Friends (hi!!) asked me a very thought provoking question earlier - "How do you process all the heartbreak you see" in your job. My answer -
I don't - And therein is the problem. I didn't have time or the luxury to process anything growing up. I had to "do." I talked on the phone with my sister today. Her children start back to school next week. We remembered when we were in school. I was in 3rd or 4th and Sister was in kindergarten or 1st. Mom was gone when we got up. So was Dad. We got ourselves up to an alarm clock, ate breakfast, gathered everything we needed and got ourselves out the door. In middle - high school, we came home, did homework, and went to our jobs. I was babysitting after school from age 12. Had jobs after school thereafter. After work, I fixed supper, did homework and went to bed. On weekends I worked. Or took care of my sister. I was the one who cleaned the house. Made the grocery lists. I was the adult. Simply put, I didn't have time to "feel" - I just "did" For years and years and years I lived "numb" - I didn't feel anything. No spontaneous emotion. I would intellectualize emotion - think about what "normal" people would feel and put the appropriate mask on.
Through counseling I am learning to feel - to take the mask off. I started doing that. Unfortunately (or fortunately??) numb doesn't work anymore. Now I feel overwhelming floods of emotion. The problem now is that I don't know how to process them. I don't know what to DO with them. I keep trying to DO emotions instead of just FEEL them. I don't know how to process them. I turn them inward and blame myself - that is where the SI comes in. That is how I process emotions/heart break right now. Intellectually I know it is not healthy. But it is a lot healthier than the other alternatives I've used through the years.
I've thought about getting out of this line or work. But I feel led to be here. I feel like maybe (and this is where I'm still struggling with God) this is the "good" that can come out of my horrific childhood. I want these children to know that someone will fight for them. I want these parents (be it mom or dad) to not give up. I want them to know that someone is standing by them, encouraging them to do the right thing.
I don't have much time to process each individual case, because there is always another one around the corner. Sad but for me, a saving grace on some days. Rather than sit around upset about losing this case on Friday, I was productive in working on this next case. I just know I do this because I "HAVE" to.
I'm also turning my practice to focus more on the children - in a few months I'm attending training to be a 'Parent-coordinator' which will allow me to be appointed in high-tension cases to represent the children.
When the going gets really tough, I try to remember the good cases - walking a father through the process of filing an emergency motion to rescue his two children from their abusive and alcoholic mother. Helping a father get his children back from a mother who turned a "trip home to family" into an attempt to kidnap the children and hide across state lines. Fighting hard to keep a sixteen year old daughter from being forced to visit her father who was inappropriate with her.
I guess you could say I 'process' things by reminding myself that all I can do is my best. The rest is up to God. I struggle with that a LOT. But every time I think of giving up and finding another job, I'm reminded of why I do this. I do it to try to give someone a better childhood than I had. To give them an advocate. I may not win - but I'll try. In my life, no one tried. I think if someone - one person - had told me "I believe you and I'll fight for you" - it would have made a HUGE difference - even if they had failed. So that is what I'm doing - believing and fighting.