“I was informed today that goodbye is coming.
A date has been set, a plan kind of made.
None of us are ready for this goodbye.
But, it’s been looming over us since the day we said hello.
Though, we’d all be lying if there were not times during this nearly-year-journey together we all wondered if goodbye might never come…if we might be one another’s forever. In some ways we hoped for that, even though we knew that meant selfishly hoping for failure. In other ways we knew in our core nothing about this situation was typical, nothing was on the same sort of path as it ‘should be,’ nothing is actually as it appears to be.
But here we are.
Goodbye is coming.
I sit on my memory foam, king-sized bed in the chilled room I’ve made into a safe space. I often wonder why my room is the coldest room in the house.
The two rooms connected to mine breathe the sound machine’s noise, sometimes I hear a cough or two from the four beautiful children sleeping, but right now louder than anything else in this little home we’ve made are my thoughts.
My ear is currently plugged full of fluid, echoey and annoying. It’s difficult to hear much on the outside of my body, and I’ve been finding myself stuck inside of this brain. Tonight I’m really stuck on the thoughts of what is coming, what has been coming since the day we said ‘yes’ to these two girls and their families.
This last year was the longest, most noticeably painful year of my 26 years of life. For way too many reasons. It was dark. It was brutal. It was full of fire and loss and broken pieces shattered across my house and relationships and motherhood and family and life.
Yet somehow I — for the first time — feel this last year flew by too fast, because suddenly we are coming to our close. I cannot stop time from moving on or make the days slow down or go backwards like I want to, just so we can keep on being each other’s for a bit longer.
We’ve walked through more together than I could have ever in my wildest dreams imagined.
We need more time.
We need more time to go to therapy and process the years of trauma, the trauma from removal, the trauma of visits, the trauma of a life in suspension. We need more time to go to speech therapy, occupational therapy, dentist appointments. We need more time to instill deeply within you that you are more than you could ever imagine, more than the lies being fed to you, more precious than rubies. We need more time to remind you that your hair is not a web of evil or cursedness, but a crown that tops off your beauty and it deserves all the love and care and devotion. We need more time to help you learn to count, to not fall back any further than you are behind the kids your age, to help you figure out the difference between adding and subtracting, and the importance of reading instead of staring at a screen for hours at a time.
We need more time.
Goodbye is coming.
And it isn’t the typical foster care goodbye, because we have already been warned and told we won’t get to have contact. We won’t get to stop by or share meals of have sleepovers. But it also isn’t the typical situation — it’s a situation infused with generations of trauma, unjust and corrupt systems, horrific stories that should have never been lived. Brokenness.
I just spent money I don’t have, ordering hair care products to send home and photo albums of our time together. I spent hours today talking through how to wash, condition, comb through, and maintain my 9-year-old’s hair with her…it’s been a constant learning curve for her, so difficult and full of frustration — how deeply I want to be able to keep caring for those beautiful coily strands of hair. How much I want to wake up to hold her face, stare into those deep brown eyes, and tell her she means more than the world could ever offer her.
Today we talked about how goodbye is coming, and we’ve been talking about it for quite some time…but today I said, ‘It is happening for real and it is happening soon.’ I pulled out the calendar and their eyes got wide as they realized what I was saying.
‘Can you please stop talking about it? Why do you keep talking about it? Can you just stop?’ She slammed her cup of milk down as the words burst through her face. I feel it too, sweet girl, I feel it too. ‘We have to talk about it, because there is no perfect way to prepare for it — not talking about it won’t make it arrive slower. It will just make it feel more abrupt than it already is.’
Goodbye is coming and it already hurts.
Like a knife slowly seeping in through my skin, slicing through the layers of epidermis and oozing spots of blood… until the goodbye actually comes, forcing the sharp blade deep into my heart… there’s no telling we’ll survive this wound.
Three weeks is what we have left together as each other’s.
Three weeks of hair care.
Three weeks of bedtime stories.
Three weeks of stern looks.
Three weeks of tickle fights.
Three weeks of hours at the food table because eating. is. so. hard.
Three weeks of good mornings and good nights.
Three weeks of piles of humans on my couch.
Three weeks of nightly dance parties FULL of bouncing curls.
Three weeks of really tight hugs and kisses all over the faces.
Three weeks of the rhythm we’ve created and made our life.
Three weeks of wondering how we will survive past that three week mark.
Three weeks of holding in the volcanic eruption of loss, because once the tears start flowing I fear they might drown us all.
But now I am crying because I’m thinking of all the things we need to do but there just isn’t time for, all the things I wish I could say but there just aren’t words for, all the truths I want to sew into your heart so you have no choice but to carry them with you for forever…
Goodbye is coming and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.
Scared for how it is about to wreck us more than we’ve already been wrecked. How much loss can humans endure? They’ve already lost so much. Scared for how their hearts might snap, and my toddler boys, and my heart…how will we all survive?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sad. I’d be lying if I said it was meant to be this way. Because the problem is, none of this was ever meant to be in any of the ways that it has been or is.
But this is foster care, isn’t it? It is saying hello to goodbye, it is saying yes to a broken heart, it is attaching to those who may have never experienced a healthy attachment…only to have it severed once finally made.
It hurts for me, and I know it’s going to wreck my boys; but I cannot comprehend how much it hurts for them. The ones going back and forth, never sure which way is right, or who is home, never sure if they’re lovable or wanted or deserving of good and safe things.
In the end though…foster care alters these babe’s lives far more than it alters mine. These babes, a mere 5 and 9 years old, they don’t have the tools to process — let alone heal — from the years that led them to this place. Not now, not yet. But I do. I have tools and I have people and I have community and I have experience and I understood — as much as one can — what I was stepping us into when we said yes.
It’s not that I am any better than any other parent.
It’s not that these girls are lucky to have me.
It’s that I have been the luckiest to have been called ‘mom’ by them.
I have been the most privileged of all of us, watching them blossom and grow and transform. If only you could see the transformation I’ve seen, right before my eyes.
The tears keep coming and I fear they won’t stop.
They are loved, so loved. By so many. By their family. They have an army of people loving them near and far. And Jesus…oh Jesus. He has shown up more times than I can count.
Once again, I am finding that grief is simply the price we pay for true love.
Goodbye is coming.
It’s going to rip into all of us more than any of us can prepare for, but I already know without a single doubt…it was all worth it.
These kids, these humans, these lives…vulnerable and innocent and undeserving of the cards they’ve been dealt… they are worth it.
And not only are they worth it….but I am worth the transformation they force to happen in me…I am worth the changing, the bending, the being broken to be rebuilt — these kids that deserve love just like you and more? Yes, they’re worth it. But I’m not actually doing them favors…they enrich my life.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Natalie Brenner of Portland, Oregon. You can follow her journey on Instagram, Facebook and her website. Learn more about her book here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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