Words aren’t meant for grief

It seems fairly cruel that grief isn’t bad enough on its own. But it’s so individualized that it’s hard to communicate how you feel grief to others.

It’s a very deep-seated emotion.
It’s low. Rumbly. Persistent, yet fluctuating in its intensity.

And perhaps the most frustrating element of grief, or at least the most universal aspect of it, is that even though it feels like grief causes time to slow down, or even stop for you, that’s not really what happens. The world continues on in its indifference. And the starkness of that, that’s hard to deal with.

Words. They don’t do grief justice. What am I supposed to say? I feel sad? I’m upset? I’m mad? I’m disappointed?

eh.

No one in my family has died.
No one found out they are sick with a terminal illness.
No one was physically injured.

One of the teenage girls that lives in my house has been struggling with her behaviors recently. Since right before going to Christmas break. Who knows what really is going on. Perhaps it’s the stress of being a senior. Perhaps it’s the unknowns of what she is going to do once she leaves our home. Perhaps it’s the pressure of being the first person in your entire family expected to graduate from high school.

Whatever the case, she’s been struggling with her behaviors. She’s tried to game the system to get away with things even though her behaviors haven’t truly warranted the privileges she’s been given.

She overreacted to being given a consequence last night. She flipped chairs. She threw all the stuff out of her closet in anger. She yelled. She cried. She screamed into her hands. She flopped onto her bed and sobbed.

Her reaction, her temper tantrum, even though I sympathize with her situation, at this point is simply unacceptable as an eighteen year old young woman. She comes off as threatening. Aggressive. It disrupts the home. Her unpredictability creates too many question marks related to safety. And at that point, the good of the whole home, including my two young boys, has to take priority. These are her behaviors that she’s choosing to do, and so the consequences are inevitably on her.

So last night after talking to my supervisor, she was removed from our home to be in a temporary intervention home. It was a very hard decision. One that I pushed back on because I knew that if she left, there was a very slim chance she’d be returning to our home.

I’m not sure why exactly I was holding on so hard to a girl who has been threatening and violent at times. I rationalize her behaviors too much perhaps. Perhaps her personality, which is one full of humor and interesting introspection, caused me to look past some of the behaviors she’s exhibited in our home.

Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I’m just loyal to a fault. Or I work from the fallacy that since I’ve put in all this work, especially relationally, that we can’t give up now.

But “give up” is the wrong framing of this situation, perhaps. I most definitely am not giving up. None of us are. It’s more of a letting go.

But that’s so damn hard for me.

The frustrating thing about people making bad decisions is that we can’t make better decisions for them. We can give them opportunities. We can set up empowering environments which recognize their dignity as human beings. But we can’t make decisions for them.

And for whatever reason, some people are hellbent on having to learn things the hard way. They take what seems to be the easy route, but in reality the easy route is the rockiest terrain.

And so why do I say I am grieving?

A relationship has been severed, or at least dramatically changed. She no longer will be in my home.

That’s really hard for me.

I’ve given her so much of myself. She’s grown a lot in the time she’s lived with us. And I just struggle to let go since we’ve gotten her this far. I wanted to be celebrating her graduation at the end of the year, taking photos of her and her family celebrating. But that won’t be happening now. And that is a loss. That is a cause for grief for me.

I really liked having this girl in our home. I have some really great memories from the past year with her. It’s hard to let go.

After she calmed down a bit yesterday evening, before she left our home, she set the table for dinner. Micah came running out into the dining room and saw her and told her “Hey! I missed you today!” and gave her a big hug.

These girls become a part of our family. Our boys see them as their sisters. And I hate that our kids get normalized to their sisters having to leave when they exhibit bad enough behaviors consistently.

I’ve tried to use some words to describe the situation. The details which lead to the grief that I’m feeling. But I haven’t truly attempted to expose what I actually feel like. How grief impacts the interactions with have with other human beings. Because those other human beings are not experiencing grief. No matter how badly I feel, their lives aren’t dramatically changed. So you have to navigate the world where you can adapt like a chameleon to the moods and emotions and needs of those around you.

And that can be exhausting.

But because grief is a deep-seated emotion, it does give opportunity to connect with others deeply if you so choose. And if other people are willing to connect in that way, too. My wife and I see this situation differently. We process the world differently. That’s normal and ok. But it makes it hard to process it together. I have to learn how to express myself in ways which are able to be understood. I think grief affects our rational thinking. It’s almost like it pushes us into a desire to blame anyone, anything. And when that happens, it seems to impact those closest to you.

And so I strive to be patient. To avoid blaming. And sit with my feelings before I blurt out emotionally charged thoughts which are highly subjective and often incorrect, and therefore harmful.

This is where I am at right now.

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