There are a lot of different reasons that people seek professional help for mental health related issues. For me, I have sat in the chairs of different therapists since I was in the 4th grade. I have always suffered from pretty severe anxiety and my parents always thought a counselor was my best bet.
Anxiety counseling is something I am used to; it’s familiar territory. Seeing new counselors for that is no big deal because it’s the same story over and over. However, seeing a counselor for grief after losing my mother was rocky and new. What I was going through mirrored my time in therapy, and I didn’t want to talk about any of it.
Theoretically, I should have seen counselors for grief in my childhood. I lost a good friend when I was very young and my cousin a few years later. I never got to talk to anyone about both of these deaths and looking back I was a child grieving in silence. At eighteen though, when my mom died, grief counseling made a lot of sense…on paper.
The issue with grief counseling was that I didn’t choose it. I didn’t say I wanted to talk to someone about this. I was told by other people that I wanted to talk to someone about this. It was as if these people thought they could read my mind. I didn’t want to see anyone about it. It was months after she died and I never had time to process things. I was just forced to sit in a chair and tell a new counselor all new feelings that made no sense to me.
My first two grief counselors really got the short end of the stick with me. I didn’t give them anything to work with. I barley talked in those sessions and when I was there, it was because I had forced myself to go each week. Each session began with, “What would you like to talk about this week?” and I sat there and stared.
Everyone else was ready for me to talk to someone but I wasn’t. I just wasn’t ready.
Two years later I was sitting in a different office with a new counselor. I started seeing her for my anxiety and depression as those things were getting worse. Then I just started crying about my mom one day. All of my emotions came out about her that I had been hiding from. I started processing things that I had never let come to the surface before. My counselor said, “I think you are still grieving.” It was hard to believe that. It had been two, going on three years since she died. How could I still be grieving? So a new grief counseling began. This time, I was ready to talk.
These past few months I have been processing things that are hard for me to visit. It’s hard to sit with the fact that my mom is gone every day. There are realities that come with that and they are not easy to face. Despite grief counseling being hard, I have benefited from it so much. I no longer feel like a prisoner in my own mind. I am dealing with things as they come and not pushing them to the back of my mind.
The truth about grief counseling is it’s hard, but it’s worth it. It’s like walking through thick mud sometimes. The progress is slow, but getting to the other side is a sweet victory. There are many things I still need to process when it comes to losing my mom. Now I know I am armed and ready to face those things.