P1040526She is gone.

And we all begin the process of finding what that means.

She was happy to go, excited to see her friends.  We were a reprieve from her normal.

She left us with a new normal.

But she will soon find that her normal doesn’t quite fit either.  She told me over and over “Summer comes soon.  Do not cry.  I see you soon.”  She told me about a project she wants to make—a family portrait of all of us.  I told her that even if she doesn’t get it finished, I am moved that she would want to make it.  I know what it means.

I know she cannot go back and be the same.  We cannot live the same either.   And now I shuffle through my house, too quiet, too empty.  I keep waiting to find her around the next corner.

It is difficult to describe the emotions that come now.  So many people don’t understand hosting, the intensity of connection.  When you open yourself to love unconditionally, it means that the loss is felt all the more.  There is grieving.  There is fear.  There is a good chance that, despite all of our hopes and plans, we will never see one another again.

That thought makes it hard for me to breathe.

This is not the same as sending a child off to live abroad.  That is certainly hard and scary, and I admire parents who have.  But this is different.  These are little ones who are being sent unprepared.  They are being sent away from something that will ground them, at an age when they are not ready to be alone, despite what they might think.

This is creating a family and then losing it.

This is hard all around.  Hosting is hard.  Leaving is hard.

I spent the last month discovering reserves I never knew I had, finding grace and wisdom that was not of myself.  I spent the last month focusing on loving this one and dying to my own pride and desires.  I am emotionally spent.  My insecurities and my secret fears were all on display.  I had to remember where my value truly is, the things that matter, the truths that cannot be undermined by angry words or teenage whims.  It was soul-stripping at times.  I am raw.  But I am a better person because of it, and the fires of hosting have melded us into something beautiful.

And now this one with whom I have grown a life is gone from my immediate world.  But I know that the process is not over.  I know that this past month was just the initial investment.  This next phase will be harder, and lonelier, but it will not undo any of the things that have been created.

And so I will expand my focus beyond this child, and that brings pain.  What do bills or a sink full of dirty dishes matter when she is not here?  But they must be done, and the rhythm of routine brings comfort.  And I’ll be honest—there is relief in the solitude at moments.  A breath from the hard work of building.

But it is a breath that is short-lived.  I no longer fit into the old routine, because I spent the last month making a new one with someone I love.  And now she is not here.  And my heart aches.

My prayers are no longer for stamina and grace, but for peace and wisdom in how to move forward.

And there are the shards of other relationships to be addressed.  The friendships that were neglected, the new ones that were created.  How does that puzzle fit together?  Will budding friendships fade in the face of everyday life?  Will old friends still be there when I pick up the phone?  Or will they come at me with accusations?  Or not even pick up the phone at all?

If only I could explain.  If only I had the words to tell about what happened here over this month.  There is one friendship that was most affected in this time, and all I want to do is pour out an explanation.  I want to tell of my gratefulness for this person, explain how all the pieces they have glimpsed came together, what an impact our relationship had on my bond with Sunshine.  How my walking though this meant something to others, too.  How hard being silent was.  But it’s complicated, as such things always are.  And I know that this is a world that is foreign, and there might not be grace enough for that.  I also know that my urgency is born out of a desire to fix things, to have control over something, to have this friend understand.

But I cannot fix others.  And fixing everything else cannot fix that Sunshine is gone.

And once again I stand in the ruins of my life.

But I will walk forward.  I will hold out my hand across an ocean.  I will love through social media.  I will keep Skype open.  I will start working to bring her here again.

I will choose to believe this is only the end of the beginning.

4 thoughts on “Aftermath

  1. cyn

    Amen! I’ve been off the FB group for a few days, because I finally do stop crying, then see reminders of people going through it too, and somehow right now, this misery does not love company (and mine have not even left yet). However, I was on FB to grab an email address and came across a link to this blog. Thank you. You said so perfectly everything I’m thinking. Feeling as though I need distance from those friends I’ve met through this experience (my family not ready, and may never be ready to take the next step, and that is ripping me apart), and feeling complete disconnect to those who are my long-term friends, who I’ve all but abandoned for the past month. Breathe. That is all I keep telling myself. Breath. Now, I don’t typically reply to a blog post, but in this case, I had to, to say, “thank you” to a stranger who has read my soul.

    • Thank you for sharing! I understand your need to be alone. I feel it, too…that desire to shut out the world for ten minutes, ten days, however long it takes. It is different for each person–and I can say it’s different each time, too. I did this over summer with a different child, and my reaction this time is not the same. My son’s reaction is different, too. Last time, he seemed happy and relieved my host son was gone during the day but bedtimes were a nightmare, because he was grieving so much at that time of day. This time, sleep is easy, but during the day, he mentions Sunshine constantly and tells me how much he misses her.

      And the distance from friends, oh, it’s hard. Sometimes things come back around. And sometimes they never do. But I will say that this community, it will support you in any way you need it, whether you are near or far at the moment. I will be thinking of you in your last few days with your precious one!

  2. Misty

    I have enjoyed following this journey. It has only grasped my heart even more with the longing to host(and adopt)…. I am curious how one prepares children for this experience. The leaving…. I have 7, 5, 3, and 1 year olds. I am not sure they will understand the joining our family then leaving.

    • I have a nine year old and we’ve done this twice now. Until you know different, this is short-term and should be presented to children (and others) as such. I simply talked to my son and explained that we would have them stay with us for 4-5 weeks and showed him a calendar. He grasped that this was a way to serve someone for a period of time and then they have to go home. He certainly asked if they could come back, and there are tears, but he was well aware that there was a return date. We made a calendar in English and the language the child spoke and crossed off the days together. Everyone knew departure day was coming. Adoption is a conversation for after hosting–it’s actually one of the rules of the organization. When you are dealing with a child with a language barrier, and young children of your own, it is not fair to make promises that you don’t know if you can keep. The organization covers all that in training and talks about how to prepare your bio kids. There is also a very active Facebook support group to bring your questions once you commit to hosting. One of the greatest blessings I have seen through this is my son’s ability to think of others before himself and stretch far beyond what I ever thought he was capable of. There truly is grace for all of it.

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