Monday, July 25, 2011


During MAPP training, we talk about the stages of grief. The grief that our kids experience, the grief that their parents experience, and all the behaviors that suddenly make sense when you remember that they are trekking along the stages of grief. Things like the honeymoon period when kids seem like they are attaching and they are behaving beautifully (shock), or the aftermath when they turn into hellions (bargaining- I'll be so bad, they'll hate me and send me home), or when they are aggressive or start fires, or their parents make false allegations about the foster parents (anger anyone?). Then there is depression- parents missing visits, kids overeating or not eating at all. Finally- acceptance- when the parent starts working the case plan or surrenders or starts focusing on the child instead of how much they hate the caseworker, system, and foster parents. Acceptance- When a 7yr old finally potty trains or a teenager starts making friends. Every family we connect with through foster care falls under one of these stages since foster care is essentially loss and grief.

Generally I think that most psychological stereotypes are annoying and inaccurate. I don't like being read or analysed according to some half baked theory written by a human when I know healing comes from God. BUT- I was very surprised by how neat and in order my grief when losing my babies fit into these stages. I thought I would share:

Shock/Denial- "They're not actually going to go home. Look at everything that's going on with the biofamily! They can't possibly add 2 more kids to that mix. If they do go home, they'll be back. They're coming back to me, this won't last."

Bargaining- "I'm still going to see them all the time. If I just give presents, and rides, and free babysitting they'll let us see them. It's not like they're really gone"

Anger- "How would they let my boys live like that?! This is we have juvenile delinquents, because we let kids live in homes with criminal parents and no supervision. They could have been anything they wanted, they could have had every opportunity they deserve, but now they will have to fight for everything they get.The system rips kids away from healthy, loving, stable homes- THE ONLY HOME THEY KNOW- and gives them to a person who hasn't changed anything since losing their kids in the first place!"

Sadness/Depression- "I'll just have to keep my distance and protect myself next time. I'm probably not going to love the next kid as much as them anyway." While I compulsively cry over their baby books and look up their family on facebook to see any new pictures of them. I cried everyday for an entire month and I still don't go a full day without being sad over some aspect of their leaving.

Acceptance/Understanding- I will let you know when I get there. I know this place exists because I don't think about Baby 1 everyday anymore. Losing him was awful. I remember it being worse than losing Babies 2 & 3. However, I can just remember the sadness, I don't feel the intensity of those emotions any more. With 2 & 3, every memory brings back the full force of emotion I was feeling as it happened. Now when I see pictures of Baby 1, I only think of the good times with him, not the sadness without him.

Then there is developmental grieving, which is when something happens in your life that triggers your loss ad sends back in your grieving process. Remember how I've accepted losing Baby 1? A little story:

I was so excited when we got that call for respite 8. Three weeks of baby smell, and baby toes, and baby cheeks was exactly what I needed. When he came to us, I was pleasantly surprised by how well he fit into our family and routine. Everyone was taken with him. Brandon and I were in love. Even my parents were smitten, which is unusual for them and our respites. Our family doesn't generally attach to the kids who come for just a short time. My Mom was over the moon for 8 and my Dad would call and make sure he was OK. At first I chalked it up to him being adorable and a pretty long respite placement (19 days), but we've had cute kids stay that long before without getting so connected. It was weird.
Baby 1- 7.5months old
Respite 8- 7.5moths old

On the last night of his placement, I put all 8's clothes in the wash so I could send everything back clean. I dug out some PJ's that we had for him to sleep in. As I held him in the pajamas that were initially bought for Baby 1, it hit me like a ton of bricks- Respite 8 was the spitting image of Baby 1. He is the exact same age as 1 was when he left. They both have crazy curls on top of their heads and 2 bottom teeth. They both love the exersaucer and giggle all the time. They have the same nose and are big for their age. I held sleeping respite 8 for over an hour and cried exactly the same way I had cried the day 1 left. This grieving stuff is no joke.
Baby 1 loves the exersaucer
Respite 8 loves the exersaucer

The most commonly heard phrase among foster parents from outsiders is, "I could never do that!". I could never give a baby back! I'd get too attached! I don't know how you do it! This is how we do it. We grieve. We cry and scream and stare into space. We don't back down because it's hard. We know the joy outweighs the pain. There aren't any foster care-super hero-ninja tricks to avoid loss, you have to hit it head on. As soon as you get where you can't take anymore, you do it again- because it's worth it!

"How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard." -Annie the movie

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