Dear Dena,
I’m suffering from a broken heart and she hasn’t even left yet. My foster daughter that came to us at birth is now 17 months old... she leaves in 1 week and I can hardly function. How do I make it through the next week? And what do I do with myself after she goes?


Dear Broken-Hearted,
Weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn is part of my faith and belief system. And dear one, I am grieving with you now.

How to make it through the next week? Grieve. How to make it through the next month? Grieve. Give yourself permission to sorrow deeply and to feel the pain and process the loss. When it comes to grief, the only way past it is through it. No short-cuts. No opt-outs. Good old fashion sorrow and tears and rage and lots and lots of friends and family wrapping around you and supporting you are necessary.

As foster-parents we bear scars our culture may never see. We have finally come to a place in society where we honor miscarriage and have terms for the loss around still-birth and infertility. And thank goodness we do, so that women (and men) no longer have to grieve a wordless loss. It is time to acknowledge and put words to the very real loss foster-parents experience. It doesn’t matter that we anticipate the loss…it doesn’t matter that we knew the risk…our hearts are still wired to attach and care deeply for those entrusted to us. Biology always wins out over “logic” and the biology of loss is the same whether a child was born to you or placed with you. So, please, honor your pain and invite others to do so as well.

Practically speaking, some grief triggers depression and it is always appropriate to seek out skilled care from a therapist who gets adoption/foster-care loss. Medical support in the way of anti-depressants is not a shameful response to grief- it is often wise and necessary- especially if you are still caring for others or hope to provide care again. Taking care of you in the midst of your sorrow is the hardest thing to consider…but it is essential and smart. Let others walk with you and accept whatever care is available to you. This won’t stop hurting…you won’t move on…but you will be able to incorporate this loss into who you are as you grow in compassion and mercy for others who experience loss.


-Dena Johnson MA, LMHC

Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Attachment-Trauma Focused Therapist, TBRI Practitioner