Written By Cassandra Golondrina
Warning -- This reflection contains sensitive topics which might be triggering for some.
As I went through the readings for today there were many things that stood out to me, but one has been calling to me over, and over, and over again.
That woman in the Gospel (specifically Mark 5: 25-34). This almost side note in the story spoke volumes to me. The blind faith and trust that just a touch of Christ’s robes would heal her form years of torment. This was not just a hope for this woman, this was a risk, because in that time a woman who was bleeding was considered unclean and forbidden to touch sacred things.
What could be more sacred than God made flesh in Jesus Christ? But her trust and her agony, or her agony and trust, merged and she took a leap of faith. I say it this way because we don’t know what her most pressing thought was or if it alternated between the two although in the end all that matters is that our loving Saviour made her whole and right with herself and with God.
He gave her peace and demonstrated his grace.
This has been quite an emotional week for me, many ups and downs. A lot comes from this tale and where it takes me in my own life, past, present, and future. I have been blessed with a lot of faith and found my own grace from God on may occasions. These moments solidified my faith and I like to think not many have shaken it. This week, however, I have felt a sense of helplessness that almost feels like it shook my resolve. Although, it did help carry me back to a dark place in my past.
I went into the filing room that I call my memory and pulled down a few boxes. They were buried way at the back as I am doing pretty alright in life, so I often go back there to look. I wiped of the dust, it’s been a while, and opened it up. I shut the lid really quick as I was not quite prepared for the flood of emotions that came out. I felt a need to look, but I didn’t want to.
And then came the subtle, and not so subtle, messages, that I needed to look because there was a message to share. No matter how I tried to twist it something keeps telling me that I need to speak up. Some may not know; some may have their own doubts; or some may have lost hope.
I heard my Creator so, I dug deeper, here is what I found:
To set the stage, I have raised 5 wonderful and amazing individuals, mostly on my own. I say mostly, as there has been some assistance along the way, but I am the only constant (but not always reliable) person in their lives. I come from a loving family, my parents separated when I was young, and we had our own level of dysfunction. I am a sexual assault survivor, a recovering addict, and I have not always managed my mental wellness. Yet I am still here to tell the tale.
My children, as glorious as they are, all came with and encountered their own challenges. The responsibility for those little lives is tremendous and WHAT, No Instructions? I have been parenting since I was 18 (I am currently 47) so they also came along on my roller coaster life, which I know has impacted them, thankfully not all negatively. And then there is the influence/impact of people and life along the way. This all plays out in our physical and mental health as well as our behaviour.
When this all spirals together, it is chaos.
Yelling, screaming, fighting.
Rules written all over the walls because no one can seem to remember them, at least that’s what they said.
Just me and the kids on welfare, living in Manitoba housing as no one is well enough for me to be leaving the house to go to work. Even if they were, a grade 11 education was not gonna earn enough to pay the bills.
Weekly calls to mobile crisis and from the school.
Doctors and counselling appointments for me and them.
No car, so we are tackling all of this on public transportation and limited income.
I tried to access resources for my family and, while I was unwell, it was always seen as I was reliving my own trauma and seeing it in my children.
No one would hear me.
My trauma triggering their behavior or their behaviour triggering my trauma.
I don’t know what came first or if it alternated between the two but in the end it all spelt doom.
This brings us to one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make in life…
asking for help.
It took every ounce of courage that I had to admit that I was not able to do it on my own. That I was not capable. If things kept going the way they were there was going to be irreparable damage done, and me likely being the doer.
I had to take the biggest leap of faith in others and trust them with some of my most precious gifts.
Two of my children were really struggling with all that was going on, their behavior was out of control and understandably so. They were hurt and broken and been through so much in their young lives, they all had. I was so afraid that I was going to lose my patience and hurt one of these beautiful boys, and I love them so incredibly that I could not bear the thought of that. I spoke to my Child and Family Services (CFS) worker that had been working with me for some time. I asked her if someone could care for my son’s and help with their healing, while I worked on my own.
I felt so weak, like such a failure. Then there was the guilt, so much of it in so many ways, probably the heaviest baggage that I still carry with me to today.
It took every ounce if strength I had to allow someone do what I could not.
