Disenfranchised grief, for those who are not familiar with this term, is a grief that is not acknowledged by society. In this post, I, Jennifer, a Christ follower and a birthmother, am going to talk about the Christian Church as the society at hand. Though this disenfranchisement does not start within the confines of the church, I do believe we as Christians have a responsibility to be the foundation for ending it. A prime example of disenfranchised grief, and the focus of this post, is the grief that birth/first/ biological parents have post placement of their infants. There seems to be a few different misconceptions that leads to this disenfranchisement, but for today I am going to focus on two; 1.) Birth parents choose adoption. They do not have the right to mourn what they chose. and 2.) Birth parents dump their kids off into the care of other people because they do not care about their child. Lets address these misconceptions to help bring light to why they are false and why the misunderstanding is damaging to the people that encompass adoption and the society in which the adoptions take place. Misconception 1.) Choice equates forfeiting the right to grieve. Lets look at this from the divine example of Jesus.
"Jesus willingly died on the cross, He longed to be with us for eternity, but do you know what Jesus did before He willingly bore our sins on the cross? He dropped to His knees, He wept, and He prayed. Jesus was scared, overwhelmed and sad to the point of sweating blood, yet, despite choosing the greatest good—God’s will—He did not withhold His emotions, He laid them at His Father’s feet. " -Jennifer Mae, Fireweed
God has clearly shown us that though we chose something it does not mean that we have to stifle our grief in the choice (Mark 14:34-36). Not only did Jesus not withhold his sorrow, but He also called upon His support system to show up-stay awake- and pray for Him. Choice does not forfeit grief. Misconception 2.) Birth parents are all careless, bad parents giving their unwanted, unloved children away. Is it fair or accurate to attest this mindset/adjectives (careless, unloving, bad) to all birth/first/biological parents? With great gusto I say, ABSOLUTELY NOT! The women and men who make an adoption plan for their children are not doing so out of hatred or the desire to rid themselves of their children. Adoption is overwhelmingly chosen out of the desire for their children to have a different life than what the biological family is able to provide or, perhaps, the life they are suffering through. Birth parent is not a synonym for bad parent. It takes a great deal of love to lay ones own desires down in order to raise their children up. Now, in this post I have been speaking about chosen, domestic infant adoption, but I want to speak into when C.P.S. is involved and children are removed from their homes and placed for adoption.
"Briefly, I want to mention the parents who have their children taken from them by C.P.S. and have their parental rights removed, thereby attaining the unchosen title of birth parent. This source to attaining said title does not always mean that these parents did not try to provide more for their children than what they were shown and given in their own childhood. We can choose to place labels on these men and women, labels like drug addict, or we can choose to place grace instead. Grace that sees things like drug addiction as, perhaps, a coping mechanism they learned or were taught in their youth and physical neglect as the only parenting style they themselves had ever been shown in their adolescence. My point is, adults in their shortcomings do not just appear, they are created overtime. Not to say the children in these homes should not be protected, absolutely they should, but we can protect and lay down grace, it does not have to be either/ or, rather it can be both/and. Because in that grace, we can build healing, rather than shame."
-Jennifer Mae, Fireweed Sins like neglecting children, or abusing drugs while parenting, may seem like a lighter weight of depravity than hating these people for their choices, to many of us Christians. But all sin is the same swing velocity of the hammer atop the nail head that hung Jesus to the cross. I believe it is righteous anger we have towards innocent children being maltreated, but using that anger as a fuel to hate the biological parents of these children is not going to bring hope nor healing to these men and women and certainly not building the Kingdom of God. Lets not be a church focused on shaming, but one on bringing these people the light of Jesus and His hope, mercy and forgiveness for healing and breaking cycles of hurt.
And, lets not forget that God can make beauty even from the most horrendous of ashes. If we are too busy looking down on these people from our delusional superiority we may miss out on the chance to be a part of God bringing about his beauty, joy, praise, deeply rooted righteousness and His splendor to be shared with others (Isaiah 61:3).
You see, I believe that we as a church have the responsibility to help bring hope and healing to God's people through the gospel. How are we to bring this message of God's hope and healing if we build walls of shame around people in the greatest of need of this "good news"? Disenfranchised grief does not start with the church, but what if we as the church work to end it? My name is Jennifer and I am a Birthmom. My choice in placement does not negate my grief nor is my title, birth mom, my all encompassing identity. I am fiercely loved by God just as much as the child that was growing in my womb that I lovingly and thoughtfully placed for adoption. I am the women sitting in the pew next to you on Sunday morning, earnestly singing praises to God. Though God did not bless me with a singing voice, He did give me a voice for those who are bound by the chains of disenfranchised grief and the stigma that welds the chains together. Hear me Christ followers- break those chains in the mighty name of Jesus, love His people well to bring His hope and healing to those hurting more than our society cares to acknowledge.