that understand can also help you through the holidays. The good news about leaning on people in your life is that they already have an idea about your story. They may even be a part of it.
Some friends that you typically rely on might be out of town for the holidays. With them not being nearly as available to you as they usually are, you may want to discuss setting up a system for times when you need more support than usual. A code word you text them could signal your friend to call you for a chat.
Many people who love you may be unsure how to best support you. You can provide some clear guidance about what you need from them, even if it’s just a listening ear.
10. Pursue Professional Support
Professional support, which is accessible from caseworkers, counselors, and therapists, is available to help you through the holidays as well. Adoption stress and grief during the holidays can make you feel as if you regret your decision. You may need to do some soul searching with the help of a professional.
The Holidays Can Be Hard
The bottom line is that you have plenty of reasons to feel stressed out or sad as the holidays approach. At the same time, there are many reasons to feel thankful. The fact that your child is growing up in a loving home with two stable parents is something that you can express gratitude for.
No matter how you feel this holiday season, know that it’s normal. We hope that these ten tips will help you cope with grief and stress during the holidays. Remain focused on the good in your life and the blessing you’ve provided your child through adoption. You are valuable and deserve peace and love this holiday season!