Birth Grandparent Grief Following Adoption

by Laura Christianson

We met our infant son’s birth grandparents the day after we adopted him. I recall being so giddy with delight over becoming a parent that I probably said all the wrong things to his biological grandparents and great grandparents.

While they fully supported their grandson’s adoption, I sensed—even amidst my euphoria—that they were feeling sad and confused about saying both “hello” and “goodbye” to their grandson.

Today’s guest columnist, Marie (not her real name) is a birth grandma who candidly shares the emotional upheaval she’s living through in the aftermath of her newborn grandson being placed with an adoptive family.

On June 2, 2007, I received a phone call from my adult daughter, 27, announcing that she had given birth to a baby boy. She had not told anyone she was pregnant.

She is not married and she has had some problems with alcohol so I was understandably concerned. I jumped on a plane and flew to her city. There, I discovered that her boyfriend did not want to marry her or to keep the child.

Over the next two weeks as I struggled to cope with the shock of the unexpected birth, my daughter told me it was too emotionally draining for her to stay with the baby, so I became his sole caregiver. My grandson and I bonded instantly; I was in love after only a few hours. I loved every minute of the feeding, bathing, singing—and yes—even diaper changing. We spent many long nights awake together, me promising him that I would protect him at all costs.

After 10 days my daughter and her boyfriend decided they would place him for adoption. They began reviewing prospective parents and selected a couple. I was told I would be packing his little things and delivering him the following day to his new mommy and daddy.

I lovingly complied, although ever fiber in my body told me to run away and keep him with me. That last night together I never closed my eyes, but stayed awake holding him all night—desperately trying to memorize every feature in his face, as well as his smell, his personality—knowing I would probably never see him again. I cried uncontrollably and prayed non-stop that God would find a way to give me the strength to do what was required of me.

I washed and packed all his clothes and toys and they were taken to a hotel room for safekeeping until the hour of “surrender.”  When it was time to surrender this precious angel, I dressed him in the organdy daygown I had bought for him and lovingly wrapped him in an heirloom blanket. I was determined that this little boy would get the proper sendoff.

As I walked the three blocks to the hotel with this precious baby in my arms, I felt as if I was headed to death row and the seconds were ticking off the clock. It was the most surreal experience of my 55 years and I had never felt more alone.

When I met with the adoptive parents for that short hour, we were accompanied by the case worker from their adoption agency. We were instructed prior to meeting that our last names and contact information were not to be shared. I was even asked to redact the baby’s name on a prescription he had been prescribed for the treatment of thrush.

I shared with his new parents the details of his eating and sleeping patterns and the notes I had taken to help them stay on his schedule. The adoptive parents were open and loving toward me and obviously felt great empathy for my loss. They both cried (a lot) when they heard the circumstances of the adoption and realized I was in such pain. They knew I didn’t want to let go and that I had no power to make any decisions which had led to this moment.

They hugged and thanked me so many times. They agreed to give him the book I had bought and inscribed prior to meeting him as well as the little stuffed lamb which played “Jesus Loves Me.” I gave them a heartfelt letter I had written to him so that one day he will know how much I love him and how much I miss him. And I gave them the most precious gift of all: my beautiful grandson.

They promised he would one day know how much his “Mimi” loves him and how a part of me went with him. They also allowed me to take a photo of them as I handed the little man off to them for safekeeping.

Although I cannot imagine him having a more loving family to grow in, my sorrow and sense of loss has deepened with every passing month. I only have pictures and the few little outfits he wore during our last few hours together to sustain me. They are in a plastic bag and still hold his sweet baby smell.

Although I adore my three other grandchildren (ages 4, 2, and 10 months), sometimes being with them emphasizes the depth of my loss of this little boy, for I am reminded of the reality that I will never hear him call my name or see him reach his little arms up to hug me. Some days I cry all day and others I can handle it without crying. Most nights I cry when I go to the privacy of my bathroom.

I recently learned that I will be allowed to communicate with the family (through the adoption agency) and that the update letters and pictures his parents have sent to the agency are on their way to me. I am so excited to have this connection after five months of being totally cut off from my grandson.

I will have the opportunity to send him something special to go under his Christmas tree this year and something to commemorate his first birthday. After that, I will be allowed to send letters, pictures, or gift cards. I am praying that the family will find a way to allow the gifts to continue past the agency’s cut off date and that I am able to gain their trust and confidence.

I only want to be another person available to love him, not to interfere in their lives. I am praying that they will invite me into their lives at some point, and I trust God to take care of that as He sees fit. 

My biggest concern is that I may not still be alive when my grandson is old enough to make these decisions for himself. God knows best and I know His plan will unfold for me and for my grandson. For now I am so thankful for His abundance in getting us to this point.

