One final goodbye.
After my call ended with Anna there was this deafening silence. This physical aching. A vacuum where hope and love used to be. The worst pain. I couldn’t even think any thoughts I was swimming in this physical agony. I could only imagine one way to deal with it and that was to end my life. I wanted to die. I think for the very fortunate people who have not experienced developmental trauma or attachment trauma… those who have never needed to form an attachment to a therapist, may find it unfathomable, the pain I was in. But for those of us unfortunate enough to be carrying with them this motherwound that their therapist is lovingly guiding them through the healing of, you all will understand. This was my worst case scenario. I learned to love through this woman. The most powerful and beautiful attachment I have ever felt, gone. I don’t remember the few hours that followed but I’m told I text my husband to tell him, ‘Anna has had to stop working with clients and I will never see her again. I’m going for a shower. Please don’t talk to me about it. I can’t.’ I then silently howled on the floor of the shower for an unknown amount of time. For the past year or so I have had this little routine in the shower, where I draw a heart on the glass and smile thinking of the blue heart crystal Anna gave me as a gift, a tiny transitional object that meant the world to me and kept me connected to her between sessions. On Tuesday, I couldn’t bring myself to draw the heart. I just cried and cried on my knees under the heat of the water. ‘I should never have let myself love her. I should never have opened my heart to this. I knew she would leave me. Everyone leaves.’ At some point I must have got out the shower, dried myself, walked downstairs and past my kids and out the door. I got in my car for the first time in two months and I text my husband to tell him I was going for a drive and I promised I would come home.
I drove the forty minute journey I know by heart and parked up outside Anna’s office. I sat in my car and cried for over two hours. I emailed Linda and asked her to be gentle with me in my session with her the next day. I told her, ‘This morning I spoke to Anna. I’m sure she’ll have spoken to you too. I can’t even bring myself to write it out. I’m in my car outside the office, I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing. I just wanted to feel closer to her even though she’s not here and will never be here again. I can’t face going home. I know you probably feel lumbered with me now. I won’t make you work with me long term if you don’t want to but please just help me get through this grief. I don’t think I can cope with this on my own.’
At some point I made my way home. I phoned the doctor and cried down the phone at her that my therapist had died and I needed something for the grief. I couldn’t bear having to explain what had happened and I needed her to know what I was going through. It didn’t feel like a lie. To me she had died. My doctor got the prescription to me two hours later which was amazing. I spent the rest of the day in a haze. That night I stayed up until 4am writing the following email to Anna. I got up again at 7 and proof read it over and over through tear filled eyes until finally sending it at 11.30am. Half an hour before my session with Linda. I text her to let her know to look for the email and asked if she could please reply so I would know she’d read it. I then stated that I understood I must not message her again. Another fracture to my weary shattered heart.
There are some things that I would have told you if we’d had more time to work to an end and if I’d had more time to process the news. I feel like I just presented you with a stunned silence and tears for most of the call… there was so much more I wanted to say to you. After two and a half years of deep attachment work, how could we possibly say all we needed to say in under fifteen minutes. I know how you work and I know that you’d hoped to be able to let me have the ending I wanted – the fact that this brief ending was all we had tells me that you have had no choice.
As soon as I read your text, I knew in the pit of my stomach what you were going to say. I almost wanted to ignore the text just to delay you telling me the inevitable. I knew that the minute the call started it would be the beginning of the end. And as you were speaking, I didn’t know what to say to you. I wanted to beg you to change your mind. I wanted to tell you I’d wait for you. I wanted to ask you why we can’t just do phone sessions, I don’t need to ever sit in a room with you again, I’ll take phone calls over zero contact. But I could hear in your voice and in the words you were saying that this has been an impossible decision for you. And I know from the work we’ve done together that the last thing you wanted to do was stop working with me abruptly like this. So, I know it must be serious and difficult and I didn’t want to make it any more difficult for you.
I’ve been grieving since our phone call as I am sure you will understand and perhaps this is a grieving process for you too. The end of an era for you, not just with me but your counselling career in general. I am so sorry that you have been put in this position where you’ve had to stop. You are an amazing therapist and it’s a real loss that you’ve had to step back. I really hope that something happens soon to make it safe again for you. You deserve to be well and to be doing the job you love. I realise I only know you in the context of therapist but you are an amazing therapist and it’s clear to me that you were meant to be sitting in that chair.
After our call I got in the car and drove to the office. I parked up at the end of the street and cried for nearly two hours. I know you weren’t there and you’ll likely never be back there but the place connects us and I needed to feel closer to you. I imagined you sitting beside me telling me, ‘I know it doesn’t feel like it but it’s really so good that you’re feeling the feelings and letting them out… I’m proud of you, well done… did you hear that Lucy..? Well done!’
