February 5, 2019
By Monica Baudendistel
Very few people enjoy saying goodbye. I know that I don’t. When you’re a foster parent, saying goodbye is something that you have to get used to. But, I’ve been fostering for ten years and I’m still not used to it. That’s because saying goodbye is the hardest part. No matter the amount of time you spend with the child, no matter the behaviors, the trauma, the countless therapy, coaches, mentors, parental visitations - it’s still the same in the end. It hurts, it will bring you to your knees, and even the strongest of you will cry.
I have learned that it doesn’t matter if it’s a newborn infant who you pick up from the NICU, a toddler that is sucking its thumb or a school age child, it’s all the same. You will love that child unconditionally. You can fight it and try your best to keep your emotions in check. Some people even try the “it’s just a job” approach. None of it will work. It won’t matter what you do or what you say, what you try to convince yourself of. You will love them, every single one of them and you will have to say goodbye to almost all of them.
Goodbye will hit you when you least expect it and your days with this child will become limited. There will be a permanency plan, a reunification, kinship. Usually, within a matter of months, that child will go somewhere, and that somewhere is out of your control.
Recently, I said goodbye again. We ought to think of saying goodbye as a privilege. I enjoyed the long nights, the bottle feedings, the spoiling. I loved every minute of every day that I had with this child. I handed the child over to their parents, holding my tears, holding my breath, and yes, holding my broken heart. My hands trembled, my voice was shaky, but I smiled and wished them well. Saying goodbye will never get easier and it shouldn’t. We are made to love, and by being made that way we are vulnerable to pain. Letting go is very hard but appreciating the time and memories that you have is what makes it worth it.
Monica is a Colorado foster parent certified by Larimer County.