Last week I finished my last meeting with my awesome grief counselor with Hospice of the Valley. As I wrap up things with the estate, our “year of grief counseling” that was offered by hospice (for no charge) came to an end. I gotta say, I’m pretty proud of myself for sticking with the process all the way through. There were many times I thought “I’m fine…I don’t need to keep going” but I did anyway. We always had good conversations. I always shed some tears. I really do feel like it was a safe place to go, once a month or so, and just spend the time reflecting on my parents, our relationship, how things are now, and all of the feelings I have taking care of the house and its contents. My grief counselor, Dee, was the perfect sounding board – she asked me thoughtful questions, shared her thoughts, allowed me to share my story … and just listened. I think it helped that we were pretty similar people too, although her kids are grown and out of the house. She really understood the dynamics of my life since we are in practically the same neighborhood and our kids shared some of the same schools.
As I’ve mentioned before, I never took advantage of grief counseling when my mom died. I did attend a group therapy series, also offered through hospice, but I did that probably way too soon after she died and the emotions were too raw. The group was huge and I didn’t feel like I really got to share my story or heal. Most people go through the death of family members without grief counseling and do just fine. But when you talk to them, many will say they probably should have. Many still live with the pain of their loss. I still do too. Grief is a very personal experience and it pops up in different times and in different ways. And, since we never seem to be dealing with it at the same time or in the same ways as our friends – or even our own family members- it can be a bit isolating too. I sort of struggle with thoughts of knowing if I’m “doing it right” or feeling “like I should”, especially when my mom died. I guess that by going through the entire grief counseling process, I know that I have taken steps to address these feelings. I can feel more confident about how I’m processing my emotions. Obviously, there is not a right way, but I think everyone can agree that it is best to spend some time on grief, or it can manifest itself in other unhealthy ways down the road…. like by packing on 100 extra pounds. And, this is going to sound bad, but 10 years ago when my mom died I had a strong sense of feeling like it just wasn’t “fair”. None (or very very few) of my friends had dealt with losing parents yet and I felt just so sad and cheated that I didn’t have the chance to hang out with my mom anymore – or call her up every day just to talk. Now, unfortunately, many friends of my age-range are dealing with losing parents. It seems a little more like the natural cycle of life – it still sucks – but it is a bit easier to relate to others because many have gone through these emotions, or are about to, or have experienced it with their in-laws. Perhaps some of these feelings are magnified a bit more since I don’t have siblings to share any of this with.
As we closed our final session, Dee gave me a little bag with two rocks inside – and a little piece of paper with the following:
I know I will still be turning up “rocks” in the coming months … and even years. There will still be work to do, but it’s going to be OK.