Today we say the long goodbye. . . again

Published on May 28, 2021

Have you ever lost a child? 

The pain, the grief, the disbelief of losing a child is something most of us have no desire to imagine. Even the thought of it may cause anger to rise up in the heart of a parent. 

As a parent, you do everything in your power to protect your children. You set boundaries, you teach and instruct and correct, all with the goal of keeping your children safe from harm. And the burning desire of every parent’s heart is to see their children grow into adulthood with identity released and gifts and abilities developed.  

As a foster and adoptive parent, I do not have the luxury of seeing all of my children grow into adulthood.  

Miraculous resilience

Although no parent can see the future, there is hope that the child you bore will outlive you and you will see your grandchildren one day. There is the beauty of every milestone—your child’s first word, the first time you hear the beauty of a child’s laugh, the first bite of solid food, the first step. 

As a foster parent, this beautiful picture is not my life. From a place of experience and humility, I admit that it is not the story of many parents. 

Those of you reading this who have children with exceptionalities know, nothing is picture perfect, and often parenting does not look like what we expect—in fact, it never looks like what we expect. But there is the hope, the dream—a beautiful dream.  

As foster parents, Scott and I know the road our children walk will be long and hard. We understand the disadvantages they have to overcome that children from households full of love and nurture will never face. 

Every day these children are forced to confront what they have survived. Miraculously, they do so with resilience and grit, and they amaze us. The beauty of their belief in God, their choice to love others and themselves, and their willingness to be part of the solution—these are a testament to the supernatural power of the God we serve. 

Yet, the journey is also painful.  

Acquainted with grief

Often, our part in their journeys ends in loss.  

Although our children are not passing away from disease, and I have never had a miscarriage (because my husband and I cannot have children naturally), I have experienced the pain of losing a child I loved 14 times. 

And I grieve with each of you who has lost a child from death, whether in the womb or out of the womb. No matter the age of the child you lost, no matter the length of the time you were that child’s parent, I join you in your grief. 

I know this grief all too well. Although I am a person of deep joy, joy that springs from the goodness of God in my life, I am well acquainted with the sorrow of losing children.  

And today I faced the long goodbye. . . again. 

Today I packed a suitcase filled with lovingly folded clothes that belong to a little boy I love.  Today I wept, and even raged a little bit, against the lack of control I have in the lives of my children.  Today I felt angry that Scott and I face this loss in isolation, in a vacuum of silence—silence from our friends, silence from our church, silence from our families.  

You are never alone

Today I faced again the fact that if I share my pain, I will face a barrage of foolish responses from people who do not understand the heart of a foster mommy.  

And at the same moment that I feel very alone and even misunderstood, I know I am not alone. I understand that all around the country, men and women are experiencing the same pain that I am feeling. 

Other foster families say goodbye each day. Other parents wonder if they will ever see that child’s face again. These people understand what is deep in my heart—a desire to see biological families restored, and a passion to see children protected from more heartache. 

Those who have poured into children with no guarantee of a return on the investment only hope that there will be good fruit in an unseen future. 

I am speaking to those people right now—thank you for what you do. Thank you for suffering.

If you feel alone, remember you are not.

God is compassionate

Biological moms and dads suffer, too. We must acknowledge, we are not the only parents to suffer over this child. 

Behind each child there is a biological family, a generational line filled with grandparents, uncles, aunts and even siblings and cousins, who are invested in this child. 

Although poor choices may have led to separation in the family, God’s heart is filled with compassion for even the most broken individual, and because of that I recognize that the loss of an addicted mother or an abusive father is still traumatic and painful. 

I acknowledge you, and I choose to mourn with you in your loss.  

God draws near and delivers

To every parent who has experienced the loss of a child, I stand with you today because God is standing with you today. 

Psalm 34:17–19 says: “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (ESV). 

The God of the Bible is a God who cares deeply about your suffering. He understands the pain of loss better than anyone, and he does not downplay what you have experienced with platitudes or judgement.  

He draws near. He saves and delivers. This is the heart of God, and the reason why I can stand here today with tears in my eyes, knowing that tomorrow, when I say the long goodbye to my child, God stands with me and holds me close. 

It is the reason I know that when they call me again with another little one who needs my love, I will be ready to say the long goodbye. . .again.

Live perfectly imperfect

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Harmony Klingenmeyer

Harmony Klingenmeyer is wife to Scott and the adoptive mother of three sons. Over the past five years she and her husband have parented sixteen children out of the foster care system in Douglas County, Oregon. She authored the book Hear Their Voices: A Portrait of An American Foster Family as a wake-up call to the needs of foster children in American communities. Harmony holds her Masters Degree in Education and her pastoral license through Grace, International. She is the Director of the Teaching Team at Garden Valley Church in Roseburg, Oregon. Harmony is well known in her community for strong biblical teaching and her gift of encouragement.

Read more about Harmony

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