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Archive for February 4th, 2013

Grief and Loss

I remember the first time I went to a funeral.  It was for my grandpa Hap, I was in middle school, and my family drove in our old brown van all the way to Michigan to say goodbye to him.  I remember feeling sad to have lost a man that I knew so little about.  I wrote a melencholic poem in his honor as we drove North and tried to form together some memories of our times together.  There weren’t that many.  I remember him sitting in his big recliner watching the Price is Right, I remember how loudly he snored, and I remembered the way his face was always a little prickly, even when he had shaved.  I can picture the deer heads mounted in the entry way of his house and the golf balls he had scattered around for tee time.  But in my life we had visited each other about once a year, at most.  So, at 12 years of age, there wasn’t much more that I remembered.  But I grieved his loss.  I cried at the funeral.  And I think I miss him more today as a 30 year old than I even did as a pre-teen.  Losing a family member is like losing a piece of yourself, part of your heritage or your past.  If I felt, and still feel, this way about my grandpa, the first person I had to part with forever, why should it surprise me at all that foster kids desperately grieve the loss of their parents?  I think I have underestimated the pain that they feel.

Tonight as I was talking with my case worker from Bair, I started having all these epiphanies of why my sweet Half Pint has been acting out so much the past two days.  We have had four or five perfect days of behavior.  I was almost getting used to being treated with respect, being answered with politeness, and being obeyed when I issue a simple command.  But Tuesday morning our DSS caseworker visited the kiddos at school and, like normal, Sweet Pea and Quarter Pint have been a barrel of craziness since they came home that day.  My beautiful foster daughter spent all evening yelling at me and screaming and beating the walls with her fists yelling, “Mama!  Can you hear me?!  Mama!  Why won’t you come back?  Mama!  Why can’t I see you?”  She sat on her bed and held up one stuffed animal after another and yelled, “Strawberry, do you love me?!  Snuggles, do you love me?!  Brown Sugar, do you love me?!”  I could hear the pain tumbling out with each word she bellowed.  She lashes out at me like crazy, and tears down her blinds and kicks holes in her wall and strips the paint off her bedroom door, but in the midst of it all her heart is desperately crying, “Am I loved?”

That night I crawled up on the top bunk with her, pulled her close, and told her that even though her animals can’t respond back and her dolls remain silent, she can be sure of two things.  God loves her.  I love her.  She grieves so deeply and seeing her case worker triggers something deep inside her soul that is desperate to be loved.  Seeing her caseworker is a reminder of being taken out of her home, having to testify in court, saying goodbye to her little brother, saying goodbye to her mama.  When a foster kid is visited by their caseworker, we cannot fully understand the loss and grief that wells up inside their tiny minds.  Half Pint especially knows no other way to respond than to lash out on the one that does show her love.  Maybe if she pushes me away the pain won’t hurt so bad for being abused and abandoned by her own parents.  How much foster kids must ache!

And her brother is no different, he just responds in other ways.  He kicks the wall and screams at me and refuses to look me in the eyes. He lashes out at his classmates and teachers.  He whines and complains.  But he aches too.  I overlook his pain because I get so tired of hearing him baby talk me like a two year old or respond to simple commands with a hundred “whys”.  He hurts too.

When these kids entered foster care they lost a lot.  They lost their home, their little brother, their parents, their school friends, some of their toys, their beds and each other.  Now that they are back together they still grieve.  They are daily reminders to each other of all that got taken away.  I wish I knew how to help them.  I wish I knew how to make the pain go away and to have them find freedom and joy in knowing that they are loved.  But for now I step back, offer security, consistency, love and grace.  Lots of grace.  And I let them grieve.

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