Had my first grief-counseling appointment. I think it went pretty well.
I told the doctor at the start that I was dubious about the counseling thing; I explained (more or less) that I was worried a counselor would try to squeeze me into their concept of what people like me must be going through, would try to tell me what I was feeling rather than help me work out what I was really feeling. And I noted that I've always relied on friends for counsel and comfort. (I didn't think to say this, but part of the background for that is that I've always assumed that someone for whom I was just a job wouldn't be as comforting or as sympathetic as someone who honestly cares about me. And I have issues with the idea of someone being paid to perform a service that's focused on me and my needs. There's more to that, but it's too complicated to go into right now.)
But my fears, at least so far, were groundless. She listened carefully and well; she asked good questions; she seemed to understand what I was saying, and she was calm and reassuring, and she made the right kinds of sympathetic noises and faces, and brought out just enough of her own personality and her own life to let me think of her as a real person, while not distracting from focus on me. Most of the session was just telling her the story and some relevant bits of the long complicated backstory; I'm not sure whether we accomplished anything, but if nothing else I think it helped me loosen the tight grip I've been keeping on my emotional state. I came home and cried for a while afterward, and talked with Mary Anne on the phone for a bit, and I don't know if I'm any more at peace or if anything feels any more resolved but I think it went pretty well anyway. There wasn't any attempt to diagnose me, or to Fix The Problem; no particular agenda, just exploration, which I think was right for me at the moment. I signed up for another session; we'll see how that goes.
She gave me the name and number of a local person who runs a support group for people who've lost loved ones to homicide; I think I probably won't go to that—the thought of trying to talk about any of this with a group of total strangers, even sympathetic ones, gives me the willies—but it's good to have the option. And certainly it was comforting a few weeks ago, in an odd sort of way, to hear from those of you who've lost people you care about, especially to violence of various sorts—I wouldn't have expected it, but it made me feel like this is something that happens, like my family wasn't alone in this.
She also gave me a three-page photocopied piece about grief and mourning that fit my experience a little better than most of what I've seen on the subject elsewhere. (Though of course it contains plenty of stuff that's not so relevant to me, and the writing is a little clunky in places.) I'm tempted to type the whole thing in, but it appears to be excerpted/adapted from a published book (Good Grief, by Granger E. Westberg) so I'd better not. Weird—the quote on the Amazon page suggests that the book is explicitly religious, but there's no sign of that in the pages the doctor gave me.
Here are a couple of quotes—nothing I haven't seen before, but it's nice to see it all in one place:
The death of someone close to us throws us into a sea of chaotic feelings. Sometimes the waves of emotions seem powerful enough to threaten our very survival; sometimes they feel relentless and never-ending; sometimes they quiet down only to arise months or even years later when we least expect them.
Grief is not something we ever really "get over"—our loss remains a fact for a lifetime. Nothing about grief's journey is simple; there is no tidy progression of stages and its course is long and circular.
. . .
. . . It is important at this point to have people in your life who can validate the magnitude of your loss.
. . .
. . . Because traditional symbols of grief, such as the black veil or clothing or armband, are out of style, many times it is easy for others to forget you are grieving. . . . It is also helpful to recognize that wedding anniversaries, birthdays or the anniversary of the date of death may cause a temporary flood of feelings or may bring back a [. . .] short version of the grief process. This is normal and does not mean that you will be in acute pain forever.
Grief is a natural, human experience we all go through. Each grief journey is unique. Reaching out to others for support and being kind to our own self can help us to survive the pain.
I think that's all for now. Off to read some submissions. Be kind to your own selfs, 'kay?