I always will love my grandson, who is 5 months old now, and hope that someday, my opportunity will come to tell him in person.

Coming in the next posts:

  • Suggestions for appropriate communications/gift giving among birth and adoptive families
  • Resources for grieving grandparents

For more resources about adoption, please visit or my Exploring Adoption Bookstore.

Jenna October 18, 2007 at 10:38 AM

Goodness, you might have warned readers that this was a tear-jerker indeed! My thoughts and prayers go out to that wonderful, loving grandmother. She has shown love and compassion beyond what would be considered “normal” and hopefully, someday, her grandson will know its full extent.

Elizabeth October 19, 2007 at 8:07 AM

Marie will always be one of the most important people in her grandson’s life as she prays for him. Such sacrifice and love is a precious gift. May God intervene and allow visitations.

John October 19, 2007 at 8:56 AM

I fully empathize with the grandmother and my prayers to her in hopes she can maintane some kind of contact. I remember the bitter sweet feeling the day my wife and I adopted our son (he was 14 months old). All though our story is little different, I can not help but remember the excitment to finally have a child of ours, but then again we were taking him from everything he knew. All we can do is love and protect him with everything we have. I can only hope Marie feels some sort of comfort that he is in a loving home to a couple that will give him the best care possible.

Debra October 23, 2007 at 8:16 PM

This story really took me back to some of the emotions I felt when we adopted our daughter. She was premature and in the hospital for about a month. I spent many hours in the NICU with her and her birth grandmother. She loves this little girl too. We all cried as she left the hospital. We have an open adoption with visitation. We have never regretted this decision. We are thankful to have her birth grandmother in our lives. She prays for all 3 of us. It has been a blessing beyond measure.

Dori Lincecum April 5, 2015 at 10:44 PM

I am as well a grief stricken Grandmother. My Grandchildren were taken from me Almost 2 years ago. I was promised it would be an open adoption so far I have been lied to about the whole situation. I had 2 of my precious gems stolen from me my heart is heavy and I feel so uncomfortable when I finally get to see them. I know exactly how the grandmother felt when she turned her grandson over sounds like the adopted parents have a heart towards her. And the child as well. How van I find out if it was a open adoption? And if so what are my rights. They are my hearts. I found out my grandchildren were right down the street from me and I did not even know it. Why would they want to hurt the children that way they were old enough that there was a bond I dont understand. My heart is so heavy pray for me please

Wendy May 29, 2015 at 11:44 AM

Dori, who took your grandchildren from you? Dis the state do this to you? If they did you can still fight. Please read the letter I wrote to Pat. Twelve and a half years ago I too was given my two granddaughters through CPS. The parents were on drugs and were taken away and given to me. I had the girls two years and then the parents rights were terminated. The girls went up for adoption and I applied. The state social workers did a year home study, which they were not supposed to do on a relative, put me through hell and then denied me. Well I wasn’t going to let them take the girls from me so I appealed the decision. The girls were 6 months old and 4 years old when I got them and when the workers denied me they were 2 and 6 by then. I immediately made an appointment with a psychiatrist to get a bonding study done and started studying the law and I fought. I did a 52 page rebuttal to the state and after the hearing with an administrative judge the denial was rescinded and I was able to adopt my granddaughters. The girls are 12 and 16 now and it has been a long and hard journey because of the damage to the oldest one, however I wouldn’t change a thing because I know they got the best love and care from their Grammy. I would really like to hear your story and I would really like to see if you can fight this.
Please let me know.
God Bless You,

alison June 25, 2013 at 1:33 PM

I am also grieving as my beautiful grandson will be adopted away soon,I cannot cope with saying goodbye,I can’t do it, I have never cried so much in my life, even though we havnt yet had his final court hearing I have been told by his social worker that he wil be adopted, I can’t cope with not seeing him again,I love him so much he will be 2 on 21st decenber ,I cannot face saying goodbye,xxI

Pat September 2, 2013 at 10:34 PM

I too know the pain of the loss of a grandchild to adoption. My son and his wife are drug addicts who loved their children but could not do what was necessary to overcome the challenges of their addictions. The children, 3 and 8 months, were placed with my husband and me for a time but were sent to reside with my daughter as it was believed that our age and ill health was not in the best interest of the children. From day one CPS kept trying to get us to say we could not care for the children and they would be placed in foster care. We resisted that. Once they were in court approved custody with my daughter, CPS started making unreasonable demands about visitation. They wanted my daughter to bring them from her home to the CPS office every Monday. My daughter said that she could not do that as her children had needs also and she did not believe a 9 hour round trip every week was possible. She was then told that she would have to relinquish them to foster care. My son and his wife did not complete the required services for reunification of the family. The parental rights were terminated and the children were placed for adoption. I fought for visitation and was awarded visitation until the adoption mandate was handed down. The adoptive parents kept telling my husband and me that they wanted us to have continued contact with the children after the adoption. However, the day the mandate was handed down was the last time we saw our granddaughters. Three times the adoptive parents sent messages arranging meetings with the children only to cancel less than an hour before the scdheduled meeting each time. This past week we received an e-mail informing us that they wanted the children to bond with their families and believed that continued contact with us would prevent them from forming that grandparent/grandchild bond with the adoptive family’s parents. I know that my husband and I will probably not be alive when the girls are of legal age and can search for their biological family if they wish. The six months of promised meetings and cancellations and the hope for future contact was destroyed by this recent message. I am so devastated by this situation that I question whether I really want to go on. I can only pray for their well being.

