Chapter 2: How discrimination and oppression can impact grief

Pregnancy, stillbirth, surrogacy, and adoption losses

She was about six or seven weeks pregnant when it happened. We decided to keep it between us for a long time. We figured people just wouldn’t get it, and we were hurting pretty bad. We ended up seeing a counsellor who really helped us through it. It was a dark time for us.

When the surrogate mother changed her mind, we were devastated. We had been so hopeful and had waited for so long. We didn’t know what to tell people. How do you explain losing a child who hasn’t died?

The death of a child due to pregnancy loss or stillbirth isn’t always recognized or acknowledged. One reason is that some people believe that “not really knowing” a child somehow lessens grief. Other reasons that your loss might be unrecognized include people not knowing about the pregnancy or about your choice to have a surrogate carry your child, or their belief that 2SLGBTQ+ people shouldn’t be allowed to be parents.

Your loss may also be due to someone else changing their mind about a surrogate pregnancy or adoption. In this case, you may receive even less support, partly because there hasn’t been a death. All the same, you are likely to grieve not only the loss of a child, but also the loss of the chance to become a parent and all that represents to you.

Click on each switch button below to see various situations and how you might be affected: 

If…Possible impact on you

If you carried the pregnancy…

If you are a partner or a spouse…


You may have to respond to inappropriate questions about “your husband” or “the father.”

You may decide to “go into the closet” in order to avoid these additional stressors.

You may feel invisible as your role and grief go unacknowledged.


If…Possible impact on you

There has not been a death, but you experienced a loss because of a failed or reversed adoption, or a change of mind by a surrogate…

Your plans to have a child through assisted reproduction, surrogacy, or adoption were not known to others…

Others knew, but they don’t fully understand the meaning of your loss…

Your grief may include feelings of rejection or despair. Knowing that you have been denied the opportunity to parent is deeply hurtful and can reopen old wounds.

Your grief will be invisible to others.

You may be feeling disappointed, frustrated, isolated, and unsupported in your grief.


 What may help

  • If you have a partner/spouse, look for ways to acknowledge your losses together. Keep in mind that there may be differences in the ways each of you has been affected, and this may require you both to be patient and kind with yourselves and each other.
  • You may need to find additional support beyond what your partner can provide. Reach out to supportive people who will listen to you with compassion and respect.  
  • If you are the non-biological parent, resist the urge to keep your feelings to yourself out of a wish to protect or “be strong” for your partner. Your grief matters too.
  • Give thought to ways you might deal with difficult or upsetting questions or remarks. You may choose to answer differently, depending on the person. You may also decide to avoid certain people, if only temporarily.
  • If you are grieving a miscarriage or pregnancy loss, finding support services specific to this type of loss can be very helpful, especially if they’re 2SLGBTQ+ inclusive. 
  • An adoption reversal or unsuccessful surrogacy may cause feelings of rejection or exclusion to return. Acknowledge these losses and look for support from people who can listen without judging or offering unwanted advice. 
  • You may wish to have a ceremony to honour your loss. You might also ask for practical support – for example, to help remove or put away items that you had collected in preparation for the arrival of the baby or child.

Helpful resources