A Coping With Grief Post
As I was preparing to leave town for another trek across Europe, I got my usual frenzy of appointments on the calendar for my last week. One of those was with my grief counselor. A friend of mine was surprised and asked why I was still seeing her. In her mind, since I was doing so great, I shouldn’t need to. I laughed. One of the reasons I’m doing so great is I continue to see her once or twice a year. You know, kind of like seeing the dentist? Both preventive and an excellent way to nip potential issues in the bud.
Those of you that are regular readers know I’m a huge proponent of the value of grief counseling. As we peel back the layers of that onion, we often uncover new levels of our grief, old traumas long buried, and all sorts of long-forgotten things. My grief counselor helps me work through those as they make their way to the surface. And my cluster bomb of losses ensured some of that emotional shrapnel was buried deep.
How It Works
Most insurance in the US pays for it. Most EAPs offer it. Some clergy will provide it, although their training is unregulated and inconsistent. Go with what feels right for you.
You’ll schedule an appointment. In your first visit, set the expectations of how the process is going to work. Don’t fool yourself into thinking one or two sessions will miraculously make the pain go away. The counseling helps to give us the coping mechanisms to deal with it, but it’s not a magic eraser.
If you aren’t connecting with your counselor, find a new one. You’re not under contract just because you saw them once or twice. Shop around. Ask other widows who they see and why they like them. If driving is an issue, look for a GC close to you. Don’t give up. (For example, due to my travel schedule, it was important to me to find a counselor that would work with me via skype or telephone.)
I’ve heard some widows say they can’t work with a counselor who isn’t also a card-carrying member of The W Club. I get that need for someone to truly understand your pain. But I view it a bit differently. I don’t need to have my arm chopped off to know it’s going to hurt. My very first counselor, through hospice, explained to me that while he hadn’t lost anyone to death, he’d experienced losses that broke him. That while he couldn’t understand MY pain, he did know pain. He wasn’t comparing our pain, so stop freaking out. He was doing his best to relate. That was enough for me.
And counselors have gone through years of training and study to help the bereaved. I love that my counselor listens to my feedback and has used it to help other Widows. She even reads my blog. (Hi, Kelli!) Can you see why I still see her? She takes my grief recovery and healing as seriously as I do.
Why I Still Go
My philosophy on why I have a grief counselor is the same as when I had a personal trainer, a sales coach, and any other mentor I’ve hired to help me be my best self. Sometimes we need that outside “coach” to help us along the way. I love her. She reminds me I’m doing a great job. She also calls me out on my bullshit, something only a small group of individuals has had the cajones to do since D died.
You’re Not Angry Anymore
In this last visit, my GC said something that caught me off guard. We were talking about how far I’d come, and when I told her I felt that I’d transitioned from healing to healed, she basically agreed and said that she didn’t hear any anger from me anymore.
Wait. What? Anger? I thought I’d gotten through the Widow Rage in Year One. Nope. She gave me examples as recent as six months ago, where I was still angry. A lot has happened since then, but forgiveness is a powerful thing. I could only laugh as I realized she was right. Her file notes provide an aerial view of the long and windy road that is grief recovery.
Sometimes, even when we think we’re all healed up, we’re really not quite there. And that’s why I still keep my GC on speed dial. I know life will continue to throw me grief curveballs as I hit new and unexpected milestones. Whatever you decide to do for yourself, please remember it’s never too late to get help if you want it.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce.