I decided going to see a grief counsellor would be a positive experience. When I lost my son William, I went to a psychologist on a regular basis for the first couple of months. Although there have been many losses over the years, William’s loss was my first major loss and I had no idea if what I was feeling was normal or if I was losing my mind. That bloody anxious disposition of mine and never ending quest for perfection wouldn’t allow me to just feel my way through the mixture of feelings I was experiencing. I needed someone to guide me through and to validate that it was okay to feel how I was feeling.
Losing my mum has been much different in terms of grieving. I think I started grieving for her whilst she was here, Dr Google tells me its called anticipatory grief and it makes perfect sense. I made sure that I enjoyed and savoured my time with her and made every minute count. I also took lot of photos and had lots of lovely conversations but inevitably the time came and the angels came and whispered in her ear telling her it was time to go. I can’t find the correct words to convey the range emotions I experienced. Firstly I was absolutely and utterly heartbroken, I felt physical pain in my chest and throat; I cried buckets of tears and have never felt so lost in my life. I felt so sad for my mum too. She did everything to put herself in a position to live a long life but it wasn’t to be. I know she was so upset that her grandchildren, who meant the world the absolute world to her, would forget her, especially the younger children. My brother and I had vowed that we wouldn’t let that happen. Another emotion I felt was relief, relief that my mum no longer had to fight this insidious disease. Believe me I would have done anything possible and more, to be able to keep my mum for longer, but not after cancer had got to her.
So I was feeling a whole range of emotions and of course the world doesn’t stop turning just for me (who would have thought??) and I still have my four darlings to look after and I’m always worrying about how much I am fucking them up, without them having to watch me grieve my mum unassisted (but definitely medicated). I trotted off to my local GP who referred me to the clinic’s Grief Counsellor . My Dr believed it would be a good idea to see her seeing as I was taking medication and she has a working knowledge of psychiatric medications. It took a good 5-6 weeks to obtain an appointment but I thought she must just be very busy and very good at what she does.
The first appointment was quite pleasant. It was more of a conversation than anything and the focus was on practical support and how to get through each day caring for my 4 darlings, my unwell husband, cooking, cleaning etc. I left the office feeling glad I had seen her. I had taken the babies with me (Darling 3 & Darling 4) and they were both very well behaved but an hour is a long time so they had started to get bored and grizzly. The counsellor suggested I try to have somebody mind them so my next session could be ‘me’ time.
The next fortnight came around and I had organised for one of my aunties to come and look after the babies and off I went. This week my counsellor looked different. I thought I caught a glint of crazy in her eye and she appeared agitated. She asked me how I was and the normal pleasantries were exchanged and then she launched into a tirade about the role anger plays in grief. She also gave me several scenarios in which I could be angry with my mother and although irrational (and some would say slightly disturbing) this would be completely normal given the situation. I realised I was going to be doing a lot of listening and not a lot of talking and my mind started to wander, hope the girls are okay, hope it doesn’t rain before I get the washing off the line and all the usual mum thoughts. I brought myself back to the present and interrupted to tell her I wasn’t angry, I hadn’t got there yet. I was on the clock and probably only had 45 minutes left of child free time so I wanted to get as much out as I could. I then went on to explain I was just at the hopelessly sad stage and sensing she was going to let me speak off I went, I was on a roll, I told her how honoured I felt to be present at my mum’s death and how heartbreakingly beautiful it was and as I paused for a breath I look over at her and she is crying. Crying!!. Not a sympathetic tear in her eye but full sobs with shoulders heaving and tears streaming down her cheeks smudging her mascara. What??!!. Why are you crying?. I ask her in shock and her response was to tell me that her mum had died two weeks before mine. So obviously talking to me was triggering her own feelings of grief and sadness (and anger too). I immediately began apologising for upsetting her and telling her how sorry I was for her loss, she looked very embarrassed and I really felt for her. She obviously didn’t want to share her personal life and most private thoughts with a client, surely there are rules around that?. Regardless of any rules, I was very wrong to think she didn’t want to share with me. Share with me she did. She was bursting to share her