A friend of mine asked me to write something. I told her I'd have to have a little more direction than "something." ;)
The first thing that came to her mind was "Preparing for Grief." Well, you can tell we were already talking about foster parenting, specifically a child leaving. She has an open door to think of other topics later, but for now this is her request.
The topic has mulled in my mind for a couple of weeks now, as topics are wont to do.
How does one prepare for grief?
How did I prepare for grief?
Is grief different for different things?
As I'm thinking of these questions and my one personal and recent walk through grief: the thoughts that crashed in my brain as a mosaic of words and images included me covering my face with hands while tears were leaking through. Racing for the trash can and hurling up everything that was in my stomach while trying desperately to get my hair out of my face. Needing, desperately needing, to talk to Mom on the phone and hear the partnership of anguish that can only come from pouring so much love into someone else and realizing that someone, through no decision of ours, or hers, was about to walk away. It meant stepping out of my pain and picking her up from after school care and acting 100% normally for the next 4 days. Smiling, hugging, hearing stories of her day, helping with homework, reading stories together, cooking dinner, negotiating the length of time playing at the park, practicing her bicycle riding and convincing her to try a new vegetable. It meant I was constantly praying for the best way to let her know. Where? When? What words? It meant doing what was best for her. Smiling, speaking softly, answering questions, sometimes the same one repeatedly. It meant packing and smiling and giggling and laughing and reading stories and rocking in the rocking chair a little longer at night. It meant holding her after she fell asleep and letting myself cry, but eventually realizing I needed to put her to bed and finish the final details of packing so all of her well-loved things would go with her.
It meant allowing myself to cry. It meant crying so hard that once again I needed to race for something to empty my stomach. It meant telling close friends and asking for mountains of prayer, but not making it public. Not just yet. It meant going to school on Valentine's Day knowing she was here for just a short time more. It meant a dear friend saying, "I'm not going to hug you right now, but I'm here for you." because she knew a hug was the worst thing in that moment.
The thoughts that jumbled together in answers to those questions were a collage of emotions.
I prepared for grief by loving her to the very best of my ability to the very last moment she was in my life. I allowed myself to cry, to mourn the upcoming loss. I didn't keep it secret, but I did keep it off social media until she had actually left.
I knew the phone call would come some day. I even knew it was a possibility to come that day. I was truly surprised that was the decision, but I hadn't been living in denial. I had been living life, making decisions as if she would continue to be with me, but also knowing she might not.
Preparing for grief. I'm not sure I did it well, but I'm also not sure I could have...or would have...done it any differently.