Regret, the six letter word you rarely hear in adoption, but many birth parents experience. Regret is a common emotional reaction to placing your baby for adoption. After eighteen years of being a birth mother, I can tell you regret has found me on many occasions. Questioning your decision to place your baby for adoption can be haunting at times. The “what if’s” or “should haves” can flood your brain.
Regret ebbs and flows like grief. The intensity can vary over time. I can honestly say, I did not feel any regret until 10 years into placement, and I am grateful for that. Like grief, the only way I know how to handle regret is to face it head on, which can be easier said than done. Acknowledging the emotion, instead of denying it, helped me find ways to minimize the pain. Sometimes all it takes is to say to yourself: "I am feeling regret, and it’s okay that I feel this way.”
It’s important to give yourself an appropriate amount of time to absorb your feelings. Emotions are designed to come and go, not set up camp and stay. If you feel regret (or any emotion) has become stagnant its typically because you are feeding the emotion. Often, I find myself doing this by avoidance. I refuse to acknowledge the emotion, followed by self-criticism, and keeping myself too busy to “feel” anything. By doing this, I am feeding the very thing I am trying to ignore. Regret gets stuck in my reality because I refuse to face it. If you allow your emotions to flow naturally, the process can be much quicker than tucking them deep inside.
Coping with regret requires a bit of a balancing act. Knowing when to acknowledge, when to sit with the pain, and how to release the emotion can be difficult points to recognize. Reaching out to those who care about you, who have your best interest in mind, can help you be more aware of what is appropriate and what emotions you are holding onto. My friends and family are great at voicing when I am “running” or avoiding certain situations. Facing regret or grief is not an easy task, but they are both a by-product of most adoption journeys and knowing how to handle them can be key to your emotional healing post placement.
5 Tasks to Help You Handle Regret:
- Meditate—5 minutes of self-reflection can help you stay centered.
- Focus on the positive—what do you love about your decision to place your baby for adoption?
- Write down your regrets—bring awareness to the emotion and when you’re done writing, walk away and let it be.
- Practice daily affirmations—showing empathy towards yourself can help reduce feelings of regret. (ex. I am a good person. I have learned a lot from my past).