Grieving a Life Not Lived

Hi! I’m Lisa and this is our original family of three.

Our family of 3 shortly before becoming licensed

Foster care was never a term on the lips of my husband or I until it suddenly was. It was a term, idea, and journey placed in our hearts – not by our own doing. Our “yes” into foster care came after a grueling, painful season filled with a near-death experience, the loss of 3 babies, financial distress, and crushed life plans. Just surviving that hard season of life should have pointed to an easy, quick “no” to foster care. We were exhausted, spent, lifeless…taking a breather and time for our little family of 3 made sense. But somehow our “yes” was easy. It rolled right off the tongue. As a family of faith, our hearts were ready and willing to set aside our own life plans and follow the plans that God had for us.

We jumped in and never looked back.

Can you relate at all? Even if what led you to foster care looks slightly different…even if you don’t share our family’s faith and convictions? What did life look like before your “yes” to foster care? Whether it was an easy yes or a hard one? I’ll bet life was a little less exciting…less eventful…less stressful even.

If you’re not a foster parent, maybe you can still resonate with some of the grief mentioned above.

Every once in awhile, in the midst of the crazy…juggling appointments and schedules and visits and biological family relationships and worker emails and toddler tantrums and sleepless nights and parent/teacher conferences…my grief can slip in. My flesh bubbles up and I become overwhelmed with the hard and wonder about the “easy” life I may have left behind. What about you? Do you begin to question or grieve that “yes?” Or is it really just a wondering from the depths of our hearts about the what-ifs of a life not lived?

Our daughter with our very first placement

What if we had stopped after the loss of our 3 babies and “just” had our daughter?

What if we were just 2 years away from being empty nesters and having time back to ourselves?

What if we didn’t have to worry about the medical needs of our adopted child? 

What if we hadn’t taken in a sibling group of 4 with lots of trauma history and behavioral issues?

What if we had said “no” to foster care and just remained in our comfortable place in life?

Whatever your “what if” is, do you ever grieve that life…the life not lived because foster care took its place?

It’s a funny balance really. I can now look at our family’s story – infertility, loss, heartache, foster care, adoption – and I would pick it 10 out of 10 times. I’m so very thankful for our story and for our boys who came to us through foster care and adoption. I truly cannot imagine life without them. But every once in awhile…I find myself wondering about that life not lived.

Our family today

John Piper, a Christian pastor and author, once tweeted – “Occasionally weep deeply over the life you hoped would be. Grieve the losses. Then wash your face. Trust God. And embrace the life you have.”

If we take on this mindset…we begin to move past grief for that life not lived. And instead, we simply remember it. We take note of it. We see it for what it is…a piece of our story that led us to where we are today…no matter how painful it may have been (or still is). But we brush ourselves off and embrace the GIFT of the life we have now! 

My mom recently told me that she saw two little brothers and a sister all with dark hair and eyes walking along the beach together. The girl was not much older than our biological daughter. She said it made her think about our family because surely, a biological brother or two would have dark hair and eyes to match our daughter’s. I asked her if she felt grief over it. “No…I didn’t grieve it. I just saw it.” I liked that.

May we all simply “see” the life not lived and still embrace the life we are living.

Lisa is a mom of three who blogs about foster care, adoption, and infertility at Mess Into a Message.

Care2Foster believes that anyone with love to share would make a great foster parent regardless of faith background or religious convictions. We hope to promote varied and diverse perspectives.

This post was written by a guest author.

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