A Therapist Who Cares is a Therapist Who Grieves
Many times when I write, the urge to do so strikes in the wee hours of the morning. Usually sometime between 3AM and 5AM when the sky is still midnight black and the only sounds that lurk are the crickets and cicadas in the distance.
I’m traditionally an excellent sleeper-sleeping through the night uninterrupted and with ease.
I’ve learned the importance of sleep as a part of self-care and don’t short change myself any hours. Especially because we never know when insomnia can hit. So we need to get our sleep when we can! But this particular night (or morning) I found myself subtly alert.
After a few more moments, I was fully awake. I grabbed my phone to help bore myself back to sleep and noticed the 50%-off-sale-merchandise at one of my favorite stores (a girl does love to shop!). After a moment of pursuing the online sale rack, I found myself feeling a bit of sadness.
It was a familiar sadness because it was a feeling that had enveloped me out of the blue several times earlier that week. It was sadness in the form of grief. I was grieving because “my kids”-clients I’ve had for years were leaving me.
“I was grieveing because ‘my kids’ — clients I’ve had for years, were leaving me.”
I absolutely love my job as a psychotherapist.
In the 13 years that I’ve been doing this work, I have supported many clients. It is truly a joy to meet clients where they are when they come into your office.
Sometimes they are experiencing transition, turmoil, or trauma. Sometimes angst, anxiety, or apathy. Sometimes a person just wants an unbiased, trusted person to talk to. Whatever the struggle is, the goal is to work together to transition them to, what I call “the other side”.
When I started my practice, I worked with young children and families; counseling children as young as 4 years old. I’ve always seen adults and adults are still a good portion of my practice; but as my therapeutic work progressed, the kids I worked with started getting older and I discovered one of my niches — working with preteen and teen girls, ranging from ages 9 to 17.
Maybe it is because I am the mom of a girl, but working with this age group was just a natural fit.
About 4 years ago, I began seeing a number of girls; many of them in high school. The majority of them were anywhere from 12 to 16 years old. I developed strong therapeutic relationships with these girls. I partnered closely with their parents. Some had hard times. Struggles with friends, fitting in, or anxiety.
While others tackled the pressures of school, the pressures of first relationships, or the pressure of self-expectations. Some even dealt with a lack of confidence, family issues, and self-harm.
But through it all, I had the privilege to support their journey.
Along the way, I was able to see them develop trust. I saw how learning emotional regulation changed family dynamics for the better. I saw anxiety and self-harm subside-and self-confidence soar.
I’ve seen kids move through the fear of low SAT scores and the fear of school admission rejections to actually getting accepted into their first choice (and for the stubborn ones, their only choice)!
As the years sped by, week after week, and month after month we worked together, learned mindfulness techniques, and focused on developing their authentic self. Laughing together and going through a lot of tissues-teen girls cry a lot!
And now…many of these girls have left, transitioned onto a new chapter of life. They have met the great achievement of graduating from high school and their parents have packed them up and moved them to their new dorm. When they first came to me, they were just girls. Now, they are young ladies independently adventuring out into the world.
“But through it all, I had the privilege to support their journey.”
I transitioned 4 girls this summer alone. Many of these girls, I worked with for 3–4 years. In addition to those girls, I have the young women who have maintained therapy with me through video calls while away at college. They come back over the summer. Then they leave again. Add onto this, a client who moved out of state and the kiddo going back to boarding school.
It all starts to add up to feelings of grief.
I care about these kids. I have been the therapist helping them, but they have all changed me in some way and I am grateful for that! Please know most therapists care about you and your children. We really do! And it can be hard to see the kids who our efforts have impacted grow up and move on.
Although I will miss each of these special individuals, unique in their own way, I’ve decided when I feel a flood of grief, I’ll remember the laughter we shared and the progress they made.
I’ll say a little prayer for them and send them some positive energy.
After honoring my feelings and sucking back my tears, I’ll gear up for the next kiddo, hoping I impact another life while their time with me ultimately impacts mine.
Originally published at https://www.psychbytes.com on September 5, 2019.