Just Keep Asking
The pandemic has taught us all about isolation. For foster and adoptive families and parents of children with special needs, this feeling of distance from others may not have been something new.
Lack of support and isolation has been the leading reason foster families do not renew licenses. Fear of being alone is one of the main concerns that keep people from opening their homes.
How do we fight for friendships and against isolation when our lives look nothing like what they once did?
Friendships will change, but this is very much a two-way street. I have two tiny pieces of advice for each side that can help us move forward with deeper and more meaningful relationships.
For those who no longer fit the American dream of 2.4 children, we may be an obnoxiously large, ragtag bunch of trauma, or maybe a special needs family that comes with a hospital room in tow. How people approach us may evolve, and we should expect as much. My tip for maintaining relationships is:
Your friends are trying to figure this out and may sometimes feel like they aren't there for you enough. Please do not assume that they are distancing from you on purpose.
You can also look for people doing the same life as you. Foster parents need other foster parents, and special needs families need other special needs families. Find a support group. It helps to be around people who get it.
We may have assumed that friends would be our support system, but did we ask? Sad but true, not all relationships will be able to endure such life-changing circumstances. Some friendships exist for seasons; we can be thankful for our time and accept that they may look different as life moves forward.
Now, for people that may be grappling with friends who are experiencing radical life changes, my suggestion for you:
Just keep asking.
Keep asking how they are. Anticipate needs when they are too exhausted to express them.
Go to them. Your friend's house is prepared for chaos, and they can manage better there.
Keep inviting them. Yes, I know they have declined the last ten times. Please, please, please, keep asking. Being left out when you are already isolated can be crushing, and not being able to go is better than never being asked.
Ultimately, friendship is a two-way street. Clear communication and grace after grace will keep a solid friendship in good working order. We are created to do life together! If you are lonely, it is entirely valid. But may I also gently suggest that you reach out to people and connect, rather than waiting around the house for the phone to ring.