From the end of Part 3 (Healing the Angst): I thoroughly believe that my healing journey is meant to help others along in their own journeys, and that as I do, my own healing moves forward, too. So, whether you are a foster kid (former or current) or you love one, I invite you to read and reflect on the following letter (written to my 6-year old self and the 30-something old self that sometimes still needs assurance). I pray if it is relevant, that this letter may serve to help you in your next step forward.
If you’re new to this whole process of emotional healing, I’m going to say something now that might frustrate you: it’s probably going to take a long time and be a lot of work. We can reach major milestones and still have setbacks, but that does not mean we’re not making progress, and I hope that you won’t let it discourage you from beginning and continuing to do the deep inner work of healing. I’ve been frustrated and discouraged, also, and sometimes even gave up hope for periods of time that I could ever reach wholeness. But for me, living with the angst without pressing on toward healing left me in a state worse than the hard work of healing. I knew that there was something better for me than staying in the muck of depression—it was discovering my truest identity and finding freedom and joy in that.
To read in context, please see Part 1: Accepting the Angst
My thoughts and feelings as an adult about my childhood have fluctuated over the years, from nostalgia to gratitude to ambivalence to anger to shame to sadness to a conglomerate of all of the above and more. As difficult as they were to uncover, these are the feelings of an emerging adult who had the advantage of retrospect and the ability to articulate something so complex as overlapping emotions. What is more difficult to discover are the feelings of the pre-articulate child as he or she went through those painful moments. If you’ve never allowed those kinds of feelings to flood to the surface, I’d say to proceed with caution, and also with a trusted friend, family member, advisor, or therapist present. I’ve chosen each, at various times and in various situations. They offer a form of safety/comfort if you’re exploring emotions from a time when you didn’t feel safe as a kid.
Some of my most-formative years of life were spent in foster care (following a handful of tumultuous years with my family of origin). These early years formed my biggest fears, my greatest strengths, and so many of my habits, both good and bad ones. But I didn’t always understand how much my childhood had impacted me, because I was taught that it was more important to focus on the present, to be grateful for the pleasant things in life, and to sweep anything unpleasant under the proverbial rug.