AT HOME WITH MY EMOTIONS, PART 5
Feeling Sad, Lost, Hopeless, And Lonely
Welcome to the series, AT HOME WITH MY EMOTIONS. This is number 5 in a series of probably seven blogs when complete. These blogs are part of a continuing education class for foster parents which I am presenting at San Bernardino Valley College on Tuesday and Friday mornings through September 24. If you live nearby and are interested in attending, email me.
You might want to check out the previous blogs, and here are the links
Today we zero in on being at home with feeling sad, lost, hopeless, and lonely.
THIS BLOG IS REALLY ABOUT US, THE BIG PEOPLE
Now, remember, we are first and foremost talking about us, the BIG people, being at home with feeling sad, lost, hopeless, and lonely. It is only then that we can be at home with these same feelings in foster children. And you can easily tell by all the acting out they do, that they, in fact, feel sad, lost, hopeless, and lonely a great deal of the time. It is also very obvious on their faces and in their body language.
LEARN TO READ WHAT IS ON THE CHILD’S FACE
My dream for each of you is to learn to read faces, your own and other people’s faces. Instead of reading what is actually written their on someone’s face, we make up a story or an interpretation of what is there, based upon our own feelings of helplessness or loneliness, and most of the time our interpretation is so far off the mark, it is not funny. For example, with our foster children and teens, we tend to miss the sadness, the hopelessness, the lost and lonely feelings. We misread them as defiance, arrogance, and manipulation. We imagine that their non verbal language is saying that they want to take us on, when in reality they are saying, "I’m lost, why can’t you see that?....I think I am going to die....I am in survival mode....why can’t someone save me?" When we misinterpret a child or teen’s plea for us to save them, again, that misread is about our own sene of powerlessness in our adult relationship. Yes, that is what it is.
Read the book, Parenting From the Inside Out, by Daniel Siegle and Mary Hartzell. Read it upteen times, eat the book, digest the book, whatever it takes, so you can develop the ability to read faces. It is critical. It is the one tool that will promote us, move us from drill instructor to healer. Yes, HEALER. Not a new concept really. Therapy means HEALING.
WE PROMISED NOT TO MIMINIZE OUR FEELINGS
Remember too, in previous blogs or classes, we promised to work on not minimizing. So when we catch ourselves saying, "Well, I don’t really feel sad....lonley....lost....hopeless, I mean it;s not that bad," we are going to fess up and say, "Yeah, I’m feeling sad....longely...lost...hopeless!
Just because we have such feelings does not mean we are weak or dysfunctional or immature or a baby or even a victim. They are just feelings that come and go and actually take us to good places if we just acknowledge them and discharge the energy that comes with them. When we try to minimize those feelings, they tend to "backfire" instead of discharging and then become destructive in some way or another.
So for the sake of our learning, we are not going to minimize the intensity or magnitude of our emotional experiences. If we can learn to do that for ourselves, we will also be able to avoid minimizing the intensity and magnitude of our foster childrens’ emotional experiences. We will stop ourselves from saying such ridiculous things as:
"How can you be sad? Look at all the wonderful things you have? Be lucky you have both arms and legs and food to eat....Lonely? How could you be lonely. We have a whole house full of people here?....Hopeless? How could you feel hopeless when your social worker is trying to get you a nice adoptive home, and we’re working with you here in our home?" DON’T EVER SAY ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY LIKE THAT EVER AGAIN!! PROMISE? Even if you still don’t get it, promise me anyway!! Promise yourself!!
WHY DO THEY JOIN GANGS?
Now here’s something else I want you to think about. The primary motivation for our young men and women to joining gangs is their overwhelming hopelessness. And once in the gang, the hopelessness intensifies as they no longer have any guarantee of life. So they reach a point where life is not something they can count on, so it doesn’t matter what danger they take on. I work every week with young men who are HOPELESS, and it is one of the saddest moments of my week because I don’t know if I will see them the next week.
When we get it, that our foster children are filled to the brim with sadness, loneliness, a sense of being lost and hopeless, we will stop lecturing them about the dangers of the gang, the dangers of their behavior, we will stop rubbing their nose in their self-sabotaging behavior. We will, instead, surrender our control (Give it up to God, for crying out loud) ad look them in the eye and say from someplace DEEP in our heart, "If anything ever happens to you, it will break my heart."
THE FREEDOM TO FAIL
Then we can go about the sometimes painful and puzzling work of walking along side of them and HOLDING them responsible and accountable and unfortunately giving them the freedom to fail. There is a paradox here, folks. It is not about being permissive. It is NOT being permissive. It is saying to a child or teen, "Hey check out the voice mail. Put it on speaker phone so we can both hear it." And the child is going to play the message that he or she wasn’t in school today and you are simply going to say, "Isn’t that an interesting message?" And HOLD the child responsible or accountable for his truancy, but you won’t ask him first whether or not he was at school and set him up to lie. You already know he wasn’t. And you stand along side of him or her as they listen to the message, as they confront THEIR behavior and not yours.
