When Your Adoption Search Ends in Disappointment

How to Cope with Birth Parents Not Wanting to Reunite

When you begin a search for birth parents as an adult adoptee of a closed adoption, you know that there are several possible scenarios, including:

Scenario 1: The ideal scenario — you find your birth parents, and they’re ready to share the same kind of relationship that you are.

Scenario 2: You are unable to find your birth family members.

Scenario 3: You find your birth parents, but they’re deceased.

Scenario 4: You find your birth parents, but they don’t contact you back or they say that they don’t want to have a relationship with you.

Before you start your adoption search, you need to be fully prepared for any of these potential scenarios. This may require you to ask yourself if searching is worth the potential pain of disappointment or rejection. For many adoptees, it is. Either way, that decision is a very personal one that only you can make.

What Happens When You Find Your Birth Family and Learn They Don’t Wish to Be Contacted

This is a very painful experience for adoptees, who may or may not also struggle with negative feelings related to their adoption. While not all adoptees experience adoption-related issues, most adoptees do feel some sense of loss toward their birth families, particularly if their adoption was closed and all ties were severed.

If you find a birth parent or other birth family member and they either don’t respond or they say that they’re not ready for a relationship with you, this rejection can trigger feelings of:

  • abandonment
  • not feeling worthy of love
  • disconnect from a part of your identity
  • loss
  • grief

Many adoptees grow up with a mental image of birth parents who were out there, thinking of them and wanting a relationship with them. The loss of that dream is another loss that adoptees experience if their birth family says that they’re not willing to have a relationship with them.

Preparing for Other Possible Disappointments

As we noted, there are other ways that your adoption search can end in disappointment. You may not be able to find your birth parents or they may no longer be alive. Sometimes, an adoptee reunites with their birth family and the relationships don’t live up to what they had hoped for.

You may grieve these experiences in different ways than you would the experience of contacting your birth parents and then having them reject you, because in some ways, you would have less closure. However, just like the possibility of rejection, it’s important to be emotionally prepared for these scenarios. You may also cope with these experiences in a similar way as you would a rejection.

Nine Out of Ten Birth Parents Today Choose Open Adoption… What Does That Mean for You?

The cultural attitudes toward adoption have, thankfully, shifted in the last several decades. Closed adoptions were once the norm, and unwed pregnant women were shamed. Sadly, adoption was often very secretive. Thankfully, nine out of ten birth parents today choose to have an open adoption with their child. If you’re searching for your own birth parents, what does this statistic mean for you?

It means that while there are many reasons why your adoption may have been a closed one, that doesn’t necessarily mean that your birth parents, if you can locate them, won’t be willing to talk to you. The numbers suggest that the general attitude of birth parents is that they want to have a relationship with their child after the adoption.

Is this a guarantee that you won’t be disappointed in your adoption search or reunion? No. But it may give you some reasonable hope.

How to Cope with Rejection if It Does Happen

If you reach out to your birth family and they do reject your request to have a relationship with them, or if your adoption search ends in a different kind of disappointment, here are some options to cope with that loss:

  • Lean on your family, friends and loved ones for support. Remember that families can be found in many different places.
  • Talk through what you’re feeling with other adoptees in a forum, support group, or other platform.
  • Seek counseling from an adoption therapist.

Feeling as if you’ve lost your biological family twice can be extremely difficult. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if you need help processing anything you may be feeling.

There are many reasons why a birth parent may not want to reunite after being contacted by an adoptee. Every birth parent’s situation is very unique and personal, but reasons why they may reject an adoptee include:

  • They kept their adoption a secret from certain friends or family members, and they fear revealing that secret, even many years later.
  • An adoptee may be seen as a representation of a painful time in a birth parent’s life.
  • The experience of placing a child for adoption is painful, and some birth parents may not be ready to face that pain.
  • They may feel guilty for being unable to raise the adoptee.

Note that nothing you have done, or can do, affects your birth parent’s readiness or ability to accept you in their life. A birth parent’s decision to not reunite with you is not a rejection of you as a person — they don’t know you at all.  Instead, they reject something that you represent to them. This is usually because they’re unable to cope with their own pain, and has nothing to do with you.

It’ll take time for you to process your emotions if you experience an adoption reunion rejection or other disappointment in your adoption search. Remember to seek support when needed and to be compassionate with yourself.