The Stages of Grief (Pre-Grievous Event) According to Abbey

in metaphors*.


1. Dementors

2. A Penny

3. The Hitting of the Fan by Undesirable Substances, aka Floodgates

4. A Stum

5. Why God, Why

For the uninitiated, we have had our first foster placement for about 10 months. He is now a 13-mo-old boy and he is delightful in every way. We found out about 5 weeks ago that he would be going home, at the time we thought in about a month. I thought I’d take y’all through my last 5 weeks, emotionally-speaking, I guess because I figure that’s what you come here for. Right?

1. Dementors (in which I reveal new depths of my true geekery) – We knew he might be going home, since the beginning. We had entertained that thought… and other thoughts. This was when we realized nope, this will end, and it is imminent. I would have these times when it would just well up, usually filling up those bottom eye lids, and I would suck in all the breath I could hold and just fight it off.

I had vaguely thought before, when Harry Potter fights the dementors, and he’s struggling and straining and it takes some kind of strength… what is that exactly? It’s not a muscle. It’s not trying to stuff information into your brain and remember/regurgitate it. During this period, I kept having that mental picture of the dementors, which are such a great literary baddie, because their weapon is truth. They are only as strong against someone as the real terrors and tragic memories that person has. Harry’s parents died whether the dementors were there or not, but the dementors made that particular fact oppressive and all-consuming, and Harry had to think of things that were worth living for and fight with what could only be described as willpower. I kept thinking of that. I conjured my little mental patronus and I thought willpower was what would save me from despair. Self control in negative or despairing thoughts. It worked. For a while.

2. A Penny – During this phase, we were parenting a brand-new, recently-traumatized toddler, and our initial zeal and optimism and energy were wearing a little bit down. And the removal of our sweet baby loomed closer. I remember I kept thinking of this experiment we did in science in probably middle school about surface tension, where you took an eye dropper full of water to see how many drops of water could fit on the surface of a penny. You’d add them one by one, and it was pretty incredible how big the “bubble” of water would get on top of the penny, but then eventually, about 20 drops after you thought it was going to burst, that one last drop would just doom the whole thing. Splash, all over the table. I was the penny. If you follow. A guy cutting me off in traffic, a song on the radio (FREAKING Hey Ho by the Lumineers, you devil song), a tiny 3-mo sweatshirt I found in the bottom of the closet, these would break the bubble and send the tears streaming, whether I was at work or in the middle of the night or whatever.

3. The Hitting of the Fan by Undesirable Substances, aka Floodgates – We were at Costco, of all things, and my mom had just miraculously and serendipitously taken toddler to the (plant) nursery, when we got a call from the baby’s CPS case worker. This was Saturday, and we knew that on Monday would be the meeting that would decide what would happen with Baby. I had thought: This Monday, they will decide whether to send him home in a week, or a month, etc. Essentially, as we cruised for enormous packages of Goldfish and apple sauce, she said there was a very, very strong possibility that they would decide to send him home on Monday, and that they would very likely take him that very night. Fluorescent lights have never looked quite so fluorescent. I’ve never really experienced a thing like you see in movies all the time where other people and other sounds kind of disappear. Costco was an alien planet. I mean, I knew it was coming. But I don’t know. I made it out to the car with only silent tears streaming down, not particularly noticing or caring if other people were wondering what at Costco could be so upsetting, and then proceeded in the car to sob and sob and sob, like I don’t think I’ve done since I was a little kid.

So there was that.

The next day 45 people packed into our tiny house to pray for our (once) tiny baby. We mourned together and yet we hoped together and asked for bold and great things for his future. I knew it was okay, I knew this was really for the best, I knew he was so fortunate to have a dad that worked really hard to get him back and seems to have actually made some very real changes in his life. I knew we were fortunate to have him for 10 months, not that we were unfortunate to lose him after 10 months… I knew I knew I knew. And still.

4. The Stum – Imagine if you will, that there’s a big nasty fist flying fast at your face. (Alliteration! Bonus points.) At the very last instant, the arm fully extended, it stops short and proceeds to kind of push you, instead, slowly to the ground. Sure, you still end up on the ground, but some of the sting is gone, and maybe it will be a little easier to get back up.

My little sister invented a form of violence as a kid called “stumming” where she would basically approach with straight elbow and kind of “punch” you by moving her shoulders instead of swinging the arm. Ideal, really, as a form of assault, in that it hurts not at all and the inherent comedy diffuses any and all situations that brought her to violence in the first place.

