Am I An Awful Person For Thinking The Thoughts I Think?

We’ve said it a million times on this blog: foster care and adoption are hard roads to travel. The emotional toll it takes on you is insurmountable. But what happens when your mind and heart betray you and you think thoughts you would never share openly?

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Tears were building in his eyes as he fought hard to hold back his emotion. He clinched his lips tightly and squinted. But like the bursting of a dam wall, they finally spilled over. He could no longer hold back. Convulsing and coughing, he let go and allowed everything that was pinned inside of him to flow freely.

All I could do was place my hand on his shoulder and lower my head, saying nothing, as we stood in the conference center hallway. Around us, hundreds of foster and adoptive parents scurried to their next breakout session, laughing, talking, even reminiscing as they passed.

“I feel like the worst person on earth for thinking some of the thoughts I think!” he said, almost in a whisper. “Do you think that’s true?” I nodded and half smiled. “Absolutely not,” I replied. “I understand exactly what you’re going through.” For the next 25 minutes he shared how difficult the foster, and now adoptive journey had been for him and his wife. Their dream of becoming parents, bringing children into their home, and raising a family, were dashed once their daughter arrived. She suffered from severe reactive attachment disorder and had recently been diagnosed with alcohol-related-nuerodevelopmental-disorder (ARND).

It seemed that her life goal was to push every single boundary he and his wife tried to establish. If everyone else in the home was happy, she wrecked it and ensured that everyone was miserable. He wanted so badly to love her unconditionally, but she was stiff-arming him to the point of an emotional breakdown. “Sometimes I just wish she would go away and never return. I have visions of a case worker showing up, even though she’s adopted, and saying they’ve found a different home for her. Then they take her and I don’t feel sad. I feel like an evil person for thinking that!”

As I listened, I replayed all of the moments on our foster care and adoption journey where I had similar thoughts. I understood where he was and what he was going through because I had crawled through that trench at one time or another. Perhaps you understand this too. Perhaps you’ve had, or are having, those thoughts that you wouldn’t share openly with a soul because they are so dark, and so unbelievable.

Are you and I awful people for thinking thoughts like this? Are we evil, or undeserving of the adoptive or foster care experience because of this?

No! And here’s why…

You’re human.

You have flesh wrapped around your bones, and blood coursing through your veins. You’re a human being. You’re going to think thoughts like this. Your mind is the greatest computer in the world but it’s also one of the greatest betrayers in the world. Do you know what being human means?

It means you’re imperfect! That’s right, you and I make mistakes because we are human beings. We live in a fallen world, filled with darkness, and the adoptive and foster care journey is no exception. When we sign up to care for children we’re given a week or 2 (maybe) of peace, and then we’re airdropped right in the middle of heavy combat. It’s not a question of ‘if we make mistakes,’ it’s a question of ‘when we make mistakes.’

Plus, we’re exhausted. I don’t know about you, but exhaustion pushes me to think, and sometimes do, irrational stuff. When my kid is completely out of control, screaming cuss words at me, breaking household items, and I’m tired of it? Yes, I’m going to think thoughts that are dark. When I continually put myself out there, and try to love that child who pushes me away constantly? I’m going to struggle with emotional breakdown.

But there’s an answer to our struggle…

You’re not alone.

Know why I say that? Because it’s true, for one. But also because, we’ve found hope. Personally, we believe the only answer for the difficulties of this journey is Jesus. We could go on and on about this, but I’ll simply leave it at that. We also have hope because we’ve met so many others who are struggling with the same stuff. Their heart says one thing but their mind says something different. It’s classic mind-betrayal. We’ve been able to hurt together, cry together, and then hope together.

Every week we receive hundreds of messages on our Facebook Page from wounded foster and adoptive parents. They share their deepest hurts, struggles, fears, even dark thoughts they think. In nearly everyone of our responses we tell them, “You’re not alone. We understand.”

Camaraderie is one of the greatest gifts God blessed human beings with. We were never meant to walk this road, or this journey, alone. There is hope for you in the number of people who get where you’re coming from. Who’ve thought the dark thoughts you’ve thought.

So you and I have hope…. we’re not alone… we have each other. One of the most important things we can do when our children have pushed us to the brink of total meltdown, is step away for a little bit. We must find rest. We wrote an entire eBook on how to do this. It’s a free download for you. No, you’re not an awful person for thinking the thoughts you’ve thought. I can say that confidently. You’re human. You’re imperfect. And you do have a loving heart worthy of caring for children in need.

Question: Have you found yourself in a dark place, thinking thoughts that you never thought you would have thought? Share your story with us in the comment section below. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Jennifer Whittemore

    This was very timely of you to post this article. I adopted my first daughter in 2010, my second in 2012, my third in 2013 and I thought I was done. I was asked to take in a 13 year old last year even though we were no longer licensed. She had been through a very rough time including the suicide of her 15 year old brother about 2 years ago, and 6 weeks after him her bio mother committed suicide. She thought she was in her adoptive home, but that placement failed two home studies and she had to be moved to us, complete strangers. We knew she struggled with some depression, but she asked us to adopt her and since we went into it knowing that was her caseplan, we gladly agreed. She seemed to be doing okay and sometimes seemed happy. A few weeks ago we discovered she was “cutting”. Then early last week I found a suicide note with details and a plan. I was terrified. We immediately got an appointment with her psychiatrist and therapist and it was recommended we hospitalize her. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life. Now she is in the hospital and we are waiting to see what next steps are. I totally rely on God and pray, pray, pray. She is a sweet child of his, and I pray she accepts the help offered to her. It is so hard with these children, because even though they were in unsafe homes, that is still what they want. She wants to go back to her grandparents (she was removed from), and the other foster home (that failed two homestudies). All I can do is put it in God’s hands and pray for her so very much.

