I have had a few very interesting sessions with my therapist. Last Friday, we talked about letting go. Her hope is that I can find some refief from the pain of all of the abuse I endured as a child by starting to let go of some of it. I repeatedly told her that I would love to let go of it, but I don’t know how. I can open my hands and say go, but it does not go. The pain stays. It stays in my heart, my mind, and my body. The longing for what I did not have as a child stays. The flashbacks stay. The nightmares stay. At one point a few weeks ago, we were going to burn a bunch of written memories that I have and I couldn’t do it. Burnng them was supposed to be symbolic of letting them go, but I knew they were still stuck to me like white cat hair on black clothes. I’ve envisioned letting balloons go (even though I am vehemently opposed to releasing helium balloons into our environment) with my memories stuck on them. I’ve considered burning them. I’ve considered burying them. But I keep coming back to somehow I am not ready to let these things go. I need to be able to accept these things first. Just accept them…they just were…it’s done…I’m ready to let go. So where does acceptance come in? How do I accept that these things just are? Well, finally, last Friday, as I sat there with tears rolling down my face, and I was totally frustrated, it occurred to me that acceptance is the last stage of grief. And while MT (my therapist) and I have talked about lots of memories and dealt with the shock and disgust and shame around them, grief has really never been in the picture. You know, the five steps, denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and ACCEPTANCE. I needed to grieve all of the parts of my childhood and young adulthood that hurt so much, that took so much from me, and gave me such a huge burden to carry. I told MT my thoughts and she actually smacked her head and said she couldn’t believe that she had missed it. She said even my body language was telling her that I needed to grieve…that I was already grieving, and she had missed it. Then she said of course I need to grieve. And I sobbed with relief. We went over the five stages of grieving and talked about how they don’t go in order and sometimes a person repeats a stage several times. MT told me about how those things were all good and right and that there was no way to grieve the right way. She told me that if I needed to come and sit on her couch twicea week for the next year or two, she would be there, and she wasn’t going to leave me. She also reminded me that she can’t do the grieving for me, but that she would be with me, no matter where I was in the process.
So, on Tuesday, I could barely eat my breakfast. My stomach felt all full and wobbly and my eyes were burning. When I arrived at therapy, MT looked at me and said she knew I was not okay and to start talking. I started talking about the feeling in my belly and then the pain hit, and I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t talk and couldn’t move. MT reminded me to breathe…breathe in pink (my favorite color), breathe out black…the color I chose to represent all the nasty stuff. The more I breathed, the more I started to cry. I just sobbed. And as I cried, MT talked with me about all that I might be grieving for and asked me to work on identifying what I might be grieving. I could not answer that question, I just did not know. Everything just seemed to be tumbling down at once. As I cried, and MT spoke gently to me, reminding me I have a right to any feelings that I have, I kept thinking about how lucky I am to have MT. She pushes me to work hard, and, although she does not do my work, I think that she works very hard with me. To keep up with twists and turns of my thinking and my feelings. To keep me on a good path and to shine a light. To guide me as I climb mountains and fall down cliffs. To speak encouraging words. To challenge me. To think of therapy homework that will keep me healing between sessions. To find healthy coping skills that resonate with me so that I am willing to use them. To keep seeing the good in me even when I talk about things that I find particularly shameful. She sometimes speaks very sternly to me, but when I was in the midst of this grief and sobbing on Tuesday, she spoke very gently to me. She smiled at me. I could see the caring in her eyes. And I was struck by how lucky I am to have this strong, badass, beautiful woman walking this journey with me.
Today was more of the same. I walked in feeling heavy, sat down and cried, and cried for the whole session, until MT very gently moved me along to a good place so that I would be able to leave not in a bad place. I don’t think it’s her job to ensure I am leaving therapy in a good place, because that is not always realistic. But she tries to end things early enough, and guide me in a way, that I can breathe and relax a little and joke around a little with MT before I leave. And I am so thankful for that. And I am actually thankful for this time to grieve. I think if I can get through the grief, I will be able to let go.