Monday came, the hearing happened, I took the day off work and spent the morning packing up all of the baby’s things that would need to go with him (which included going through A TON of tiny sweet old stuff with tiny sweet memories attached) just in case he was going to go home that evening, as was likely.

And then I heard from the case worker that in fact he would be going home in about 10 days.

A stum. Of the SOUL. 🙂

It did, though. It felt like we had had this huge mourning, and this huge goodbye and almost a release, and then we got these sweet extra days with him. For several days I felt like I can do this. It won’t be fun but I will survive.

5. Why God, Why (In which I attempt to bring levity to issues fundamentally and utterly un-light, for the sake of you, gentle reader, sitting as you are in the Chick-Fil-A drive-thru line or at your desk at work or on your laptop with some Oreos and an episode of Nashville on the TV) – Look. Most, if not all, of us who generally ascribe to the Christian faith at least claim to mourn for the “lost”. The people who don’t know the hope that we know. The people who are living in ways that are contrary to how God laid out for them to live, in order that their lives would always be the fullest and best. We know this in our heads and often to some degree in our hearts.

I would here contend that it is different to say that, or even to meditate on it – that we are sad or even broken-hearted for the lost – than to send a child who still only knows 4 words, whom I have rocked and kissed and cuddled and laughed with for 10 months, who delights in basically everything and trusts basically everyone, into a part of the world and the human race that in large part is “lost”. Entrusting him to them, if you will, even though he’s not mine to entrust. Knowing things about his parents and family, things that landed him with us in the first place…

This is a very different kind of feeling the weight and the horror of sin and brokenness that keeps people in absolute slavery on this earth. Thursday it hit me like a tsunami of bricks, if you can even remotely stand a couple more metaphors.

If I may venture into some rather cliched life’s-purpose-type stuff here – which I fully realize that the average person isn’t going to particularly want to dip into at whatever point in your life this blog posts finds you – I was having a very, very big crisis of reconciling the God of the one missing sheep with the God who watches fetuses and then babies and then children and then teens and then adults go through a life surrounded by brokenness, violence, and hurt and that’s all they’re ever taught and that’s all they know… and the world turns on, and we! We put on pretty clothes and we sing with the 10-pc band at church and we say “thank you Jesus for saving ME”.

Levity: FAIL.

Anyway. Yes, I struggled. Not because of THIS baby. But because of ALL the babies. The girls, the children, the women, the men. The slaves, the starving. And God said: It is good. And God made it all, so that he could have a people to call his own. What about the other people? Is it worth it, having your Church, when literal billions of others suffer here on earth, and suffer later? There are those that would say: “That’s not God’s fault, he gave the church a job to do, bringing people to him, and we aren’t doing it like we should.” Yes, maybe. But he knew. He knew that when he started it all and he started it all anyway. Am I missing something?


Well, that’s not really how I hoped to end. But I told y’all I’d share this with you, and that’s what it is.

Friday dawned… better. Well, in truth it dawned about 3 hours after I woke up, because of a certain inconsolable toddler who would not be left alone. But it was okay.

There were friends, Friday, at the arboretum. Gorgeous plants and trees, gorgeous creation. Sweet babies in my stroller. Sweet friends, sweet flowers, sweet niece and nephew. Sweet nap.

More fodder for my patronus.

It ebbs, and it flows. You know how it is. If you don’t, go…do. Something. Anything. Find out.

I used to think sometimes that I was bipolar, and then I just thought maybe I have my eyes open a little wider to a world that is bipolar, and I’m just more honest than some.


*I am the metaphorest fool you know.

Posted in Fostering, Posts by Abbey
4 comments on “The Stages of Grief (Pre-Grievous Event) According to Abbey
  1. Susie Dooman says:

    I am sure my daughter and son-in-law can relate to this. They are waiting to find out if they can keep the child they have had awhile. It is also hard on the siblings and grandparents. We all get attached…we are all on edge…waiting…waiting…waiting…tearing up…happy to his face and turning to fight off tears thinking about “what if”. I am so grateful for people like you and my daughter, choosing to put a baby’s feelings and love above your own emotional temporary feeling of loss if “what if” happens. God Bless You and your families.

  2. […] also have a SUPER IMPORTANT OMG response to myself re: this post. I don’t have time right now but I wish I did. I will do it soon I promise. It actually hit […]

  3. […] this is my response to myself a week and a half ago (see this post, particularly #5). I wrote that post I think on a Friday [while staring down the barrel of saying […]

  4. […] the baby was here and we were getting ready for him to leave, which I’ve basically kind of explored every possible angle of that particular experience here so let’s not do that again, and then he left, and all of that had a pretty major effect […]

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