I’m really excited to introduce this week’s guest author. Jessie Howell lives in Pensacola, FL and has been fostering with her husband, Taran, for 10 years. She’s a mom of 7 amazing kiddos, 2 of whom are biological, 3 have been adopted, and 2 are currently in foster care. Jessie and Taran have fostered over 100 children and Jessie teaches parenting classes in their community. Jessie also does work as a behavioral consultant, observing parents and children in their homes and working with them to help create a more functional home environment. I hope you are as impacted by her words as I have been. – Selena
As a foster mom for the last 10 years I have been able to serve trauma babies, children, teens and their parents. All of them are trying to navigate their lives and break the cycles of trauma. It is an honor and a burden. Each child brings up new challenges and new discoveries about myself. I have sat in trainings, read books, listened to Ted Talks, talked to therapists and gone to counseling. There are things that make today so much easier than when I began 10 years ago and there are still things that take my breath away the very same as our first experience. If you are a foster parent, an adoptive parent, a parent of children with special needs this blog is for you. When I think about the biggest obstacle I have faced as a trauma mom personally it was the isolation. The times I sat and cried alone grieving for children and the abuse they experienced.
There have always been people in my corner, but to even let them in is hard. When I meet with parents and hear their stories, isolation is always a theme. Today I want you to know that you are not alone. The behaviors you see, the unmet expectations you experience, the life adjustments that feel like no one else in the world is having to make, in those things, you are not alone. There is a community that sees you. There is a whole community that is coming up for air and then plunging back into the depths of despair to live with their loved ones and meet them where they are. My prayer is that this post will bring you comfort, peace, and a sense of community that is so hard to find and feel in the trenches of trauma.
My two oldest sons recently went on a trip to a summer camp. When they returned, I started the normal drilling them of their questions, as any mom would do. As I listened to one share all the funny stories another sat quiet in the backseat, finally I asked more specific questions. I found out that on this trip he had been alone. He sat alone at meals, walked around alone, played games with the adults because the other kids weren’t playing with him. I was heart-broken and angry. This child is fun, kind, creative, athletic, and so much more. How could he be so alone in the midst of so many kids and so many activities that demand community? This led to me examining my life deeper, how can I be in the midst of so many people and activities that demand community and still be alone?
We cannot heal from our own trauma or help others heal from trauma alone. We can surround ourselves with people, but if we do not have a strong sense of belonging and love we are still alone. We have to be on both the giving end of love and the receiving end to fully experience it. It is easy to be busy with people and be alone. I also know that statistics say that 80 % of families that have trauma children or children with special needs will stop going to church or quit all social clubs after the first year….80%. I have to believe this is because we go to all these places and still feel alone. This is one of my favorite quotes from Brene Brown:
You, my dear friends, are too important to quit on community. You belong in community. You are loved. The way you love is a beautiful example. One time when talking to a fellow trauma mama about doing community she said “Jessie, I just couldn’t show up one more time with cookies from Publix while everyone walked in with their homemade desserts.” As hard as it is to believe, let me tell you: no one else cares about the cookies. We didn’t care if she brought anything. She brings enough to the table just by showing up. If you are in a season of store brought cookies, (or if even that sounds like a struggle) keep showing up. You belong in community. Your community doesn’t care about your cookies, and if they do, find a different community. You are more important. You love others well. Come be loved on. Belong to your community. The definition of belong is “to be specifically placed” I am telling you find your place to be specifically placed. Choose to not believe the lie that you don’t belong. Come to these beautiful places that talk about trauma and see that you are not alone.
We ask our foster children to let us meet them right where they are. The beauty and strength it requires to be exposed and to accept the love right where you are is hard for anyone. Trauma has taught us (and those we serve) to depend on no one, but healing comes in the moments of belonging. Maybe today the idea of re-learning how to live in community, as a parent of trauma kids or even dealing with your own trauma, sounds exhausting.
The truth that I hope you hear is that things will not get better, healing will not happen, we cannot teach our kids how to be fully loved and belong without living the example. It doesn’t have to be a big community. The community isn’t going to be perfect at loving you and your family all the time. The community you choose is the one that you will keep showing up to, the one that you can be fully you at. If you haven’t found that, start online. You are too important to not live in community. Your trauma children need an example of showing up with store bought cookies and greasy pants. A full life comes in loving others, being loved and belonging. Start today by showing up, go back to the friends you left and start again. Start here by believing you are not alone and others are ready to walk with you on this journey.