“What are you planning to do tomorrow for the one who brought you into the world?” That’s what a woman I’d just met asked me the day before Mother’s Day a few years ago. I wished I had an answer, but I didn’t. I briefly told her my Mother’s Day plans and left with a sense of sadness and confusion.
The answer to her question was far more complicated than she realized. How was she supposed to know I’m adopted, especially since I look so much like my adoptive mother? How could she know the following day would bring streams of tears as I reflected on my birth mother’s neglect alongside my adoptive mother’s love?
As occasions that celebrate the gift of family, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day don’t only bring up emotions in parents. For children who have been adopted, these days may evoke grief, loss, and confusion as we’re reminded of the absence of our biological parents. But Mother’s Day and Father’s Day also remind adopted children of the presence of our adoptive parents. The combined feelings of loss and gain, joy and sorrow remind adopted children that, although we’re not with the ones who bore us, we’re with the ones who chose us.
As adopted children, how can we wisely navigate these familial holidays? And how can the church be more sensitive to the mingling of joy and pain that surrounds the adopted on these days?
Grieve Your Loss
Although adoption is full of beauty, it’s only a reality because the world is broken. A child who’s adopted has endured the traumatic experience of losing his or her biological parents. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day remind us of that loss. These holidays are times to celebrate, but it’s also appropriate to take time to grieve. Lamenting on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day doesn’t have to ruin the celebratory day for our parents. Lament and joy can flow together.
Although adoption is full of beauty, it’s only a reality because the world is broken.
Godly sorrow is a necessary step on the road to healing. However, this godly sorrow isn’t the same as worldly despair. Godly sorrow is grieving with confidence, knowing our grief doesn’t go unseen by the Father. As the psalmist explains, “But you, God, see the trouble of the afflicted; you consider their grief and take it in hand. The victims commit themselves to you; you are the helper of the fatherless” (Ps. 10:14, NIV). We grieve by bringing our losses before the Father, trusting our grief isn’t the end of the story.
Rejoice in Your Gain
While Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are days to grieve the necessity of adoption, they’re also times to rejoice in the gift of adoption. They’re occasions for adoptive children to joyfully reflect on the sacrificial love of our adoptive parents. It’s a reminder that although we’ve experienced tremendous loss, we’ve also received great gain.
These are days to dwell on God’s goodness and grace, to praise God for the help he provides those in need:
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name, extol him who rides on the clouds; rejoice before him—his name is the LORD. A father to the fatherless, . . . God sets the lonely in families. (Ps. 68:4–6, NIV)
It’s fitting for us to show gratitude to God as we reflect on the truth that although adoption is caused by brokenness, adoption isn’t defined by brokenness. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are days of rejoicing as we reflect on the loving presence of the family that chose us.
Hope in Your Future
Adoption reveals the fragility of family on earth while pointing to the stability of the family that is to come. Our earthly families are a reflection of the eternal family we’ll join when Christ returns.
Knowing our future with Christ gives us hope in the moments when we’re overwhelmed by the fragility of earthly families, for we know our security: “Though my father and my mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me” (Ps. 27:10, NIV). These holidays should point us to our heavenly Father who asks us, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isa. 49:15, NIV).
How the Church Can Help
As we celebrate Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in our churches, it’s important to remember that not all families are able to participate with pure joy and thankfulness. So how can the church be more sensitive to the adopted on these days?
Adoption reveals the fragility of family on earth while pointing to the stability of the family that is to come.
Acknowledge the adopted among the groups who may be grieving on these days and pray for us. Consider ahead of time who you know in your church that’s adopted and be ready to listen and offer comfort. The adopted shouldn’t have to walk through these days alone. With a little intentionality, the church can be ready to rejoice, grieve, and hope with adopted children on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
“What are you planning to do tomorrow for the one who brought you into the world?” If someone were to ask me this question again, I’d have an answer: “I plan to pray for her and grieve her absence. As for my adoptive mother, I’m planning to celebrate her presence.”