….and sometimes, it feels like walking around with an open wound, knowing it will be a very, very long time, before it starts to close.
I wrote this post more than two years ago, after a very distressing session in which we talked about the end of therapy and the fact that my therapist will move to a different part of the country, eventually; and we briefly talked about death – her death.
Today we talked about the end of therapy again, and what the ‘after’ might look like. There is still no concrete date, she doesn’t know exactly when she will retire, the discussion wasn’t prompted by any ‘announcement’ on her part. But the anticipatory grief of that ending follows me constantly, and I do not know how to shake it, and so it seemed that it was something we should talk about.
I didn’t cry very much, though I was digging my fingers into my arms, and at the end of session when her doorbell rang, I didn’t hear it.
When I got home I lay in bed for a short time, hugging a soft toy that I have named after her. At least when you cry at home, in private, you can cry loudly. Moans, wails, stepping-on-cat-tails noises escaping from my body – too embarrassing to voice my pain in anything but words and water, in front of her.
I cannot cope with the thought of losing her, and of losing the best adult relationship of my life. I cannot cope with losing the only person in my life who feels like a parent. I know she understands loss, but I don’t know if she understands what this loss feels like to me.
Here’s the difference, I think, between the two of us. She may mourn, for a little while, but ultimately will be content to remember me occasionally, through the things that were important to us and that remind her of me. She will keep me alive in those ways, and she will continue to feel connected to me in those moments – and that will be okay, and enough for her, in a way that it would never be okay or enough if that was the basis of her future relationship with her biological daughters. I’m not family to her – but she’s the closest thing to adult family, for me.
She has told me ‘once a mother, always a mother’, and I believe her. I know she will always be my therapy mother, but ultimately that is a particular type of mother-daughter relationship in which leaving home is more like being bereaved than moving out. Mother lives on, but only internally. And as for being a mother (rather than a therapy-mother) – when you have a child you might look forward to a bit more time, independence or adult interaction when they are older, but there is no wish or desire ever to be ‘relieved of duty’, as it were, whether your children are physically present, or not.
Our therapists may care for us, remember us, even love us, but I guess they have to leave us behind. There are too many of us – clients – and too many other facets of our therapists’ lives. They carry us attentively and lovingly, sometimes for years, but at some point they have to be ‘relieved of duty’. I don’t say that because I think that somehow my therapist’s care for me is just a ‘duty’ of her profession – it is genuine. Neither do I think that her care of me is a burden (or at least, not most of the time!). But I think I need to be careful that it does not become so, after we have finished.
You go through therapy trying to sideline the massive inequality between you, which you know is there but is too painful to think about. You build genuine, caring, deeply trusting relationship – and still you try to turn aside from the knowledge that for perfectly legitimate, necessary, and ‘nobody’s fault’ reasons, you are not loved in quite the way that you love. And you try very very hard to be okay with the way in which you are loved, because it is still the best way that you have ever experienced, and you are very very grateful.
But the elephant in the room is never bigger than when it draws itself up in fear, at the prospect of eviction. I don’t know how to handle it other than by trying to bury the worst bits of it again. But even when I’m not talking about it session, feelings of sadness and prospective loss follow me everywhere – which is why I was talking about it in session in the first place. I hate that it is taking away from the otherwise wonderful feelings of connection and closeness I’m experiencing in sessions (and between them) these days. But what can I do? The loss is coming, I simply cannot – unlike my therapist’s doorbell – not hear it anymore.