For many birth mothers, the holidays are a difficult time. On top of the stress of the holidays, dealing with all the family members you’ll see and the nosy questions they ask can be challenging. Plus, since the holidays often revolve around children, many birth mothers may face challenges during this season and its traditions.
It’s normal to feel like you’re missing out during this time. Navigating the holiday season, which can be challenging for many birth mothers, becomes more manageable with a few strategies. These ten 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’s normal 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 entirely 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
Taking a break is fine if you feel overwhelmed and stressed out because the holidays are approaching. Focusing on self-care right now can help. You might invite friends, bake delicious treats, and have a “spa night.” Or maybe what self-care looks like to you is taking a hike at a nearby trail, devouring a new book, or getting a mani/pedi.
Do whatever self-care activity you enjoy, and that brings you peace! 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 need to accept every holiday party invitation.
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 honoring their children 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 can’t 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 who are considering adoption or moving through an adoption plan right now. Contact the Lifetime Foundation to learn about volunteer opportunities.
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 their 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 you are uncomfortable with that.
Being with your family during the holidays can bring up some uncomfortable situations and questions. People may ask if you have any kids, how many you have, or when you plan to have a baby. You might also get questions from people who saw you pregnant and are now curious about what happened. It can help if you prepare beforehand and brainstorm how to answer their 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 have similar experiences, so you can share tips and empathize with each other. Learn more here about our Peer Support Program.
9. Get Support from Friends & Family
Support from family members and friends who understand can also help you through the holidays. The good news about leaning on people in your life is that they already know your story. They may even be a part of it.
Some friends you rely on might be out of town for the holidays. With them not being nearly as available to you as they usually are, you should 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 support you best. You can provide 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 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 it’s normal.
We hope these ten tips will help you cope with holiday grief and stress. 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!
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on December 19, 2019, and has since been updated.
As Vice President of Lifetime Adoption, Heather Featherston holds an MBA and is passionate about working with those facing adoption, pregnancy, and parenting issues. Heather has conducted training for birth parent advocates, spoken to professional groups, and has appeared on television and radio to discuss the multiple aspects of adoption. She has provided one-on-one support to women and hopeful adoptive parents working through adoption decisions.
Since 2002, she has been helping pregnant women and others in crisis to learn more about adoption. Heather also trains and speaks nationwide to pregnancy clinics to effectively meet the needs of women who want to explore adoption for their child. Today, she continues to address the concerns women have about adoption and supports the needs of women who choose adoption for their child.
As a published author of the book Called to Adoption, Featherston loves to see God’s hand at work every day as she helps children and families come together through adoption.