This week I removed the leaf insert from our dining room table to take the seating configuration from six down to four. An outside observer might think that we had hosted family gatherings over the holidays and were a tad belated in returning our table to its normal state. But someone closer to our family might realize that this simple act took a great deal of strength and resulted in tears.
“Firefly” is no longer living with us. In reality, she has not lived in our home since January 1st of this year, but as of last week, we are no longer her foster parents.
As you can imagine, I can’t say much more about the situation, because #FosterCare. But I want you to know, dear friends, that this was by far the hardest decision we’ve ever made as a family. Without you living our lives, you cannot understand the whys and reasons of our decision and the impact that this has had on her and us.
I can, however, say some words about grief and loss as foster parents.
Foster Parent Grief is real and it SUCKS. Nothing prepares you for the deep aching loss that a foster parent (or any other substitute caregiver) feels when a foster child leaves your home. When a child enters your home, they are a part of your family; they’re one of your kids! Whether you thought they would stay forever in adoption or not, they become a part of you. Foster parents are carers by nature; you don’t just turn that off like a light switch when the child moves on.
This is our third goodbye to our foster kids and so far it has only gotten more difficult. What made this goodbye especially painful was that we were unable to engage in ritual and celebration by having a farewell party. We also planned for Firefly to join our family by adoption. Sadly, at this point this is no longer an option (again, I cannot elaborate).
I have cried so many tears in the past weeks. Not just a little welling up in the eyes; no, this was curled-up-in-bed, heaving, ugly sobs, that end in sleep because your body just can’t deal with it anymore. I’ve not been well – physically, mentally, or emotionally – for at least the past two months due to the stress of what our lives had become.
For those of you who love a foster parent, here are a few good blog posts about how to help foster parents when a foster child leaves:
I am so thankful for our support network – friends near and far, family, co-workers, church members – who said EXACTLY the right things to us over the past two weeks. Sometimes it was just “I don’t know what to say but I’m here and I love you.” Some people said “No matter what you’re feeling right now, you’re a good mom.” They gave us permission to feel whatever we were feeling, and we sure felt it all: guilt, anger, relief (that’s not easy to admit), denial, helplessness, and mostly a profound sadness. To those of you who have walked with us through the pain, thank you.
When a foster child leaves your home, you don’t stop thinking about them. I will forever worry and wonder about “my kids.” They are a part of me and I hope I am forever a part of them.
This week, Firefly was added to our Foster Care Wall and I also added a charm to my foster care charm bracelet in her honor, a microphone, because that girl LOVES to sing! I miss her voice, I miss her face and the feel of her tense, anxious body melting into mine as she calmed down after a tantrum. I miss her fiery personality and her strong capacity to love, despite the ways that life has made loving and trusting so very difficult.
Yes, we will be doing this again. It hurts like I never believed it could, but the need is too great. Firefly attached herself to us and we attached to her, which is exactly what kids in foster care need. (See “My Kids Are Like Duct Tape”) There are so many kids who need someone to grieve them if and when they leave. Yes it hurts, but they are worth all of it, over and over again.
“The pain of grief is just as much part of life as the joy of love:it is perhaps the price we pay for love, the cost of commitment.” – Dr. Colin Murray Parkes