When our neighbour walked towards our door and told us, “It’s not good”, we immediately knew what he meant. His wife’s health deteriorated very quickly since she had been diagnosed with cancer. We heard she had to be admitted to hospital the day before, after she suddenly fell unconscious. After the doctors had revived her, she decided to sign a Do-Not-Resuscitate order, which means her next episode will also be her last.

He went on to explain what medical implications would result from being resuscitated for a second time, and why the wife made the choice she made, without ever disclosing his opinion, and with such remarkable details. I expected to find anger in his voice, but I found none. That’s when he added, “She means the world to me”, and when I froze.

It wasn’t what he said, but the way he said it. It was a last plea, as if he was asking me for mercy; as if I could do something to save his wife’s life. I felt like I had to defend myself from the absurd allegation of not wanting to do anything to help. I would have wished nothing more in that moment, but I could nothing. His pain petrified me.

I could have reached some kind of contact with him; if not with a hug, I could have maybe offered to hold his hand. I could have repeated back to him what he was telling me, make him feel heard. I could have validated his emotions and allow him to feel they way he was feeling. Failing all that, I could have said, “I’m sorry”, but I couldn’t even manage that much. I let Laura, my wife, do the talking instead.

To think that, not even an hour before our encounter, a group of 15 people forming our Fostering Panel had just approved our application as foster parents, unanimously. Now I worry they all made a terrible mistake with me. Maybe it was too much to ask a panel of people, who had just met me, to determine if I was fit to be a foster parent, when all they could judge was my determination to become one.

Children in care often come with big emotions. How often have we read how their emotions are their only way for them to protect themselves from the outside world? And how much good can I do if I emotionally shut down every time I’m confronted with someone else’s pain?

Big emotions have always left me stumped. I really thought that all the articles and books I read had prepared me well. I thought I had learned not to fear them anymore, but for this time at least, I clearly did.

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One Comment

  1. Mama Bear 9th October 2016 Reply

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