This is the part that people don't want to go through. When I inform people that I am a foster Mom, their eyes get wide and they usually say something along the lines of: "Oh, I could NEVER do that. I could never grow attached to them and then say goodbye."
Oh, friends. If only they knew what they were missing out on!
You see, I'm living that right now. We grew attached. We had "Little Miss" for the first nine months of her life. She was a second daughter, a sister, a part of our family. We treated her as ours, even though we knew she would not be staying with us forever.
And then on June 14th, I packed her bags and handed her over to her new Mama (just as she biological Mama had done to me nine months before). The circumstances may always be different, but for many of us, that moment will come.
And it's ok. It's ok to dread it. It's ok to cry big, hot tears into the suitcases as you pack them. It's ok to keep one or two outfits behind because you need something of them to hold onto. It's ok to cry your eyes out and miss them, even though half the time they were around they drove you crazy. It's ok to grieve when they are gone. It's ok to take a while to "get over it". In fact, I hope you (and I) don't EVER "get over" them.
In the past two weeks of preparing for her departure, and then living in the grief of it, I have learned a lot of things. I wanted to share some of them here for the foster Moms and Dads who are preparing to go through it, are going through it, or have gone through it in the past.
1. Keepsakes all around. I'll admit it: I'm not a very sentimental person. I accidentally "handed down" my daughters home-from-the-hospital outfit. I did end up asking for it back, but that the fact I gave it away in the first place goes to show that I don't hold onto material possessions very well. HOWEVER, when you are preparing to say goodbye to a foster child, you must have keepsakes. I highly recommend creating a lifebook for them to take with them. Also, make sure that you are sending some pictures and mementos with them to remember you by. And, of course, keep something of their for yourself. Even if you can't bear to look at it right away, you will be thankful for having it as you grieve.
2. Have fun! Mamas, you are probably so sad, the last thing you want to do is have fun. However, I highly recommend that you plan a fun outing or special day with your foster child. It is a memory that they can hold onto as they go. Even if they are really young, it will still be a special memory for you. They can sense your sadness and planning something fun will be incredibly helpful for everyone involved.
3. Grieve. Let yourself grieve. You have in fact just lost someone dear to you. Even if they are in a fabulous home, or had an awesome reunification with bio parents, you have still lost, and you need to grieve. We all grieve differently, and you will learn how you grieve and how your family members grieve. And that's ok. And don't forget to let your spouse and other children grieve as well. Remember that their grief may manifest itself differently from your own.
4. Don't rush the grief. One thing I have found is that most people around you won't understand your grief. They won't know how to help you or how to even talk about. For me, this made me feel like I needed to hurry up and "get over it". Well, pardon me...but that is just not going to happen. Take your time. Even if you have other children in the home, you need to take your time. Some days you will feel like you are finally back to normal, but then the next you feel overcome with sadness again. That's perfectly ok!
5. Take Some Time Off. I highly recommend picking a set amount of time that you will have off. Theo and I have agreed that we will always take one month off after a placement, even if we have other placements in our home. We need this time to rest, recuperate, remember, and prepare for a new placement. Taking this time off will make us more effective foster parents, even if it seems like we are not doing anything for four entire weeks.