I want you to know that the impact you’ve had on me is immeasurable. You said on the phone that we’ve built the foundations together and that’s true, but it’s foundations that my whole family stand on, not just me. You showed me how to mother my kids by mothering me. I don’t know how you feel about love in the therapy room, you never seemed to bat an eyelid when I told you how much I loved Paul. I’ve thought so much about this recently, what is love and is it real when it occurs in the therapy room. It had been on the tip of my tongue in session with you so many times in the last few months, to tell you that I love you, but I was always too afraid, too ashamed. It is really clear to me now though that me loving you is the work. There is nothing more vulnerable and trusting than to love someone and there is nothing shameful about it either. Of course I love you, the way you’ve treated me week after week.. 126 sessions, several phone calls, hundreds of texts, the hugs, a blue heart crystal and perfume for Luna, Baby and Suki… how could I not love you. Since the phone call yesterday I’ve been so floored by the grief of losing you that I’ve had moments of wishing I’d never let you in, because of the loss I’m feeling now. But then I look around at my life and I can see that loving you and letting you in has brought colours into my life that were not there before. And whatever we call it… unconditional positive regard, deep care, therapeutic holding… the way you treated me was loving. Your kindness and patience and care. The way you respected and understood my defences. The way you thought carefully about what I needed, the way you listened, the way you offered heartfelt apology if you missed something or unintentionally hurt me… that is a form of love. It is the verb – to love… love in action. You showed me how I deserved to be treated and as you said on the phone, that doesn’t just disappear. It’s changed something in me permanently. I will carry that inside me forever. You have given me an example of how to treat myself. It impacts how I treat Gracie, Reuben and Adam. And I often see you in the way they treat each other now too. The impact of your therapeutic love will reach far beyond our awareness.
I’m obviously familiar with the grief and longing for a childhood lost; something in the past you will never be able to change or get back. I’m familiar with the grief of losing someone you love. Now I’m noticing that grief is about the future too. The plans I’d made and the way I thought things would unfold. There is a grief for all the sessions I wanted to have with you. So many things that I planned on taking to you in time. Memories I held on to that I thought I’d get to ‘one day’… so many drawings in my folder that I still wanted to share with you. So many things I foolishly held back on, thinking we had all the time in the world. And I know you would say that patience is important and timing is everything and we went at the pace that was right for me… and not to regret going slow or holding back because that is what I needed at the time. But maybe also I could learn through this to not let fear hold me back from getting what I need when it is right in front of me… all those hugs I didn’t ask for. Maybe I could learn to not be complacent and not assume things will always be as they are.
Anna, for the past two and a half years you have held hope for me. Whenever something came up that felt overwhelming I would feel calmed with the knowledge that I could take it to you and we’d work on it together. I am really sad and angry that through no fault of either of us, we won’t get to continue the work the way we both planned and it feels like I have lost my hope. On the one hand I can hold the knowledge that when Paul stopped working with me I didn’t feel anything. In contrast, I am feeling it all right now… that in itself is very painful evidence of progress. But on the other hand, I feel like I can’t go on without you and I’ve lost any strength I had.
I will work on the raw edges of this grief with Linda and see how things settle between us. She is very different to you and for a few reasons I’m not sure if her style of therapy is right for me. I also don’t know if I could face walking into the building without you being there to greet me with your smile and arms open wide. I know I should continue in therapy but it will take years to build up the trust again with someone new. I will remember what you’ve said. That I am not too much. That you are proud of me and how I bring more than 100% to my healing work. That I impacted you. That you felt privileged to work with me. That you are not rejecting me. That you will always be with me and that you will not forget me. I’m typing this through tears Anna, I am not ready for this to end. I wish I could find two full PPE uniforms for us both and hug you one last time!
I wish I’d met you in a different capacity, so that I could still see you. It’s really hard grieving the loss of you knowing that other people get to see you and spend time with you. But if I had met you as a work acquaintance or neighbour I would never have experienced the side to you that I did. I am grateful that I was privileged enough to meet that part of you.
