“I gave up being a foster parent because I couldn’t stop getting attached to the children I cared for. Every time one of them left, it hurt. Figured it was best if I just stopped putting my heart out there like that. I always ended up sad and depressed.”
Her words echoed off the concrete pillars of the bus station we were sitting in. As passengers hustled past, her face fell solemn. I could tell she didn’t really mean the words she was saying to me. I could see the heartbreak in her eyes. But out of defense for her tender heart, she held her emotional wall in place. Her graying hairline, and wrinkles under her eyes, told a story void of words. Life had been hard on her. With every ounce of sadness she swallowed, with every emotion she forbid to show itself, regret silently burned a permanent spot on her face.
As my bus pulled away from the station, and I watched her sitting alone, I reflected on our conversation. My heart was sad for her.
I get it, I thought to myself. I’ve been in that situation of questioning- should I build a wall, or allow my heart to love? Should I wrap my arms around this hurting child, or keep my distance? After all, if they do return to their biological family, I need to be able to move on with my life. Is it healthy for me to carry the burden of loving a child who is no longer in my home?
I get it, but I never did it. The greatest decision I could have ever made was permitting my heart to have it’s freedom. With every child who entered our home, over 8 years, I threw open the gates of love. We all did. With every ounce of our being we loved those precious children. How could we not?
To not love would be a defiance of our humanity. To build walls around our hearts would go against the very way in which we were created.
Created to love, created to care, created to feel broken, created to grieve. All of these emotions make us human. They make us alive. They tell us that we have a heartbeat and a mind that cares. They forge character in us. To not allow ourselves to feel these things would be like not allowing a bird to fly, or a fish to swim. You simply can’t do that. If you did, they would die. So would we.
To build walls around our hearts would go against the very way in which we were created.
Yes, it’s painful to say goodbye to a child you were caring for! Yes, it’s hard to grieve their loss! Yes, it takes the life out of you to watch a child return to an environment that may or may not be the healthiest. But if, or when, it happens, you have to step aside and allow it to. You have no choice.
And, yes, you should get attached to them. Yes, you should love them so extravagantly you think your heart is going to burst!
Setting Our Hearts Free.
Back to what I said a minute ago…
Attaching ourselves to another human being is what we were made to do. We were created by God Himself to love others. We’re not complete unless we can do this. When it comes to foster parenting, you should attach yourself to the children you’re caring for. They need you to, but you also need to for yourself.
Attempting to guard your heart, for your own protection, will only hurt you. Convincing yourself that not attaching will make it easier to say goodbye, is a lie that will permanently bruise your heart. You need to set your heart free to do what it was created to do…. love…give…and grieve.
To do anything less would be inhuman.
Have you struggled with this? Share your story with us in the comment section.