Thank you for sharing your fostering story with me, and your fears at the potential loss of the daughter you have loved. Your email caught at my heart, especially this line: I would like to know how to survive.
The problem is that I cannot tell you. I have tried. I cannot.
But I do know some of what you feel, and before God I promise you this: I believe you will make it through.
You don’t need a harder heart. Babies need soft hearts to implant into, the tenderness of a womb with gentle, resilient walls. Safety. Home. Don’t ever think you need to be tougher than you are. You will not survive grief by being stronger, but by being weaker – by bending down and down, laying low and lower until there is nothing left of you but a shadow on the breast of Christ.
Do not give up hope of keeping her until the moment you hand her over – and even then, know for sure that the story is not over. Give yourself permission to love her fully, not only until she leaves, but always. In my hardest child losses, it comforted me to know that what we had formed between us was real, and permanent. It was not a dream or a stage or a mirage. I became her mother – fully, completely – not her only mother, but her mother for real nonetheless. She became my darling, my daughter – and no one can ever take that away from us. She may be Not Mine, but she is also Mine.
When three children moved from my home in six weeks’ time, I wanted to beg everyone I met for a pill, a medicine, oblivion. Anything to take the edge off. I hurt, oh I hurt. Physical pain in my chest, sleep changed, hormones gone haywire. It is like a death.
I cannot tell you where God is.
I am looking for him.
I only know that he lost a child too. Please keep talking to him, even if you have to scream and rage at him. He can take it. No mother love surprises him, or outreaches his own. The grief of your uprooted child, every loss she has experienced, every tear she will cry, is etched into his heart and hands.
Though time has gone by for me, I cannot say how to heal. You breathe. You turn your mind away from death and onto life. You find a prayer book. You look for the tiny beauties, the color: a leaf, a stripe of cloud, a piece of fruit. You lose yourself in safe places: a hopeful story, a despairing playlist, art. You be with people. You tell the worst to someone. You try to love kids. Being with children is healing. You have to forgive them for not being yours, but then you may find yourself loving their dimples and soft skin and baby babbles.
There is no limit to the people we can love. I used to see my heart as a diminishing resource: a hole for every person I loved and lost. But that is not a true picture. The heart is a living thing, and every time it loves, it grows. If you go on loving, you will become something you cannot now imagine: a woman who can cry without shame and love without keeping. You will become a Mother, and every broken child in the world will be your own.
What you love is yours.
I feel the inadequacy of my words to you. I imagine that, like me, you want an answer: something to swallow or do or break or understand that will make the difference, make this bearable. I cannot promise you peace. But I can promise you that this is not the end.
Please go on.