“Raw. Vulnerable. Grieving. Mourning. Surviving.
A soul shouldn’t have to go through so much turmoil, so much loss, so much devastation in such a small time. Within a matter of months, I said goodbye to my marriage, to a baby girl we were adopting and to two girls I was fostering and very committed to helping heal until they returned to their parents.
Within an insane turn of events, my son had climbed onto the counter and gotten into some medication — he had zero adverse side effects, but I still wanted to take him into the hospital just in case…this launched an investigation of abuse on me and accusations hurled towards me about my level of care for my children, about my love for them. At one point the state caseworkers were trying to prove that I purposely overdosed my son because he was ‘just too much for me.’
‘Too much for me?’ I exclaimed, attempting to keep my cool down so as not to appear ‘out of control’ or something ridiculous. ‘These kids are everything to me. I see it as my actual honor to parent them when they are dysregulated, to help them calm down when their world is out of control, to be their safe space. I would never…I WOULD NEVER drug my child.’ I was appalled, they had all sorts of explanations as to why I WOULD drug my child.
‘We talked with your therapist, and she said there were zero concerns about your parenting. She said she rarely has clients as motivated as you, as invested in their healing as you… yet we still have reason to believe you are too stressed out from a recent divorce. We need to make sure that you are safe for your children.’ The caseworker investigating me dripped with off-the-wall accusations, basically ignored the 10 people she called to ask about me, and kept my children from me for three straight days.
It was a nightmare to say the least and broke me in a way that words will never describe. It felt like battle.
A few weeks after this unnecessary trauma and removals, I had an already paid-for trip to the warm place of California. It was actually pre-planned and paid for because I was taking my two foster daughters to Disneyland… but because these caseworkers were so sure I was intentionally trying to overdose my children, they removed the girls from my care and banned our connection completely. It was not trauma informed whatsoever.
‘Can I please still use my airfare to go on a solo-vacation to California? I won’t make contact with the girls, who are still going to Disneyland with their new foster parents,’ I asked the caseworker, as if she owned my life.
‘If you can make sure you don’t make any contact with the girls, yes of course. Go on your trip.’
I was so defeated. I boarded that plane, I landed in the warmth of the Cali sun, determined to let my soul rest. My soul was so exhausted.
On this mini solo-vacay, I went on a jog. I bought tooth paste which I had forgotten. I did a mini facial someone had sent me through Instagram. ‘I know it’s not much,’ her little note said, ‘but give yourself a facial, pamper yourself, try to relax.’ I went to the hotel gym. I began and finished three entire books. I laid in the sun in my swimsuit.
The first two days, I was doing quite okay. I hadn’t fallen apart, I was moving my body and reading. Then one of those lonely nights I found myself in the hot tub, alone, looking at the stars. I wrapped my body in a towel, meandered to my hotel room, thought about how I was really doing pretty okay. Sorrow had settled in my soul, sure, but I was okay. I had chest pains from being in California, so close but so far from the girls who held my heart, but I was doing okay.
Then I filled the bath tub. I tossed in an orange bath bomb.
I steeped in heated water and felt the fire consume me.
It was all so much.
Broken family relationships.
Unnecessary removals and decertification through foster care.
No contact with A + I.
Restricted access to my permanent children.
The losses have stacked + compounded and I sat in this tub feeling the weight. It tried to crush me.
This last year was the darkest night — season? — of my soul. It feels long and misunderstood. Quite lonely and quite mine. Months of dark nights, dark days. The losses insurmountable, irrevocable. The grief was all consuming so often — not always or only, though.
I also experienced great joy and deep gratitude too. Yet the sorrow has moved in to settle right into my soul. It has become a part of me.
A great emptiness opened up where I had stored all the things I thought I knew, and yet. And yet what remains when everything else has been stripped is more real than anything I could have imagined: I am not apart from Him; I am part of Him, or in Him. There is no place else I want to be.
I’m finding that His divine absence + presence exist with and within each other. He is both absent + present.
‘The soul does not grow by addition, but by subtractions.’
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. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read Natalie’s powerful backstory of adoption:
‘She said, ‘That’s them. That’s my son’s parents. That’s who I’ve been looking for.’ And then, I told her you were pregnant.’
‘I just have to ask, do you love Sage as much as you love Ira? I know you say you do, but is it true?’ We sat on my living room floor when she asked me this. I nodded. ‘I absolutely do.’
‘Can you please stop talking about it? Why do you keep talking about it?’ She slammed her cup of milk down.’: Foster mom’s emotional realization that ‘goodbye is coming’
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