Mental Health

Good Grief: Helpful Tips for Grieving Foster Mamas

May 28, 2024

What do we do when the future looks bleak for the child in our care or we are experiencing tremendous pain over them leaving our home?  How can we persevere and find the strength to keep going when it feels like each day is a cycle of sadness, disappointment, and heartache? Grief support geared toward […]

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I'm a foster + adoptive + bio mama to 4, and a psychotherapist in private practice.  I'm here to help you deal with all the feels on your foster care journey.  Welcome!


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What do we do when the future looks bleak for the child in our care or we are experiencing tremendous pain over them leaving our home?  How can we persevere and find the strength to keep going when it feels like each day is a cycle of sadness, disappointment, and heartache?
Grief support geared toward foster mamas can be hard to come by; allow me to share four things you can try when you’re hurting.
First, ask yourself this question:  what story are you telling yourself?    This is a question Brene Brown asks all the time and I find it incredibly helpful, especially when we experience strong emotions.  What is happening, what is the current situation?  Describe it to yourself (or better yet, write it down) as an objective observer.  State the facts – the truth, and nothing but the truth.  Then take it a step further and add yourself into the story.  What are you feeling about what happened?  Are you telling yourself any stories as if they are truth?
For example, your child might have recently reunified and you  feel so sad that you could burst into tears at any moment.  You might objectively tell the story as:  “I am feeling sad about _____ leaving.  I feel like I don’t even want to get out of bed today.”  But a lot of times, we tell ourselves additional stories, such as:  “I didn’t do enough.  What if she forgets about me?  This is the fourth day in a row I have felt so out of control of my emotions about this.  I’m seriously never going to get it together.  There’s no way I could ever foster again.”
See the difference?  If you are telling yourself stories that are riddled with shame or guilt, you are going to make the storm you are weathering ten times worse.  Instead, stick to the facts.  Notice how you feel, and be ok with it.  You can do this because we all know…
No feeling lasts forever.  Remind yourself of this.  OFTEN.  Better yet, remind yourself of the difficult things you have gotten through in the past.  By and large, when I counsel people who have been through significant trauma or tragedy, I ask them how they coped and they say…”I don’t really know…I just did.”  Friends, we are far more resilient than we give ourselves credit for.  It’s ok if you have no idea how you are going to make it through your sadness…you don’t have to have all the answers right now.  All you have to do is trust that things will get better over time.  You might start feeling better very soon, or it might take a lot longer for healing to occur…that’s why it’s incredibly important to…
Take it one day at a time.  I tell my clients this all the time, and it never stops being true.  Just deal with today today.  Deal with this moment.  Then the next.  Then the next.  Don’t get ahead of yourself.  Don’t “dress rehearse tragedy,” (again, a phrase from Brene Brown).  Stay where you are, even if that is a hard place to be.  Just for today you can keep going.  Just for today you can persevere.  Just for today you can get through this.  It’s often when we think weeks and months and years into the future that we overwhelm ourselves with unnecessary grief and anxiety.  So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries.  Today’s trouble is enough for today (Matthew 6:34).
Finally, find a way to increase your positive experiences.  What do you like to do?  Who do you like to hang out with?  Make a list of all the ways you can add happiness to your day, just this day.  The goal is to make yourself do something fun or joyful so you can have something good to look forward to in every day.  Here is a short list to get you started:  dance, order take out food, watch your favorite movie, plan a vacation, go shopping, call a loved one, make a list of things you love about yourself, take a nap, visit a new place, enjoy a sweet treat, PIZZA, sit in the sunshine, lounge in your pjs, snuggle with a loved one or pet.
When you start doing things you love, things that make you  happy, you will start to feel better.  That doesn’t mean you will never be sad again.  It doesn’t mean you won’t still be a little sad while you are trying to have fun.  It means that you are giving yourself permission to live and to find bits of joy in the midst of your pain. And that is a very, very good thing.

Are you worried about how you’ll handle the grief if/when a child in your care reunifies or moves to a different placement?

Are you struggling to stay present and enjoy the moments you DO have with the foster kiddos you love so much?

What should you do to make the most of the time you have left with the kids in your care and how the heck are you and your family going to handle it when “goodbye” actually happens?

I totally understand those exact worries because I’ve experienced all of them myself.

As a foster and adoptive mama for 4+ years, (and a foster care informed therapist), I had to lean heavily on the skills I use with clients in my private psychotherapy practice to stay present, peaceful, and joyful despite the ups and downs of foster care. ESPECIALLY when faced with the possibility of saying goodbye to my kids.

And now I’m going to teach you the exact techniques I used to reduce my fear and stay peaceful in the present, come what may.

Which is exactly why I created:

GOOD GRIEF: How to Cope with Anticipatory Grief + Loss as you Foster

This LIVE training is happening Thursday, May 30th at 8 pm eastern/7 central/6 mountain/5 pacific.  SAVE YOUR SPOT HERE!

🌈 Understanding Anticipatory Grief:

  • Explore the concept of anticipatory grief and how it manifests in the foster care journey.
  • Identify common triggers and emotions associated with anticipatory grief.

🤝 Building Emotional Resilience:

  • Learn practical strategies for fostering emotional resilience in the face of ongoing uncertainty.
  • Discover coping mechanisms to navigate the challenges of foster parenting with grace.

👥 Community Support and Connection:

  • Understand the importance of building a support network within the foster care community.
  • Gain insights on connecting with fellow foster mamas for mutual understanding and encouragement.

🛠️ Practical Tools for Coping:

  • Receive actionable tools and resources to help you cope with the unique aspects of anticipatory grief.
  • Explore self-care practices tailored to foster mamas.

SPOTS ARE LIMITED so grab yours today!  I can’t wait to see you there!


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I'm Cathleen, your new (foster) mom friend.

I'm also a psychotherapist in private practice who wants to teach my fellow foster mamas the skills that ACTUALLY work to overcome stress, anxiety and overwhelm...'cause ain't nobody got time for that!

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How to Deal with the Unknowns of Foster Care

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