Once again, a couple of months ago, I enquired about the possibility of fostering a child. This time I had a preliminary phone interview with the organisation. He asked me the questions you’d expect about health, living situation, capacity to provide, and so on, and then very matter-of-fact he asked, “Have you dealt with your grief yet?”
Whoa! Apart from it being immediately obvious I couldn’t answer “yes”, suddenly there was a whole world there. For the first time, I saw that every human being experiences grief, and that what I sometimes thought of as sadness could better be thought of as grief. After he elaborated that a child being fostered is experiencing grief (hence they need to know a foster carer has taken, or is taking care of their own grief), my heart turned over thinking of a child grieving and away from home with strangers.
I don’t remember anything he said after that, and when I hung up it was clear I wouldn’t be fostering a child at this time and that the purpose of the call was for me to hear that question.
I shared it with a couple of people, and realised by telling it I was saying I wanted to be able to answer yes. Then I kind of filed it, not away, near the surface somewhere, close by so it could work on me.
That was a few months ago as I say, and then at Easter two weeks ago I had a breakthrough. I’d been sick with a virus and I started thinking about my life and the past and feeling disempowered and sad. I was in a pit for a day or so and then something happened over the course of a few hours. I thought of the question the man asked and looked anew and for the first time I was willing to face something that I and others had been involved in – nothing major, nothing sinister, just something terribly run-of-the-mill – and see without drama where my responsibility began and ended. I’ve looked at this many times before and haven’t been willing to see the full thing, for reasons that don’t matter.
As the weekend continued, the flame grew, and so did the freedom and its implications. Now everything’s different. The thing that’s been there for decades for me – call it The Thing, The Blob – is not there any more. It’s gone and I understand it’s gone for good.
A former teacher of mine, Jack, who now lives in New York wrote a post about intention on LinkedIn this week. It occurred to me that intention made the difference for me in this situation. When the man asked the question, I formed an intention. Even though I didn’t fully articulate it, nevertheless it was there: the intention to deal with my grief. And without doing anything, except letting the question exist, the intention was fulfilled. As Jack says in his post,
“A person not looking for buried treasure won’t think to dig for it.”
I’m grateful to have had the conversation with the man from the foster care agency. He gave me something of great value, and I hope this post gives you something of great value too.