Michelle May 21, 2015 at 8:14 AM

My 26 yo daughter just had my grandson on May 19, I am being informed that he is being given up for adoption even though i offered to take him. I am sick to my stomach and dont know if I can cope with this. I have been staying away from the hospital because I am afraid I will snap on my daughter. I dont know if I am capable of forgiving her. From what I am hearing, she is not aloud to decide until tomorrow. I am praying that god intervenes here somehow. Never in my life did I think I would be in this position. God please help!

Carrie February 3, 2014 at 10:48 PM

I am grieving for my grandson born in April of 2013. I am so happy for him to have been adopted by a kind and loving family and I know it is for his best but that simply does nothing to fill the gigatic hole in my heart! Your Grammy loves you so, baby E!

How are other gradparents getting through this sort of pain?

Pat February 4, 2014 at 9:54 AM

It has been almost a year since we last saw our granddaughters and the pain is not yet less. Since that time I have suffered heart attacks and know that my life expectancy will not be long enough to survive until the girls are of legal age if they should wish to make contact. Yet I know that despite the pain of loss, the girls are better off than they would have been if they had remained with their birth parents. The BP continue to be hopeless drug addicts. Knowing that the girls will not have to live the life of chaos that goes with that lifestyle is the only thing that keeps me going. Carrie, I hope that you and I both will someday see our grandchildren again. Keeping you in my prayers

Amalie June 20, 2014 at 7:39 PM

I’m so sorry for all of your pain. It helps to know I am not alone. My grief after raising my grand baby girl for two years is overwhelming. I don’t think it will ever really lessen. My heart aches and I don’t feel like I’m allowed to grieve because I let her go. I am beyond grieving.

Gramma L May 27, 2015 at 9:44 PM

It’s been 12 years since the day my grandson was adopted out. He would have been the only heir to the family name. His birth grandpa died 10 years before he was born. I gotta say the pain just never goes away. This is an open adoption, so we still see him occasionally. But it’s not the same.

His birth grandma on his mother’s side insisted her daughter give him up for adoption, despite her daughter’s wishes to keep him. She and my son planned on being married.

The birth mom came to me in tears with her baby in arms during her final visit with her baby. Her mother threatened to throw her out on the street if she decided against the adoption. Could she stay with me? How could i say no?

I knew such a decision to help her keep the baby was going to cause pain and anguish to the adoptive parents, but i couldn’t imagine their pain being worse than the birth mother’s. Or mine.

It didn’t last. The adoption agency along with the other grandmother & a law enforcement officer arrived on my doorstep to forcibly take the baby away. It was horrifying to think that your own flesh & blood can be stripped out of your life by the wishes of other people. The mom wanted her child. She shouldn’t have been forced to give him up.

And while in retrospect i can say I’m thankful my grandson is in a family who totally loves him, & if i had to choose someone to raise my grandson other than his birth family, they would be the ones…. i still have this broken heart. I have a hole where this boy belongs. He looks so much like his dad, my son. His eyes are like his grandpa’s. He will be tall just like him too. The ache never goes away. It gets worse. I love this boy with all my heart. And i love his adoptive family. I want him to know his birth family as… well, as family. Not as the sometimes visitors we seem to be.

Pat August 3, 2015 at 11:04 AM

My heart hurts as I read these stories. I am an adoptive parent and my son and his girlfriend who both have a drug problem had a premature baby at 27 weeks. We have been going to the hospital to see our beautiful baby girl several times a week. Mom is in rehab and has talked my son into signing her over for adoption. Having been on the other side of this situation I would be elated to receive such a gift but I also feel that because we couldn’t have our own I don’t want to let go of her. My husband and I are too old to raise a premature newborn baby. I am in a constant state of panic and anxiety. My heart is breaking and this hasn’t even taken place yet.
My son just tells me “it’s none of my business” it is his child. We have watched the miracle of her birth (not addicted to drugs)at 2lbs, she is currently 3lbs 7 oz and has done fantastic. This hurts 10 times more than waiting for a child. I know she will be better in a home with two loving parents but that doesn’t make this any easier.

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