‘The ocean is wild and over your head and the boat beneath you is sinking.’
Last night I stayed up until 3am. I was curled on the sofa crying feeling the weight of this grief heavy on my chest. You know when you stand barefoot on the sand near the lapping waves of the shore and when you step away, your footprint fills rapidly with water? That’s what this loss feels like. She’s evacuated herself from me and the pain has flooded into the space she’s left behind. Sometimes it feels like it’s drowning me. I ache to feel her presence. I’m left with reminders everywhere. Every time I walk into my bedroom I see Luna and remember when Anna held her in session, she stroked her fur, talked to her and made her talk back. Anna’s perfume is on my make up stand. Sometimes I spray it on my belly so that I can smell her when I move but oh my god the pain is excruciating. Her blue heart is sitting on my side table. This tiny glass symbol of a connection more powerful than anything I’ve ever felt before. Two folders on my desktop, one entitled ‘Anna Sessions’ that holds nearly 200 documents and one named, ‘Linda Sessions’ that contains just over ten. Going from session number 126 to session number 1. It breaks my heart. When Anna phoned me last Tuesday I took a screen shot of her calling me before I answered, I knew it would be the last time I’d see her name flash on my screen. When I go into my messages, there is a thread of hundreds of texts between us. And a space at the bottom waiting for me to break the boundary and text her. Just a few buttons away from bursting into her life again. But I won’t. A final expression of my love to her, I will respect her wishes and never contact her again. I’ve noticed her photo and bio has been taken down from some of the sites she was on. Like it never happened. Like she was never there.
Last night I was reminded of the session where for the first time I pulled Luna out of my bag and onto my lap for comfort. I sat cross legged on the chair holding Luna with my head resting on her head, face covered. Anna came and sat beside me and held my arm, stroking her thumb back and forth and we just sat there in silence with me feeling feelings and her sitting with me in it. There were no words and there are no words really to describe how powerfully therapeutic that moment was. At one point I whispered that I hated how I was feeling and she said she knew. I miss that. And I’m scared I will never have that again. What if Linda doesn’t know how to do that type of therapy?
I have this recurring image in my mind when I think about what I went through with Anna the past couple of months. I can picture the Titanic slowly sinking and some of it’s passengers still don’t know the chaos and catastrophe that’s happening below deck. The third class floor is flooding and a mother, desperate to save her baby, begs a kind looking stranger in a lifeboat to save her child. Already knee deep in sea water, she wraps the infant in her only shawl and leans over the side of the sinking ship’s railings, passing her baby to the stranger she watches as the lifeboat is rowed away from the wreck before she is sucked under. There is a, ‘go on without me’ feeling to all this. ‘I can’t go any further with you but please don’t stop here with me, keep going.’ Anna could easily have told me she wasn’t going to be able to work for the foreseeable future but that we could take a break until she is well again. I would have waited for her but it would have been a different type of torture. My life on hold. My healing on pause. An anxious, preoccupied worrying of what might be happening. An uneasy anticipation. A dance like the one we’ve been in since the beginning of March. Anna told me she was jealous of Linda for getting to work with me and she could have easily held on to the possession of me, knowing how high I hold her and that I was hanging on her every word. But she has never let her ego control my therapy, she did what was best for me in letting me go. She told me a few weeks ago, ‘I’m sorry that my ill health has disrupted your therapy so much,’ and in her final email to me she said, ‘it is really important that you carry on with your own therapy journey, as there is no guarantee if or when I would return.’ She never let it be about her needs.
It reminds me of what I have read in gentle parenting books. That it is the most loving way to guide a child – to never force your own need to be needed onto them… to encourage autonomy and self sufficiency. That doesn’t mean forcing your child to be independent before they are ready because that is abandonment. What it means is not forcing your help and support onto a child when they are capable of doing it themselves. Anna understood that my therapy was never about her, she never encouraged dependence but for as long as she could be there for me, she met my needs and she shone a light on my own ability to do the same for myself.
It was always so much more than just the hour I spent with her. Building a relationship with Anna enriched my life. She gave me complete freedom to explore myself and reflected such a kind and hopeful version of what she saw in me back to me. I don’t now if Linda can do this work with me long term. It has been a blessing to have her here to carry me as I float from the wreckage but I don’t know if I can stay in her boat. Perhaps she will navigate me to a place where I feel I can stand in the waters and wade to a new shore. I can see now that the most significant relationship we have is with ourselves. I love Anna wholeheartedly and there are still moments where I feel like I can’t go on without her, but the end goal for all of this work is my healing. I didn’t walk into her office in September 2017 so that I could find a 52 year old woman to fall in love with, I walked in there because I needed help with my recovery. And she did help me. She helped me more than I can ever express, evidence of it is all around me. Last night I was googling ways to kill myself easily and was desperately searching helplines to call. This morning I helped my children release butterflies that we have watched grow from tiny caterpillars over the past month. If that isn’t a beautiful analogy of painful transformation I don’t know what is. There are days where the motionless chrysalis hangs there looking completely lifeless. Then, through patience and perseverance, this crumpled and tired looking butterfly emerges. It clings, wings flickering and shaking for quite a while, adjusting. And the first few times it flies, it smacks around it’s net home and lands on the ground on it’s back. No transformation is without pain, nothing worth fighting for is easy or without risk of ‘failure’. I do feel as if this ending could be a catalyst for further growth, taking me down a road I may not have traveled had she stayed by my side for the next few years. I am being forced to adapt. This is testing my resources and it’s shining a blinding light on my resilience. An ability to cope with something that I thought would break me. And strength does not stand on the top of a mountain arms stretched high bellowing like a warrior. Strength crawls through the white heat of the fire, eyes stinging and throat burning, not knowing how much further she can go. Strength keeps swimming when drowning feels like an easier option. Strength feels like longing to end your life and yet taking another breath.
I find the analogy of silver linings difficult in times like this. It is too soon to look for reasons why this might have happened and any bright sides just sound like toxic positivity and invalidation. I don’t want to be told that this will all work out in the end. But I do know that I am resilient enough to make the best out of this situation. Because I have done that my whole damn life. We evolve and change. I don’t have the same needs as I did 3 years ago. I needed Anna to love me like a mother loves her children, I’m not sure what my needs are now because they are drenched in the immediate need to tend to the grief. But Anna reminded me to be patient, that this journey takes time and that it isn’t always apparent where we are going but we just need to have faith, take the first baby step. I refuse to believe ‘everything happens for a reason’ but I will trust the process.
A huge part of my healing has been in learning to love wholeheartedly and speak the truth in full knowledge that I may suffer great loss. That the risk it took to connect to Anna despite knowing there was a chance it could hurt, was worth it a million times over. That the pain and fear of speaking up brought relief of equal proportions. It is agony to have had this love and have it leave, but she has left me with so much more than I had before I met her.
It is terrifying to let someone see you but it is torture to never be seen.