THIS is Why You Should Not Run From Grief
I went over to a friend’s house for a playdate. We started to discuss the difficulties with her daughter’s previous behavior. She commented, “You know it isn’t like with foster care where you have a bunch of resources and all these people to help you. It is very lonely. It’s just me trying to figure it out and I have never done this before.” I nodded my head in support and gave the typical friend comments of encouragement.
When I got to the car, I thought about the misperception that my friend had regarding our rearing experiences with children. What she said and what she meant were different. I realized she perceived I had all kinds of resources and support readily available and here she was just ‘trying to figure it out.’ I grieved for a moment for us both.
I grieved for her because what she was really saying is that she needed support and help. Motherhood wasn’t as easy or natural as every detergent commercial makes us perceive it is. I grieved for myself because the foster care system is just silos of people trying to do the right thing, but can be very isolating. And unfortunately, in our experience, the child is not always put first. All a child has is you, a foster parent. It is a broken system run by a state agency - not the Ghostbusters.
Then I grieved because, regardless of how we became mothers, here we were both feeling lonely and trying to figure things out. We assumed the other had it easier and was navigating it better. I think whenever we have a plan in our life, we have to allow ourselves to grieve when our plan doesn’t match life.
But beyond the grief, loneliness, and misperceptions was something beautiful we both had in common- she and I had both fought for our children. We saw them for more than their tantrums at school and outbursts at home. We loved them. That love was so wonderful and yet so hard.
My road to motherhood itself was a unique love story. I remember hearing the final confirmation from our doctor, “If you want to have a baby you need an egg donor.” Well, I couldn’t find the egg donor scholarship fund through google for the $20,000, and the nurse told me that you can’t just blow into a vagina to reset it like a Nintendo. So, I felt fortunate that I had always wanted a blended family. But, I still had to grieve the loss of an idea, a shimmery hope that maybe just maybe, I would get pregnant and that this wasn’t my failure as a woman.
But we saw the broken and beautiful need for love in the world, so we started to foster. We went through a rigorous process - provided references, attended countless hours of training, completed background checks and home studies. Finally, we babysat for another foster family with a 9-month-old little boy. That weekend was the best of my life. When I dropped him off, I cried and felt like someone was taking my own child from me. And truth be told, I felt that way because he later became my son. Life’s beauty revealed itself and matched our hearts.
We requested to be his foster parents and soon we welcomed not just him, but his little sister a few short months later. During the 3 years we fostered them, we also foster four other children ranging from 2-17 years of age and staying from 6-12 months each. Each time, I loved them in this way that is hard to explain, but nothing short of my own.
Yes, it can be difficult to love a child who doesn’t love you back as much as you love them because they are yearning for their own mother. To see a child suffer through trauma and then separation from someone who maybe ill, mentally unstable, or addicted, but is the only one they know, is tragic. Sometimes, the feeling of stability and nurture can feel foreign and odd to a child who doesn’t know it. Therefore, I would take a moment to grieve for each child. Grieve that this child doesn’t know selfless love, and hope that each would see that in us. Each child grew, healed, learned and eventually returned some form of love back to me.
Eventually, each left, but we continued to be blessed with our two little ones who first started our journey. We couldn’t imagine life without them and wanted, without question, to adopt them, and soon did. However, I grieved for their loss, because our success through adoption seemed to stem from someone else’s failure as a parent. That is a moment for grief.
Grief continues for me as a mother. My son has been diagnosed with Autism. I had to grieve the hopes or goals I had for him and embrace the beauty of how he sees the world and becomes who he is. I have to grieve my fears and worries because they can’t hold either of us back from being bold and brave.
In a world where we often think or assume that the mother next to us doesn’t understand our struggle, it’s ok to feel that isolation and loneliness, but then we must embrace that our journey is just different than hers. We don’t truly know if her path is easier. What we know is that we want to be the best for our children.
When we feel jealous, lonely, isolated, or disappointed, we have to learn to recognize and embrace those feelings so we can grieve them, because what we are grieving is our expectation for ourselves. In the end, our grief provides us empathy that we can loan to one another, and I can’t think of anything more powerful.
And speaking of powerful, watch our amazing adoption video!
A big THANK YOU to Cari for sharing her wisdom in this week's StoryTime.
Mama Stories that prove we're in it together without having it all together.
Cari Kelm is a resident of Hamilton County, IN. She has been a foster parent for 5 years and a mother to 8 children during that time. Cari is a proud member of the Salesforce team and when she is not working, she is busy being silly and witty with her 2 children, husband, and dog, Buddy. She is desperately looking for more sleep and a vacation.