Whilst taking Alice and her sister for sibling contact in their county of origin, we took the opportunity to go and remember the girls’ dad who had passed away when they were young. We did not have a grave to go to or a location where there was a memorial however we felt that since we were in the area it would be nice somehow for the girls to remember their dad. We bought some flowers and went to a park. The girls chose a tree, placed the flowers at the foot of it and had a good cry. They were crying for a number of reasons. Some of it was the revisiting of those feelings about their dad, some of it was the fact that he died young, some was because he was not a good dad to them and some was the finality of death and the fact that they would never have him back or the family that they longed for. It was a hard thing to deal with.
Grief doesn’t have to be death though does it. Life itself can be full of grief for foster kids. Louise shared with me about a family that she works with where the mother and children had to be separated due the children’s needs not being met. It hurts the child and the mother, there is grief without death. In this instance the child is in foster care and the carer along with the child go along to contact so that time can be spent together but there is always the massive elephant in the room that life is not as it should be.
What should our reaction to these situations be? I thought about this a lot as it is such a sensitive area. In the story above the carer for the child was actually able to go with the mother for coffee and cake and reassure the mother that the young person was in good hands. It made all the difference and within that conversation, grief, at least to some extent, was lifted. I guess we have to recognise that we are not fixers of grief but endeavour to be the non-anxious presence which gently supports and cries alongside those in pain. We chose a path where we wanted to help people breathe a little easier and this is part of that. For us stood with the crying girls amongst the trees in the park we didn’t offer any wise words or helpful advice we just offered our shoulders and some time. Some of our kids have never had anyone do that for them and we get to be that special person to them. Providing we remember how powerful that can be we can rest assured that we did some good work and will be fulfilling the role that we joined up for. I’m pretty confident of that.