Getting Past Surviving and Thriving Into 2014

A new year has arrived and with it comes another chance for a fresh start.  For many foster youth and alumni of foster care the holiday season isn’t such a warm and fuzzy one.  Even for many of us who have established our own families over the years, we are still reminded of the family we did not have or reminded of the painful dysfunction of our biological and foster families.  

I have a loving husband and the sweetest 3-year-old little boy that I can now call family, but Christmas time was still very hard for me. I enjoyed creating new traditions with my family (son, husband and my husband’s family); I enjoyed baking cookies and sitting by the fireside with a mug of egg nog; I enjoyed going to go pick out our tree and decorating the house with holiday cheer and holiday scents. AND I still broke down on Christmas Eve because I missed my mother and was upset that she will not have the chance to know her grandson and the fact that he will not get to know her.  I’m grateful to have had my sister-in-love with me who listened to my pain, allowed me to cry and didn’t tell me how I need to get over the pain.

There really is no advice that can completely soothe someone experiencing pain during the holiday season.  The best thing that anyone can do (and what has helped me to deal) is to allow the person grieving to grieve.  Allow them to talk about the memories that bothered them and the feelings that still haunt them in some form.  Allow them to FEEL because there really is nothing that can be done about the pain they’re feeling.  It comes in waves and needs to be dealt with as it comes.

For those foster youth and Alumni that find the holiday’s painful, know that it is not abnormal to do so.  Know that you cannot control your feelings, but you can control how you respond to them.  Although the holiday season tends to amplify some of our feelings of loss and grief, the holiday season is not the only time we experience these feelings. These feelings are year-round for us; it is just most people don’t pay attention or allow us the chance to express these feelings with the understanding that is given around the “season of cheer”.  Everyone has at least one person they can talk to or that loves them. It may not be the usual family member; it may not even be a best friend but it may be a Pastor/Rabi/Minister, Neighbor, Teacher, Classmate, bus driver etc. etc. etc.  Get where I’m going?  Sometimes we don’t need someone to talk to us for hours. Sometimes we just need someone to say a few choice words that actually help us to get through our emotional hurdles.  Seek those people out. Many of us (Alumni) are not good at communicating and don’t have strong relationships because of it but I will say that there comes a point where we must TRY to reach out to people.   At the end of the day, everyone has issues (regardless of them being in/from foster care or not) and we cannot expect that people are to come to us all the time to offer condolences, a listening ear or kind words, especially when they may not know how bad we’re suffering.  A way that we can work toward getting better at communication and building positive relationships is to show others the kindness we want to see.

Enough about last year and the holiday season, it is now a NEW YEAR!  With this New Year comes another opportunity to CHANGE anything about your life that you do not like- to CHANGE the things that plagued you in 2013.  This is the year that you stop merely surviving and start THRIVING!  This is the year that the victim mentality is crushed and you use your undeniable strength to overcome and begin to make the changes in your life that will allow you to feel better about yourself.  There is no one coming to rescue us from our pain, the past cannot be undone. We don’t have control over the scars left by our early life experiences but we
do have control over HOW they heal. We control how we move forward.  

Forget what people have said you cannot do or should not do.  If it is in your heart and in your dreams, PURSUE IT.  Stop your negative self-talk and stop making excuses. I was told I didn’t have the experience to start my own non-profit. I was told that I was too young to run an organization but I refused to let the short sight of others to prevent me from doing something I knew needed to be done- something I knew would allow me to pursue my passion.

No more feeling sorry for ourselves; It is 2014! Hold your head high, face your anxiety around relationship building (professional and personal) because you will need to establish alliances and learn from others as you work to reach your goals.  Whether it is taking control of your health, pursuing the career you want, working on self to improve your relationships or working on self to achieve inner peace and happiness, I hope that you will take the steps to fulfill your purpose and destiny.  Regardless of whether you choose to move forward, time will.