6 Steps to Cope with a Disrupted Adoption


Disrupted adoptions are deeply painful.

I know because, in one of the darkest seasons of my life, I experienced one.

My husband and I had joyfully poured everything we had—from our plans to our prayers to our finances—into an adoption that was canceled two months from bringing a little girl into our family. It blindsided us and left us questioning everything we thought we understood about God’s will.

We had been obedient, so why did this disruption feel so much like discipline?

We took these 6 steps to heal from the loss—

1. Save the blame.

As tempting as it may be to place blame for your disrupted adoption, resist the urge.

Adoptions are disrupted for many reasons, and in the end, blaming can actually make you the source of your own suffering. Blame doesn’t eliminate stress or fix what is broken—instead, it works as a prison to keep us trapped by our own hurt and frustration.

If you’ve been wronged, trust that God’s justice will one day make things right (Romans 12:19).

2. Grieve the loss.

Grieving a child who either 1) doesn’t exist or 2) didn’t pass away can feel awkward or unnecessary. And yet grief is a healthy response to painful circumstances.

Learn from my mistakes, and don’t add to your grief by being ashamed of it. Grief actually signals acceptance and expresses the importance we placed on the relationship that was lost. Your adoption mattered, and so does your grief.

Thankfully, God welcomes every hurting heart—

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

3. Don’t hide.

Admittedly, my husband and I didn’t want to talk about the canceled adoption with anybody—not each other, not our family, not our friends who had supported us on the journey. Talking about it made it feel more real … and real was really painful.

Also, I was embarrassed people had poured their time and support into an adoption we couldn’t complete. I felt like a failure.

But hidden grief can be really lonely. And it can actually make the loss even worse. Instead of hiding, find a small group of people whom you trust and with whom you can be completely honest. Write an email or send a text if you can’t say the words out loud. And then let this group be the hands of feet of Jesus in your life.

4. Invest in your marriage.

By now, you know the adoption journey can be stressful. (Understatement, right?) And if we’re not careful, we can end up using these hurts to build walls or weapons.

One of the best ways you can protect your marriage through the ups and downs of this journey is to actively invest in each other. Enjoy experiences, have discussions, and make memories that have nothing to do with the adoption.

Yes, even while—or maybe especially while—grieving a disrupted adoption, have a date night. It feels wrong, but I promise you it’s absolutely right.

5. Seek counsel.

Whether you need professional counsel or simply need to talk to a highly trusted mentor or friend, do it. The Bible tells us that “in an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

Asking for help is humbling; but humility always receives God’s help (James 4:6).

In the quiet moments of your own private thoughts, counsel yourself the way you would counsel someone else in your situation. Would you tell someone he was foolish for starting the adoption process at all? Or would you tell someone she was never meant to be a parent? Would you tell someone to give up hope? My guess—you would give grace in abundance.

6. Hang on to hope.

Immediately following a disrupted adoption, it can be easy to decide never to do that again. And I understand. But don’t let past hurt rob you of future blessing.

The same reasons you started out on this journey the first time still exist. Children still need families. God still calls us to care for the fatherless. And you still have a heart for orphans and vulnerable kids.

Yes, take time to process, grieve, and heal. But keep listening. If God is calling you to step out in faith again, trust Him. 

Now and then, He’ll be with you every step of the way.

Read stories of God’s provision.