Bring on the fear.
My experience being in CFS care was less then stellar.
I just needed to reach out…and believe.
I took two weeks to get them ready. I had to make sure that they would have everything they needed, and that they knew I loved them, and I would be thinking of them while they were away. We got teddy bears to sleep with, I wrote them little notes and put them in their new bags with their new pillows. I asked the church we were involved in for bibles for the boys and to keep us in their prayers.
I wish I had done more to prepare the children who stayed home.
As we said goodbye, I asked my middle child to look out for his little brother, an 8-year-old is a lot of responsibility to put on a 10-year-old. (Add a few more dashes of guilt, then a couple more cause it really hurts). I watched them drive away with the CFS worker I had know for 3 years. I was not allowed to know exactly where they were going just that their first stop, in our four-month plan, was a shelter.
I think I had to wait a week or two before I was able to see them again for a visit, and three weeks in I was informed that I had a new CFS worker.
While during their few months in the shelter there was some great staff who cared for my children, there was a severe case of untreated impetigo that spread form one son to the other. There were some issues with them being able to attend school and apparently playing outside because of the neighbourhood they were in. I even found out way later that they were separated at first, which boke my heart.
We had to be on our second or third CFS worker when foster care was mentioned.
Here comes the danger.
My stint in a foster home, and most definitely with my foster father, was one of those significant traumas I mentioned earlier.
Am I really going to risk it?
It took a lot of convincing, and a ton of faith, but I rolled the dice.
And it could not have turned out better.
Even though there were still some big hurdles to over come, my boys were in the right place to begin their healing. This peace gave me the space I needed to work on becoming whole. As I started to manage my mental heath my voice was beginning to be heard. I was able to start coordinating resources. The foster family was amazing. This was awesome… and guilt producing all at the same time.
My boys would come home for visits and talk about all the neat things they were experiencing. Family outings and organized sports. A calmer home environment, two parents, and they even got a regular allowance. My youngest son begged to go with them.
Should I have given all my children an opportunity for this life?
I am so thankful for the specialized training the foster parents had and that they had excellent respite resources. Definitely surpassed my parenting classes and respite that either fell asleep or sat in the mall texting while my kids played video games in the store. It was just me, a work in progress, with limited family and recreational activities.
What kind of parent was I to bring them back to this life?
The weight of the guilt and shame was brining me to my knees.
But these were my children.
The Creator gave them to me to care for, and I needed to have faith I could.
So, I got up.
It took about a year and a half, and several more CFS workers before my boys came home. I had to go through some dark valleys to find my way to well, or honestly, well enough. If there is anything this tale has taught me, is that the journey to wellness never ends. My boys too, had to do some work and healing. We all will, for quite some time. We also needed to learn how to work as a family unit again.
But we have come thorough and doing pretty alright in life.
I have been working as a civil servant since graduating college in 2013, I got my grade 12 diploma in 2011, and I am a proud homeowner. I have successfully gotten my children to adulthood. They have all graduated high school, and a few have finished college. I have 4 glorious grandchildren that have the privilege of having well rounded and resilient parents, aunts, and uncles.
We are so blessed.
I am pleased to share that the foster parents continue to be in my son’s lives, they boys both still hold dear the pillows they received from them before coming home. I still struggle to think about their time away, and it is hard sometimes when we all gather, it stirs up lots of emotions. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. I learn so many new things, including the depth of their own faith and the blessings my children bought into their lives.
The love runs deep.
Oh, the grace of God!
Please hear me when I tell you that you are not alone. You are not fighting this battle with just your strength, there is a glorious great power that walks with you, is in you, and provides not only the answers but the way.
We just need to open our hearts and minds and know that we will have all that we need and can get though. This does not mean that we just sit and wait for the good to come, we need to do out part and put in the work. We also need to accept that the answers, or way, may not be what we want or asked for, but we are not always aware of the grand plan.
The way forward may not be as simple as a perfect conversation on a beach, but it could be an opportunity or an open door that may lead to another door or to the right person to provide some guidance.
There is no promise that this is going to be an easy journey, just that we are not alone and that we have/or will have all we need.
Every thing that we gain or overcome along the way just prepares us for what lies ahead.
Thanks be to God.