Placing a baby for adoption means signing up for a great deal of heartache. It is a unique kind of sorrow to grieve the loss of someone who is still alive. How do you combat the emptiness and brokenness of being separated from the child who holds your heart? Here are some things that help me stay positive about placing my baby for adoption.

1. Make a list of “whys”

It’s normal to have bouts of “shoulda, woulda, coulda’s.” That’s part of the bargaining phase of grief. Sometimes I wonder if I should’ve placed, if I somehow could have made it work to parent. When I feel the regret coming on, I look at my “why” list. I remember the circumstances around my pregnancy, and why adoption was a safer, healthier choice for both me and my birth daughter. These circumstances are not all your fault – don’t get down on yourself or think of yourself as unworthy. Just remember that there are good reasons you chose to place.

2. Talk it out

Talk with someone who understands what you’re going through. This might be a friend or family member, or a support group of birth moms online or in person. Nothing feels better than a good venting session. Getting all your feelings out lifts some of the weight off your shoulders.

3. Focus on yourself

It’s hard, but ruminating on a situation you can’t change for too long won’t help you. Even if it’s just one small thing a day, do something for yourself. You can’t go back and change the past, but you can change your future. Be the kind of person your birth child would be proud of. You won’t ever “move on” or “get over” placement, but you CAN keep going. You can live an amazing life. Start today, even if that just means getting out of bed and making a healthy breakfast. One step at a time, you will heal.

Always remember – you are birth mom strong. You made a hard choice for your baby, a choice you have to keep making every day. If you were strong enough to do what you felt was right for your baby, you’re strong enough to get through anything.

Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She currently attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.