As you know, I have written out every session we ever had, in detail. (I actually used to imagine that we’d one day write a book together.) Having it all written out is such a powerful, physical reminder of what we experienced together. I am so glad I can revisit your words. I can be reminded of the laughs we had, the analogies, the terrified words spoken for the first time and being met with compassion and understanding… the quiet, gentle moments of me feeling and you witnessing, containing, comforting. I remember probably over two years ago, the session when I told you that as a small child trapped in an argument filled car on a long journey I would stare out the window and imagine the rolling hills were like blankets and I’d lie out there in my mind imagining God holding me, and you repeated it back to me and I felt the pain of it all in my flesh and bones for the first time ever. I remember the session with your cards and I chose the bear coming out of her cave. And you said the bear was me… she is strong, protective, with a kind face. I think that was the first time I felt truly seen by you. Maybe by anyone. Anna, thank you so much for encouraging me to draw again. From that very first drawing of the Mumma Bear and her cub that turned into a cushion that is beside me right now to the near hundred drawings that followed. Drawing has been a catalyst in building my relationship with my child and deepening my healing journey. It started as the only way I could process and share my thoughts with you and it will always be a deeply special thing between us both. I remember the time you asked me if I’d ever imagined hugging you (because my nail technician had hugged me) and it threw me into a shame spiral that you very carefully coaxed me out of… and then finally months later I braved asking you… you looked overjoyed that I’d asked and unquestionably opened your arms to me. I’ve never been held by anyone the way you held me Anna. And sometimes at the end of a really intense session when you would very subtly rock from side to side (I don’t even know if you were aware that you were doing it), that 60 seconds of holding and swaying was like you were reaching back in time and scooping baby Lucy out of her cot and soothing her. I wanted to hold on longer and longer with each hug. Remember the session when we both had the giggles about the mac n cheese on the floor. And the time you came and sat on the floor next to me and told me it wasn’t my fault and that you were sorry for what had happened to me. All the times you let me drag that chair right up beside you so there wasn’t even any room for our legs anymore. And the time you sat beside me and told me, ‘you don’t need to hurt yourself for me to know how much pain you’re in, I believe you when you tell me how you feel.’ That was fucking powerful Anna and I have repeated those words to myself hundreds of times the past couple of months. All the times you’ve told me I’m a good mum when I have struggled so hard to believe it. Generously offering me reduced rates, gladly allowing me two sessions a week… everything Anna. I remember all of it. Every smile. Every gentle hand on my arm. All the sessions you watched me so carefully and the times where you would respectfully look down when I asked you to not look at me. I remember your tear-filled eyes as you showed me that you feel for me, that you were feeling with me. I remember every single session, every text and phone call. From the first, to the last.
If we’d had time to work to an end the way we both wanted, I would have given you a tiny Luna Panda as a parting gift. I would have drawn you a picture that in some way represented all the growth and progress I’d made, thanks to you. I would have made you a card and written some words of gratitude inside… maybe thrown an analogy in there too! I would have hugged you and thanked you and probably cried while hugging you which is something I wished I had been able to do during many sessions. I would have told you how thankful I am that I walked into your office on the 16th of September 2017. Thankful that I am not numb anymore and that I have a voice.
Please look after yourself and if you find a way in the near future to continue your practice, please contact me so we can have some sessions to work to an end together the way we’d both hoped. I want to beg you to change your mind, Anna. I want to suggest that we just have a break of how ever many weeks or months you need, with me not contacting you and then when you start back up again I want to work with you again. I’d never build a relationship up with another therapist in a few months like the deep connection we have made over the past two and a half years. I’d stop with them and go back to you in a heartbeat. The pandemic won’t last forever, surely there is a way to keep our work going. I haven’t eaten since you called and I’ve cried almost non stop. I really wish there was another way, I’m struggling to make sense of any of this because you said we would get through this together. I’m left wondering if someone has pushed you into this… how can it be ending like this when I know you didn’t want it to end this way? A brief phone call with no warning just doesn’t feel right as a way of ending things, I’m sure you must feel that way too. If you feel able in the next few days or weeks please could you let me have even just one phone call to try to process an end with you. I was blindsided by your call yesterday and can’t believe it’s going to end like that. I want to hold on to everything we’ve worked on but there are moments where all I have is questions and It’s unbearable to imagine never talking to you again.
That being said, I want the main message in this email to be of massive gratitude. I want you to know that I will never forget you. One day when the kids are adults, I imagine telling them who Anna really was. The woman that mummy visited every week for two and a half years… and how she changed my life and theirs.
Love Lucy x
I then had my session with Linda at 12 noon which I will write about in another post.
At 6.36pm I received this…
I want to thank you for your email which touched my heart and I will treasure it forever. Your words mean so much to me and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts. It is unfortunate, yet it was necessary, that our ending had to be by phone yesterday. I am grateful to have this final contact by receiving your email today and my reply to you.
Please be reassured that no one has ‘forced me” into ending my practice. I cannot say when or even if I will return. I will commit to you to let you know, if I do start back counselling. However, it is really important Lucy that you carry on with your own therapy journey, as there is no guarantee if, or when, I would return.
Please know that I also will never forget you. It has been a huge privilege to work with you and I have learned so much from you.
I will be closing my email account down now, so please know that I will not be able to receive or send any further emails.
I wish you well on your continued journey and growth.