story and she told it to me in fine detail. I cried with her, not a glistening in the eye kind of cry, but a sad sobbing cry as I related to her heartbreak at having to say goodbye to her mum. I had voiced earlier in the session (when I could get a word in) that I was scared that rather than feeling better with time because as they say time heals all wounds, that I would actually feel worse because I would miss my mum more as time went on and it would be longer since I had seen her. She confirmed my fears and told me it would get worse as time goes on and it wouldn’t just be the first Christmas, Birthday etc that would suck, the second, third and fourth would suck too. Thanks for that. At this point I was getting by taking it one day at a time and couldn’t bear to think much further in advance. So I’m glad she cleared that up for me!! I suggested to her that maybe she should have some time off work but she had just retuned from bereavement leave. I suggested to her that maybe she shouldn’t take on clients such as myself who would undoubtedly and evidently trigger her own grief. I also said I wouldn’t be at all offended if she didn’t want see me anymore. She explained that she been worried about the conflict of interest and had discussed it with her Doctor and he thought it would be good for her to see me so we could share our feelings and relate to each other. Hang on a minute, isn’t that what you do with your friends?. And if you do this with your friends you don’t need to organise a babysitter for your kids or pay by the hour?. Although I did think it was very strange that she was confiding in me in such a manner, I had so much going through my head and so much empathy and sympathy for her that it didn’t quite occur to me to think of how wrong and inappropriate this exchange was. Her next client had cancelled so she had an hour in between myself and her next client and she continued to talk past my session time.
After another 40 minutes of dialogue which included me encouraging her to write in a journal and to download meditation sessions on her phone (you can download Glenn Harrold via iTunes on the right hand side of the page, he has an extensive range of meditations that I use to get myself off to sleep each night) I ended the session. I had to pick my older two kids up from school and relieve my aunty. She probably thought I had ran away and wasn’t coming home by this time!!
Upon leaving I felt so weird and felt like laughing which is absurd because the situation certainly wasn’t funny. I think I was in shock that my session had gone for an hour and forty minutes and I had spent the majority of the time comforting and counselling the counsellor. Surely not just in my muddled mind this was an effed up situation?. I rang a friend and told her what had happened, this friend of mine is a lovely girl but she is also a no nonsense type of person and she told me in no uncertain terms that my session was effed up and very unprofessional and she wouldn’t be paying for it . Over the next couple of weeks I pondered the situation and I actually expected the counsellor to ring and apologise for her lapse in professionalism and judgement and really, who could blame her?, but when this didn’t occur I concluded that it would not be beneficial for me to return. I planned to message her and let her know but I didn’t want to upset her so I waited for her confirmation text to come through 24 hours before my next session. When it did arrive I responded stating that I was feeling really well, had been writing in my journal and meditating a lot and didn’t feel that I needed to come back at the moment but I would revisit at a later date . She replied saying she hoped she hadn’t upset me in our last session and she has pulled herself together and I don’t need to worry about her (wtf??). I assured I would be fine for the time being and would let her know if I felt as though I needed to make another appointment. I received a text message from her at 10.45pm one Saturday night a couple of weeks later telling me that she wouldn’t be able to see me after a particular date because the clinic had not received funding to keep her on. She then gave me the exact date in which she would be unemployed. I’m now starting to think I have a stage 5 clinger on my hands. It started off completely professional (although one would be forgiven for assuming that it was a drunk text given the time of night it was sent) but adding the part about being unemployed?, how could that knowledge be beneficial to me?, it was none of my business. I didn’t reply to that text and I have discarded her business card and deleted her number from my phone. Luckily I have never heard from her again. I’m sure the world is filled with lovely, empathetic and most importantly, professional grief counsellors, I just haven’t found the right one yet.
.*Some details have been changed to protect the identity of this person. It is not my intention to shame her of make her look bad. I really do genuinely feel sorry for her. That is why there are no mention of names, dates or venues etc.
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