“*This morning when I thought of you, your face appeared dark for the first time. In the years since you passed, I have always seen you in my mind as if you were standing here with me. It always made the pain a little more manageable, but today was different. It was like you were no longer next to me, but instead, you were across the room standing in a shadow. Your features were blunted by the darkness. I could barely see your smile. I could no longer tell your eye color. You are leaving me again. Only this time, I will have nothing to see, only some rapidly fading memories remain.
When you were taken from us I felt that I would never be whole again. They talk about time healing all wounds, but to me, time just allows you to get a bit numb to the pain. I’ve gotten used to the sense of dread; in the moments that I avoid it, I feel weird because it’s otherwise ever present.
I’ve stopped talking about you to everyone around me and I think they prefer it. Now when they ask how I’m doing, I no longer tell them how long it’s been since you’ve passed. When someone shows me a new car or a gift they just received, I rarely think of you and how you would have enjoyed it. I rarely think about how you used to surprise me with little things whenever I was down. Actually, you just seemed to always leave me little things just because that’s who you are. I really miss finding them. Sometimes, I put some of them in ‘hidden’ places around the house or office so that I can ‘find them’ when I need a pick me up.
I go to social events when I need to and no longer look at the empty spot beside me; the emptiness is now relegated to my heart. Friends and family think I have moved on but really, I just stopped sharing my sense of loss. When folks try to set me up with single friends I no longer immediately compare them to you and I also stopped telling them all about you, about us. I try to be present in the conversation but really I just wish it was you who was talking to me, if even for one last time.
My memories were all I had left and now I am losing this as well. I remember that we had so many good times and so many adventures. I feel great when lost in those moments, but they too are fading fast. I’m losing you again but no one seems to be concerned; they just don’t seem to get it…”
Our clients all have unique reasons for coming to see us and many of them present with complex grief, grief that many of their friends and loved ones may not be able to understand. When working with clients, it’s important to remember that their issues may have been discounted or dismissed by those around them, and they may be timid at first when discussing them in session. Setting a tone of acceptance and showing compassion and a genuine concern may be what it takes to make them feel comfortable enough to open up. We can only help if we get a true picture of the problem.
Many folks feel a renewed sense of loss when they reach the time that the once clear pictures of their loved ones start to fade in their minds. For them, it can be as if they are losing them for a second time. Some share that this seems almost worse in that the first time they lost them physically but had them inside, now it feels that there is nothing left (many never experience this however). To the casual observers, they may see this as trivial and dismiss it as hysteria, attention seeking, neurotic or foolish, but to the person experiencing this, it is all too real. As a clinician, showing compassion and validating the new loss and working with them as you would anyone that has suffered loss can be key.
There is no time limit on grief. When memories fade, pain can take its place. That’s when we step in.
*inspired by decades in the field.
”Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, clinical & executive director of Community Counseling of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). He can be contacted at [email protected]
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA