Counseling report

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?

5 Responses to “Counseling report”

  1. Heather Shaw

    Thank you for posting those quotes from the book. I sometimes feel frustrated or ashamed that I still have moments of extreme grief over losing my father over 6 years ago, and it’s good to hear that that’s natural, that I’m not the only one, that I’m not unnaturally “holding on” to my sadness.

  2. Twig

    I’ve always wondered about “anniversary reactions.” I’ve experienced them – they can be very powerful. What I wonder is what part of my brain tracks which sets of data to bring on an intese emotional reaction when often I wasn’t conciously aware of it being the anniversary of a death?

    Just random musing. ::hugs::

  3. Kenny

    Hey dude, I’m really happy to hear it was a positive experience. It sounds exactly like the same kind of thing I have with my therapist. I wasn’t so sure about it going in, but she let’s me do most of the talking and asks me questions mostly. Sometimes she’ll relate experiences she has seen in the past that are similiar in nature to what I’m experiencing.

    When my brother killed himself, the only crying I usually did was when I saw my mom crying. I was so sad for her because I knew how devistated she was inside. Loosening the grip on my emotions was something she helped me do, if only through sitting there and listening to me describe the situation. I’ve found it really helpful and I’m really happy that you’ve signed up for another session.

    After about a year, she started offering me a group counselling session. I’m really apprehensive about it, not sure if it’s for me, but I decided to give it at least one shot. I’ll let you know how it goes for me if you are interested.

  4. bethlet

    I’m so glad things have gone OK so far with the counseling. For what it’s worth, you may want to give the counselor feedback about what has worked for you so far. The quotes from the book are really good, thanks for posting them. I also continue to have “anniversary” grieving and it is nice to have that validated.

  5. Amy

    Hi there,

    I am Amy, I do not know how I found myself here. I did not search for the topic. I think something lead me to this page. My mother’s soul.
    I lost my sun shine 11 months ago. I lost my back bone..I lost the beauty in life, I lost the meaning of life, I lost it all the day my Aisha left. I was not there when she left.
    Since then, I feel a big part of my died. My heart aches all the time. I look for her in every mothers’ eyes. I look and I wait until I realize it is not her….Sometimes old women look and stair at me as if they are sending me a message from her. I ask myself everyday where is she, where did she go? A mother is not suppoed to leave her children, right! Why did she leave? I miss her and I call her mobile and pretend that she answered. I sms her for holy ocassions. I am still not convinced she is gone. I miss her and am angry that she left me…I love her and she cannot leave me like this. I look at her picture and ask her all the time why did she leave. All I know is that I am not happy and I will never be happy. How can I not say the word mother again? Does not make sense…….why it was my mother who had to leave, when there are very old old mothers are still alive…I ask God for forgivness if what I say sometimes upsets him but what do people expect from one lost his soul….As I said, I do not know how I came here, but I felt my mother’s presence a few hours ago and I felt her, but of course could not touch her. I just looked at the direction where she might be..I felt her visiting me and I prayed for her and my father ( both dead)All that I can say to her is the ” I love you mom, I always have and always will…Do not worry about me I am fine and pls do not be mad because I am sad or still crying becuase I cannot help it, I miss you, I miss talking to you, I miss hearing your prayers…I miss having a mom…I miss you my Aisha.

    Thanks for charing your thoughts here.



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