Posted by Karen Evans
Not long ago, I received a voicemail from one of my former bereavement clients. She thanked me profusely for all of my help and indicated that her life was decidedly better, and her outlook much more positive than it had been before we had started meeting. She, like many others, expressed during our first session sentiments such as, “I don’t know if I can make it through this;” “I’ve never gone through a loss like this before;” "I don’t even know what to expect.”
Her relationship with her mother had been both close and contentious. She was an only child who had lived most of her life in the same home as her mother, and had already lost her grandmother. After losing her mother she found herself in what seemed the darkest place in her life. She didn’t like her job, wasn’t paid enough, wasn’t where she wanted to be in terms of relationships, and didn’t want to be in Chicago, among other things. On top of everything else, her mother was GONE.
This is where I start with most of my clients. They report that this is the “hardest thing” they have ever done. As a bereavement counselor I not only give them tools and help them navigate their grief, I also help them visualize and work toward a “new normal.” As we work through problems with sleep, eating, coping, dealing with milestone days (birthdays, anniversaries, special days and holidays), etc., they are able to recall and focus on the wonderful memories that made their relationship special. They often also come to a place of resolution regarding things that were not so positive about their relationship. They are able to grieve and remember the whole person.
I often tell people who inquire about what I do that I find doing this work is like walking through a dry, hot desert and happening upon a strip of rich, dark, fertile soil. I find that people are most ready, sometimes desperate, to do the emotional work they must do to get through the pain when they have had a significant loss. It is a time when perspectives and priorities change. I have the honor of helping them plant seed, and of watching thick, lush grass grow. I watch them come to a place where they can say, as Albert Camus writes, “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer.”
I often marvel at their gratitude. After all, they do all the work. I just join them on the journey!
Learn about free grief support services with our experienced, licensed counselors at journeycare.org/grief-support.