    • Hey Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing your story honestly with us. Wow, we understand what you’re going through. Sometimes you just want to quit and then you have those moments where you wonder if you’re a good person or a good parent. But you are. We all are. We’re just human. Thanks again for sharing. Hang in there. We’re cheering for you.

    • thandeka

      such a difficulty to be facing. May I just encourage you, I myself was a cutter. I was oversensitive, and felt unloved, unwanted, which was completely in my head. Then I went through some abusive stuff, and so as a teen, I began to cut, and thought of killing myself constantly. I went through a phase where I too was so depressed. I started anidepressants, have had church based ministry and pastoral care that has helped me deal with the pain. I’ve now grown out of cutting as a coping mechanism. Instead I talk, or journal, and Jesus has brought peace. I’m settled in who I am, and the need to hate myself so much is defeated. I’ve gone on to become a mother to three children who I absolutely adore!! In God there is hope

      • Jennifer Whittemore

        Thank you for sharing this with me. It gives me hope and I know her story is not over, it is just beginning.

  • Heidi

    We have two little boys we adopted from birth. Our oldest son has lower functioning autism and microcephaly, our youngest has FASD. Believe it or not our son with FASD is a trillion times harder to raise. He is violent and disruptive. There are time I have these thoughts. But then I can’t imagine my life without his sweet smile and brilliant brain. It does cause guilt when these thoughts intrude. He stabbed me with a pencil recently and I had a similar thought but it was more of what if we never got the call for him. Then guilt sets in and I really do truly love him and want him. He is doing well right now with a lot of therapeutic parenting, psychiatry, and meds. Those thoughts I think are just hard wired into is. It is not normal for your body to be hit, pinched, and stabbed, without it telling you this isn’t right. Thank you for your blog. We are Jewish but I have found inspiration here, through your experience.

  • Sara Schaefer Brighton

    I.am.tired. I am tired of only find out medical records 2 years after the fact. I am tired of a school system who we have tried to educate over and over only to be met with smoke blowing and a couple of “do gooders” that have only fed the fire but almost reversed 2yrs of what HAD been accomplished. The Jeckyll and Hyde child that has surfaced over this time since we adopted. I feel like we are getting no where fast and I’m tired of ALWAYS being on guard. There are days I have to fight myself to love my child. There are days I look at her and feel pity others I feel resentment. Lately, it seems more often than not. It’s hard NOT to hate yourself over how you feel. I’m glad I’m not alone. THANK YOU.

    • Lindsey

      You are definitely not alone, Sara. I will be praying for you and your family.

    • ANDREA Williams

      I feel exactly the same way. I am so glad I am not alone, I have felt like a horrible person. Loving my son is so hard.

  • Nicole Stone

    Our boys, brothers, were placed with us three years ago. We are in the final (supposed) stages of adoption. As time has gone on our oldest (8) has grown, matured, developed and is on track someday to reach the level of his peers. His brother (7), on the other hand, has made very little progress. He was recently diagnosed as Borderline Intellectual with ADHD and Sensory Processing issues. I also have a biological 18-month old. Our middle child exhausts me. He is way more work than my toddler, which is ironic considering that a lot of his mannerisms are much like a toddler. I find myself feeling major resentment and anger towards him for his behavior (breaking things, going pee in inappropriate places throughout the house, lying and stealing, fidgeting with EVERYTHING, etc.) and oftentimes just wish he wasn’t here. I HATE feeling this way and I truly wish I didn’t. I know that self-care is a big part of helping with these type of feelings, but it’s hard to look forward when you don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been encouraged by other foster parents who sometimes feel the same way; I know I’m not alone. Support from my husband and friends has been paramount in getting through this.

  • Detirijose Lord

    I’m right here now with one of mine. With 4 cherubs, I feel like I’m always here.

  • Kelsey Grace Ahern

    This is the hardest road I have ever traveled, and we are about to do it again. My husband and i have two boys who we adopted. They were 6 and 9 when they came home, and are now 9 and 12. Our 12 year old is slightly delayed cognitively, and has a tendency to lie and put blame where it doesn’t belong. But for the most part, he is a pretty typical 12 year old. Our 9 year old is a constant struggle. He was born addicted to cocaine. He struggles slightly cognitively, but the behavioral disabilities are the absolute hardest. He has “unspecified mood disorder” which will likely turn in to a bi-polar diagnosis when he is older. He has adhd that cannot be medicated, because stimulants interfere with the mood disorder. He has Opposition Defiance Disorder which is not something that can be treated with medication. I am a special education teacher, and my husband comes from a family full of mental health professionals. I work with high schoolers every day that come from bad places- and are headed down a rough path. But I love my job, and I think I’m pretty damn good at it. So I thought… yeah, this isn’t going to be a problem. But let me just tell you. When I hear the words… “I should have killed you a year ago” and “I hate you, I don’t want you to be my mom anymore” I fall apart inside. My emotions attack. I cry. I feel like I can’t possibly do it anymore. And I’m sorry- but i can’t hear one more time… “you know he didn’t mean in.” I know that! But it doesn’t mean that I am not human, and I don’t feel rubbed raw. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt. It doesn’t mean that I don’t feel like running away- even for a little bit, just to be alone, and to not feel like I am failing.

    With that said- I love my kids. I always go back to that. When the raging stops, when I can see again (because let’s be honest… that fiery rage you get when everything goes to hell makes you blind to reality), I have an infinite amount of love for them. And that is why we can do this again.

    To any adoptive parent out there that feels like they are sinking, has guilt, feels the burden of “what if” or “remember before” or “I should have”, please know you aren’t alone.

    • Oh yes. So much yes. It hurts and we get angry and hurt and angry and hurt. And yet, we do it again. It does help to know we are not alone. And to be reminded it is worth it.