.YOUR PRESENT LIFE
ALRIGHT! So to start, jot down the times in your present life where you feel sad, lonely, lost, hopeless.
*I feel lonely when my partner works and works and works and I end up doing this fostering all by myself.
*I feel lost when foster kids come here whose lives are so totally different from min that I just don’t even know what to say to them.
*I feel lost when I see the look on her face and I realize that was me when I was twelve years old, and I have never done anything for myself to heal that time of my life. I haven’t even told anyone about it.
*I feel hopeless when I can’t seem to get to first base with my husband/wife over our finances. We’ll never get out of this financial mess.
*I feel so sad when it’s Valentine’s Day, and I do all these really nice things for everyone in the house and my husband/wife seems to have forgotten all together. I remember when he/she would bring me a rose or a box of candy.
*I feel so sad at night when I crawl into bed and I’m there all alone.
*I feel so sad at night when I crawl into bed and my partner is there next to me, but we don’t touch each other, we don’t even talk. We just roll over and go to sleep.
HOW ABOUT THE PAST?
*I felt sad when Mom and Dad were always drunk.
*I felt sad when Mom seemed to like my brothers better than me and my sister.
*I felt lost when they would make me take the bus by myself to the dentist.
*I felt lonely when they made me join Brownies, but couldn’t afford to buy me a uniform.
*I felt hopeless every time I flunked another class.
*I felt hopeless every time Mom/Dad came home drunk....every time we got kicked out of another apartment....everytime I had to go next door and ask if they could give us some food.
*I felt sad when Grandma died and no one seem to care what I was going through.
*I felt sad when Dad died and they wouldn’t let me go to the hospital to see him.
*I felt lost when I went out to recess and did not know anyone.
Try to be as honest as you can be. I know what you write down may trigger incredible pain, and the examples I gave, as awful as some of them are, may be very very pale in comparison. Do not compare your story to any one else’s. There is no point in that. Your story is your story. Own your story. Be at home with your story and you will then stop judging the stories of your foster cchildren.
Once you allow yourself to soak in these painful experiences, and then have the courage to share them with someone else, you will, little by little, become prepared to have healing conversations with your foster children about the times they feel sad, lonely, lost, and hopeless.
SOME TIMES WHAT WE CONSIDER NOTHING BURIES US
And, as I said in the last blog, if you find yourself really triggered, consider calling someone like myself. Spend a few bucks on yourself working through the pain. We go to urgent care, we consider having a huge deductible to save money on insurance, we spend exorbitant amounts of money taking care of our car, we spend loads of money on clothing and even a nice evening out, so consider spending a few dollars getting some soothing and some healing for emotional experiences you thought you were able to bury, but obviously, they are not buried, and maybe have buried a part of you.
And so once you are at home with these emotions, you can have these kinds of conversations with the children in your care.
"I see a look on your face. What is it? What do you want me to know about you right now? Well, I am imagining something happened today that made you feel very sad. Very sad."
"You know I am really concerned. It is clear to me that you are feeling hopeless. So what do you need from me?
"Oh, it just pains me to see you feeling so hopeless. You know, you are very intelligent. You got a good head on your shoulders. You know that, don’t you? Ah! You don’t know that. So what can I say to convince you?"
"Hey, you know, it makes a lot of sense to me that you feel so lost in all of this. You get bounced around from home to home. You want to go back with Mom and Dad, but they won’t let you. This is tough for you, I know."
"You know, sometimes my most lonely moments are when I’m with a whole bunch of people, but I still feel really lonely inside. I bet it’s like that for you."
"You know, I get it. School is just not your thing. And it is okay, really. I’m going to work with you so maybe you can learn some new ways to learn. Cause it’s not about your intelligence. You are a tactile learner and we got to figure out a way to get every bit of school information into your brain by way of your fingertips! You know, I got straight F’s in school for a very long time. I’ve kept it a secret all these years."
"It’s tough when Mom and Dad say they are coming to visit and they don’t. It’s sad, and you know what, just cry it out. It’s okay. I’ll even hold you or wrap you up in a blanket if that will help."
These, of course, are just samples. Spend some time coming up with your own. Notice the flavor of the above examples. There is no intent to teach any lessons, life lessons or otherwise. There is no attempt to change the child’s perception of their experience. There is no agenda to help the child take responsibility for setting themselves up, and so on and so on. The only purpose of these statements is to let the child know that you get what is going on for him or her at this very moment.
If necessary, you can always go back LATER and invite the child to look at whatever life lesson there is, or to support the child in taking responsibility for everything that is going on in his or her life. At this moment, your "job" is to be a connecting point.
THANKS SO MUCH FOR READING. LEAVE A COMMENT IF YOU WISH OR SHARE PERHAPS SOME OF YOUR OWN "SCRIPTS,." SOME OF YOUR OWN DISCOVERIES, SOME OF YOUR OWN HEALING.