So Dare Bear is home. It is not official. Court is Thursday. BUT he is home now. We said goodbye last Wednesday afternoon (for the second time).
As we try to survive this (and we take comfort in the fact that we know we will) there are a few things that we are doing to help us get through. I thought I would share them. I know that we are not the only ones to go through this and perhaps this can help others.
We are in the thick of it right now. And as much as it doesn't feel like it, there is Hope.
Here are some of the ways we've been surviving and healing.
1) Physical Comfort
*It is very important to remember that you are not spirit trapped in your body. You are your body. You are your spirit. You are created a beautifully complex unity of the two so find comfort for your whole self*
At the beginning of last week I booked an hour long massage and boy-oh-boy was it worth it! It allowed me to relax and to relieve some of the physical stress I was carrying around.
b) Comfort Food: Warm soups, hot fancy coffee, fresh bread
G-Man and I have been enjoying a bit of comfort food lately. The physical warmth of comfort food can really spreading into the heart.
Before when Dare Bear went home the first time, I signed up for a small Pilates gym. They have great low-impact classes and I felt very welcome. I had to pause this membership when Dare Bear came back but I am excited to start back into it this week.
d) Feel-Good Beauty activities: New nail polish, hair cut, new lip colour
Sometimes it is difficult to stay motivated and not just crawl back into bed. So finding ways to feel good about myself has been helpful. I also gave my husband a hair cut and that seemed to help him restart.
2) Emotional Comfort
Just prior to Dare Bear heading home the first time (in February), I started seeing a counselor. She has been a great outlet for frustrations, fears, and my mourning. I did a search for someone who had experience with the foster system, with the Catholic faith and with infertility. She got two out of the three so I started seeing her. My Family and Children Services agency pays for $500 worth of counselling during transition. This has been a great blessing. Don't try to do this alone. This is traumatizing and it can also stir up any previous trauma that you have experienced.
b) A Good Cry
Try not to be afraid to cry. A lot and HARD. Last night I was up until 2:30am just crying, missing him so much. St. Thomas Aquinas talked about how to helps sorrow for it to be released. So release it. Yes, it hurts. It hurts more to face it and then to stuff it down. BUT it heals better and quicker to face the sorrow.
c) A Good Laugh
Find ways to laugh. Watch funny shows, read jokes, do something comical. Laughing, like a good cry, releases pent up emotion.
Be honest with God. Rant. Be upset. Be angry. Be hopeful. Say nothing and just be with him. Find ways to spend extra time with God. He is the source of healing. He is suffering with you. You can't scandalize Him.
3) Relationship Comfort
a) Date Night(s)
We have the time now. Yes, life is still busy but it is easier to plan some special time together. This is extremely important. You both are grieving and it can be extremely easy to grieve alone, in your little bubble with ice cream and Netflix (or if you are my husband, pizza and computer games). But find some time to just be together, doing something special that you like to do. Throughout the process of fostering and transitioning Dare Bear home, it has been easy and almost a necessity to put our relationship on the back burner. But we need to recharge and reconnect NOW not only for the health and happiness of our marriage but in preparation for our next child who is placed with us. The whole process of fostering is draining but it is the beginning and the end that take the most from you and your relationship, I've found. And the end of Dare Bear's time with us means that another beginning is coming.
b) Frequent Check-In's
We try every day to check in with one another on this topic. How are we doing? What are we thinking today? What do we see in the future? Some days this may be a long conversations. Other days it is just a quick, "I'm doing ok. Its hard but today I'm getting through." I find, since my dear husband isn't a talkative folk, this allows him time to form his thoughts and express himself throughout the process. This is not a one-and-done grieving journey. Frequent check-ins allow us to be attune to where we each are throughout the journey.
c) Physical Closeness
You may have heard of the 5 love languages. The concept is that each person has a dominate way they express and receive love. My husband's is physical touch. Physical closeness has a wonderful way of connecting the body and spirit together. Finding extra ways to be close to one another helps us connect through our grief. For example, I, typically, do work on my laptop in the bedroom and G-Man would be in the living room on our desktop. Normally, not a problem. We each get the space we need to do what we need to get done. BUT, this means that if something online triggers grief in me, we are in two separate rooms and he may not notice it. So, for the time being, I've started doing my work in the living room with him. This may seem really simple but it allows us to be available to one another. Taking 30 seconds and hugging it out is another important example. Just hug. Be still close to one another. Take a few deep breaths. Pause and notice what you are feel and what your spouse is feeling. Another thing we did, though not completely intentional, is make our bedroom quite cold so I HAVE to snuggle with him during the night to stay warm. I am usually too warm at night but I know that G-Man enjoys a good snuggle and he usually will say so in his sleep. It is adorable and lets me know that even when he is unconscious, he loves me.
d) Situation Review Conversation
Make time to review what you've just gone through and what you are hoping for in the next placement. What went well and what do you not want to go through again if you had the choice. Your worker may ask for a kind-of status update from you both. Has this placement changed your willingness in any areas for another placement. Hypothetical example, maybe you had a low willingness for an infant with fetal alcohol syndrome but it came out after your little one was placed with you that they were experiencing this. Now, after having direct exposer to this issue, you feel more confident and your willingness to take on a child with FAS has greatly increased. This could also work in the opposite direction. For G-Man and I, we discovered ourselves as parents for the first time and feel more empowered to take on complicated or challenging parenting situations.
4) Looking Forward
* A huge help for me is looking forward, imagining who our next child may be and preparing for them. I know that my love for Dare Bear gives me confidence that I can love another child as well. My grief over his loss does not mean I can't love again.*
a) Cleaning and Organizing Home
Throughout the craziness that is transitioning Dare Bear home, our home wasn't a priority. SO, there is a lot to clean. This also gives the feeling of a fresh start and, I find, as I clean the cobwebs out of my home (so to speak, lol) I clean the cobwebs out of my heart too. And I find little things that remind me of Dare Bear, I reminisce and then move on.
b) Reorganizing and Redecorating Baby Room
I decided a while ago to change the nursery a little bit after Dare Bear left. This gave my creative side a release, gave me an excuse to go pinterest crazy (not that you need an excuse) and was a way of physically marking in our home that times are changing. I didn't change too much. The furniture is the same (who has the money to completely redecorate?!). I even kept the colour palette the same. I just increased the amount of one colour and decreased the amount of another. I changed the artwork. I actually didn't even change the theme of the artwork though; it is still Winnie the Pooh. I just made a large collage of sorts instead of individual pictures. I also made a mobile with different coloured ribbons and I hung it over the changing table. I also reorganized the items in the nursery; taking out the smaller infant clothes I will probably need for the next child and packing away anything that is designed for an older child.
c) Cleaning Baby Items: Car Seat, Highchair, Playpen, Crib
Boy oh Boy! Our little boy was a messy one. Everything needed a good deep clean. Car seats are basically heaven for crumbs. Like cleaning the home and redecorating the nursery, this has been healing. Transitioning Dare Bear home was traumatizing for us too and this is a way to wash clean our environment after that experience.
I hope that reading this (very long) list of ways that we are dealing with the transition and saying goodbye to our loved little boy was helpful. All of these things don't take away the pain. For the most part, they simple allow space in our life for the pain to break through and then, hopefully, healing to enter.