Every so often I think about her. I have no idea how old she is. I wonder if she’s tall. Does she love to dance? Can she sing? Does she feel loved and valued? Is she safe? Does she walk happily to school across the African landscape every day proudly wearing her cherished uniform? Is her dream to become a doctor and help those in her community? I think about her sweet smile, infectious laugh and how my heart just loved her instantly. I think about how she was mine for a few short months and then suddenly, she wasn’t.
I still think about him. I have his pictures saved on my computer. A son I’ll never know who will also never know me. I see Legos and origami and I think of him. I wonder how he’s doing in school. I look at those images on my computer of this precious boy and I stop and pray he is happy and that a loving family will scoop him up and point him straight to Jesus. I thought, surely, this time, his was the process that was going to work out. Until it didn’t.
Whether through conception or adoption, the loss of a child takes you on a journey through tremendous grief. Grieving a failed adoption is a loss and it is gut-wrenching.
Just like any grief process, you deal with the reality of the loss in stages. There is the shock and battle within yourself to acknowledge the reality that someone you chose to love will not be a part of your life after all. You don’t get to say goodbye. You simply have to move on. Disappointment sets in along with frustration over time and money lost.
Next come the questions. God—I thought I was doing what you asked of me. Did I even hear you correctly, God? Why? How do I deal with adoption grief? How do I move on?
If you are dealing with adoption grief, first of all, give yourself permission to grieve. Don’t compare your grief to that of others. Acknowledge it as a loss and drown out the voices that try and tell you otherwise. It takes a vast amount of energy to grieve. Hold fast to God the Father. To add the extra effort of seeking explanation without leaning into God for strength will expend more energy than a grieving heart possesses.
Having walked through adoption loss more times than I can now count, may I share four lessons I have learned in walking through adoption grief?
4 Comforts When Grieving a Failed Adoption
1. Realize your role.
As Christians we are called to love others and share Christ. Sometimes that means inviting pain and difficult circumstances into your journey as a result. When you are struggling to reconcile the loss of a failed adoption, remember this: It is our place to love and to give God our “yes”. After that, it’s all up to Him.
You chose to love and so you fulfilled your role through your obedience.
2. Rest in your obedience.
When your arms are empty and longing to hold that child He has placed on your heart, remember this: God sees your obedience. His plan is perfect.
Your prayer is not for “a” child but for “the” child God wants for you and His timing is always right and good. He is pleased with your willingness to step into something that the enemy has broken that you may be used to mend it in the most beautiful and messy of ways.
3. Release the “why” in prayer.
When your heart breaks for the motherless child, when you see so many children in need of love and healing and you stand ready to receive them all and yet you experience one closed door after another, you can’t help but ask “why”. Give yourself permission to do so.
Talk to your Heavenly Father. Sit with Him and ask Him to give you peace and speak to your heart. His hand is truly on your situation and, despite your complete lack of understanding as to why things fell through, lean into His sovereignty over the situation.
As hard as it may be to see it, closed doors often mean protection from things we could never foresee. Remember, we are called to love that we may make disciples. This child may be someone else’s assignment. Trust that the God you serve is big enough to carry out good plans for your family and for this child you’ve lost through the adoption process.
4. Pray for your children.
They may not be meant to be a part of your home but that doesn’t mean they cease to exist in your heart and mind. I still think about them. All of them. Children who are literally scattered across the globe that carry a piece of my heart and yet will never know my name or the fact that I exist.
But you know what? When I think of them, I pray for them and that gives my heart comfort knowing that God loves them and sees them just as He sees me in my grief. Never stop praying for the children in your home and the children in your heart. God hears your prayers and He delights in your example of sacrificial love.
Years ago, my husband and I gave God our “yes” and stepped into a journey with no roadmap and no clear ending in sight. Eight years consisting of seven different processes with only one successful placement. You would think a stable, loving, Christian family would be able to successfully bring orphans home by the dozens, but in fact, the truth behind the adoption process is much more complicated than that.
But God knows. His plan is perfect and His sovereignty is no less evident as a result of our journey.
It comes down to the importance of giving God our “yes” and trusting Him with the results.
This is where the importance of trust in God’s sovereignty and perfect plan for our lives becomes essential. Keep going. Keep loving. Keep seeking Him. His plan is always right and good.
Somer Colbert is a writer, speaker and host of the Love Where You Are podcast. She founded Ahavah in our Hearts Ministry with weekly podcast episodes and resources to help Christian women identify their gospel influence, love boldly and share Jesus where they are. Somer resides in Arkansas with her husband, three kids and three dogs, forever changed by walking multiple adoption journeys. Connect at somercolbert.com and IG @somercolbert