“You knew it would happen. You knew this is what you signed up for. You basically asked for this”…. Yes, yes I did, but that makes it no less painful (and just so we’re clear, no one ever asks for emotional pain). There’s something about emotional pain that no matter how hard you try, you simply cannot adequately prepare for the pain that is coming. And if preparing means not living the moments that created all of the incredible memories that fill your heart with such intense joy, then you don’t want to prepare anyway.
To love deeply is to hurt deeply. I gave birth to children knowing that they would someday leave and that it would kill me. I fell in love with my husband knowing full well that we would some day part ways before I was finished loving him. I love recklessly and without bounds because I can’t imagine loving safely. Loving dangerously is the only way to experience living fully. God poured into me, an empty broken vessel, grace and love which brought back to life my weary bones. Now I see other broken, empty vessels and all I want to do is fill them full of the same light and life.
The danger comes in the grieving, the letting go, the living again. No amount of preparing or years of experience makes this easier. Sometimes the letting go is sending children home to finally be back in their family’s home. Sometimes it’s the grieving of the child when they find they will be making their forever home elsewhere. Sometimes it’s grieving over the loss of what was normal, the dreams of what was going to be, the “what used to be”, the friendships, the dream vacations and date nights. Sometimes it’s grieving the loss of the life none of you will ever have again because of foster care. It’s a real thing. Grieving the loss of normal is real. Don’t pretend like it’s not there.
I’m not selfish because I miss sleeping in on Saturdays (I love my sleep) or because I miss time alone with my husband. My husband isn’t selfish because he misses the quiet or our regular camping trips. That’s like saying new parents are selfish for missing sleep after they have a baby. Life changes and we’re allowed to miss/grieve the things that we lost in that change. Sometimes they are small things that we planned for, but sometimes they are major life changes that we have barely had time to digest and we’re simply working on autopilot. Foster parents run on autopilot a lot! At some point, we have to address the loss of what “once was” and move towards acceptance of the new dream, the new tomorrow. Otherwise anger, resentment, and bitterness can build up inside. For instance, due to the number of children and the delays in my home, we will never 1) be as “well mannered” as other families 2) we will never take the same vacations as other families 3) we will never have as much free time or money as other families-so no “12 sports per kid” and 4) functions that were designed for the “typical” kid will never include a chunk of my kids (i.e. church camps, most birthday parties, etc). So, I’m gonna be okay with this. I’m going to accept this as our new normal. It’s not yours and that’s okay, it’s mine. I’m going to be selfish again and claim a normalcy all my own. I NEED a sense of normalcy that fits my family, not yours or anyone else’s. As foster/adoptive parents the next step is to move from acceptance to embracing/building our new normal. We need to be able to settle in after a long day. We need to find joy in our home and laugh at the quirky things about our family. We need to be able to love the things that make our family, our family. We need to stop fighting each other to “turn this car around” because it won’t help. You can’t go back. Let it go. You are onto new (and exciting) things. Remember that saying, “stop looking behind you, you’re not going that way”, well that definitely applies here.
As much as grieving stinks, it’s part of the life we lead. One thing I’m consistently reminded of is that if I don’t deal with it properly and allow myself to go through the process, it will sink my ship every time. It’s heavy and it’s like a sponge that sucks up everything. That means it eventually takes up so much space that I no longer feel joy or happiness. Yeah, it soaks that up too. Grief is one of those mixed bad of emotions that demands to be dealt with and it will not leave until you have sorted out every single one. Don’t let it be a bully and scare you away from loving. Instead treat it as wise sage who has much to teach through the process. Loving is always worth it, always. So grieve in you way over your loss-sleep, hobbies, spare time, friends, or even family members. Let your heart feel all the feels so it can make room for love and joy again. Allowing time for healing isn’t selfish, it’s self-care. Some losses will never heal, they simply need time for you to sit with them, give them/you that time. We’re human. Handle with care.