I know a lot of you were thinking it, and for a while there, so was I: “now what?”
I have a rule to myself that I don’t post when I’m engulfed in an emotional bubble. I wait until the moment has past- I reflect and reread- I make sure that my perspective is clear. For most posts, that only takes a week or two. This time, it took months.
The months after Nugget left were heavy, they were refining, but they were also good: The kind of good that you feel at the depth of your stomach. The kind you feel when you know that even though this is difficult, you know even more, that this is right. The kind of good that comes when you hear God say, “well done, my good and faithful one” or when you sing out, “it is well with my soul.“
I know these words sound encouraging and upbeat. They sound highly optimistic in an atmosphere of loss, but that moment of peace has only come after the months of grieving, months of preparation, and months of receiving help from those around me.
When we knew that the time had come for Nugget to leave, my co-worker told me, “You’re going to feel grief, and you need to allow yourself that time to feel it. We will be here to support you in that.” I know it sounds simple, maybe it sounds like advise you’ve heard a million times before – but for me, it was the brightest light at the end of the tunnel. It gave me permission to feel pain, and really feel it. Not to push it away or down play it, only for it to bubble up more later. But to allow myself to accept grief as it came. Throughout every hard moment in my life I have always strived to just get over it. To say it didn’t matter or that it wasn’t worth anyone else’s time of day to listen to my hurt. I never felt that any grief in my life was justified – but this moment was different. My coworker was giving me permission to sit in the pain for that period of my life and accept that I am still worthy of love even in my sorrow. She affirmed that sadness wasn’t a burden, that it was part of each persons life, and that I wasn’t less of a good person to feel it.
I allowed the sorrow to come. I allowed the sadness to flow through me- but I kept moving my feet in a forward direction. The first couple of months after Nugget left felt long. They felt hard. They felt like I was constantly on edge. The mundane steps of life were the hardest: Washing my hair was hard. Keeping the house clean felt hard. Eating dinner alone felt hard. But I followed the steps. I kept moving my feet day after day. I didn’t let myself avoid the sorrow. Instead, I walked right through it and watched in vanish – like when you wave you hand in the smoke and watch it disappear. I’m not saying this was easy. I’m saying that it’s possible. Possible to love without holding back than lose just the same.
Instead, I walked right through it and watched in vanish – like when you wave you hand in the smoke and watch it disappear.
I started counseling prior to finding out exactly where nugget would be moving. (I highly recommend this to anyone going through transition) Throughout my time with my counselor, she taught me three main things:
1.) Allow the sadness to come, but then get up a keep moving:
She said to give myself that time to mourn and time to recognize what I was feeling- but then get up and do something else. No matter how much I didn’t want to, no matter how little purpose I felt in that moment, to get up and do something. Anything.
2.) Make a schedule & have a plan:
I had so may transition calendars written out for Nugget, but I didn’t have anything for myself. I printed out a calendar just for me. I wrote in what I planned to do while Nugget was away on her transitioning visits, and then I made a weekly schedule for once she was gone. I set aside time for exercise, time for girlfriends and time for date nights. I set a schedule, but then I kept that schedule and stuck to it. It helped so much to know my time was already accounted for and I didn’t have to go home and wander around an empty house aimlessly.
3.) Know that your goal has been completed:
In my first session with my counselor she asked me what my original goal for foster care was, and if I felt like I had achieved it. She worked with me to see that what I set out to do with Nugget was successful and complete. She reminded me countless times that my goal was finished and it was time for a new goal.
As I sat in church behind my sweet foster mom friend and her tiny foster baby in the weeks following the transition- as I watched her care for M and kiss her soft skin: My heart broke for the empty seat next to me. The seat that was filled by Nugget for over a year but was now empty.
As the pastor asked for mothers to stand up during the service to be recognized: The pit of my stomach ached with the question, “am I even still a mother?”
As I turn off the lights to go to bed in a house with just me in it. As I past an empty room still pretty and pink but far emptier than in my mind: The sorrow weighed heavier. But still…
As I sit here typing 6 months later I hear my heart say, “it was worth it”
My journey as Nugget’s foster mom has ended, but my with foster care has not. I’ve been taking the last few months to heal and to focus on other relationships in my life, but I know deep down in my stomach that I’m not done being a foster mom yet. In a couple of months we will prepare our hearts again to open my home to another foster child. I don’t know what that will look like yet, or how the next journey will unfold, but one thing is certain – I plan to keep loving without holding back.