It took me forty-five minutes to drive there, but I barely noticed. I didn’t have a good grasp of time; my attention was elsewhere. I think even if time marched by playing a tuba it would barely have registered (I probably wasn’t the safest driver on the road). So forty-five minute drive up felt like a blip, and the forty-five minute drive home was a good recovery time so I didn’t look like I’d been crying. Although, I probably always looked like I’d been crying…because usually I had been, or if not fully crying all the time, then on the brink of it.
Something told me to get help. Something inside me said I’d better call for reinforcements ’cause I was working above my pay grade.
Thus I found a counselor who was probably going to be a good match with my personality (I have counselor friends so that helps in weeding through the seemingly boundless choices) who happened to be forty-five minutes away. Worth it, if the counseling helped to assuage the gushing pain from losing my dad. I’d have been willing to drive for hours to make that happen.
When my husband and I were first dating and also in the early years of our married life, if we had a disagreement I would want to address it right away. I’d want to talk it out and work through it. I felt very unsettled until we had come to some conclusion or found a middle ground of compromise — an action plan, if you will.
Need more communication? Set aside a specific time to connect each day so things are kept current.
Not sure about the finances? Decide in advance how much you’ve got to spend that week and stick to it.
How are we going to coordinate schedules to make summer plans work smoothly? Pull out the calendars and mark ’em up with who’s going where and when.
This drove my husband a little batty (I’m putting words in his mouth, but I think he’d agree). It must have felt like constantly making New Year’s resolutions every single day.
He wasn’t always ready to crush a problem the way I was. He might first need to be made aware of the issue. Then if it was deemed to really be a problem, he’d need time to analyze it and consider the different aspects of it. And one possibility was that there was no resolution to be made.
No resolution? No action plan? No CLOSURE???
You’ve got to be kidding me.
This approach caused problems for me in many ways. It required patience — not my strong suit. It required thorough analysis — again, not always my area of expertise. And it required an ability to acknowledge that some things could not be given a clean answer — for sure not my forte at the time.
In this period (which may have lasted longer than I care to admit) I found it challenging to discover my own propensity for being defensive and reactionary. I also have a great imagination, which can be less-than-helpful in conflict situations. The longer something dragged out, the more imaginary issues I infused it with and the more complex I made the problem. But in trying to force the discussion before he’d had time to mull it over, I was bullying my own agenda through. It would actually lead to more conflict, since then we’d have to unravel the additional subject of our different ways of processing problems.
What a headache.
I used to hear people wait to bring things up with their spouses, and I thought it was such a funny way of coming at something. If you wanted to talk about something, you talked about it, the moment it popped into your head, which was usually one nanosecond before you brought it up. What was this waiting business? Why would you need to wait to talk about something if it was important to you, and if you were talking to someone who loved you? It made no sense to me.
It does now.
Waiting to talk to my husband about something is a consideration to his process. It’s appreciative of the way he ticks. It’s not a matter of manipulation, nor is it a form of being subservient. It’s a matter of courtesy. It’s also ends up being better for me, since if I address every little blip that pops into my head, I’ll be addressing things that end up being much smaller in significance, and I’ll waste a lot of mental and emotional energy inconsequential stuff.
When I started going to the counselor, I thought she’d have some solutions for me. I expected her to recommend a few books, maybe a YouTube video I should watch, even some natural supplements I should try. I figured we’d confront the issue of kids, deal with it and be done.
She gave me nothing.
There was nothing she could give me that would deliver what I wanted from her.
I wanted to find a loophole.
I wanted a shortcut.
I wanted to bypass feeling so horrible all the time, feeling like I couldn’t gather a thought, like I was walking around with my head in a sound-proof helmet with a tinted visor.
There was no way she’d be able to offer me anything to help with any of that.
What I needed was to settle down into the grief and quit trying to leapfrog over it. I wouldn’t be able to speed it up, and more time would have to go by before I could have any hope of feeling those things less frequently.
Did I mention that I started seeing the counselor in September? My dad passed away at the end of June.
I guess you could say I was trying to get a jump on that grieving thing, really trying grab hold of it and get it all out, rip off that Band-Aid.
It’s a wonder the counselor didn’t toss me out of her office.
There’s no short cut in grief. You can’t expect to face the thing head-on and somehow beat it into submission. You can be present in it, mindful of your needs and respectful of your own process. There’s no closure that I can see, no end point. My dad keeps on being gone and missing out on stuff he ought to be here for. That’s not going to change. He will forever miss out from this point forward, and we will forever miss out. There’s no amount of processing or action-planning that can alleviate that.
Yes, maybe counseling will end up helping. Maybe if I can be clear about what I hope to gain from it (besides catapulting me over the sorrow) I’ll benefit from it. I’d better if it takes me forty-five minutes just to get there.
What’s your view of the benefits of counseling? Have you had times when you felt it would be helpful? How do you “get the most” out of counseling — or is that the wrong mindset?
Remember, this Medical Mondays series is open to anyone who might want to share. Just contact me if you’re interested in guest posting, and we’ll talk details. Tell your friends!