"....... for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust" Psalm 103:14

Giving grief a voice


(* all names changed to protect professional identities)

After my first marriage ended, and in the roller-coaster of grief over the next few years, I saw various counsellors during the different seasons of the grieving process. I'm a big fan of counselling. Yes, girlfriends are wonderful, and they can provide that heart connection, meet the need for a hug and a shoulder to cry on. I had several girlfriends with whom I spent time, depending on what I was feeling in the moment. Some met one need, some met another. Family can also be an amazing source of comfort and tender-loving-care, but mine was far away and it was difficult to get that same sense of being taken care of over the phone or email. But yes, sometimes I desperately wanted to go over to my mum's, sit on her couch, cry, have a cup of tea, and generally be taken care of. Sadly it wasn't possible.

Voicing the betrayal
My counsellors each met needs in me that my girlfriends and my family were not able to meet, and should not have been expected to meet either, and I consider each of these wise women to have been a gift from God. I saw the first counsellor, Tina*, within days of my husband leaving. I was hurting so badly, in shock, confused, frightened, powerless, suffering from intense anxiety and panic attacks, nausea, jittery-ness, unable to think clearly. But underneath all that I also had a growing sense of indignation, betrayal, and anger at what my husband had done so suddenly, and without warning.

Tina helped me to feel and name that betrayal, the sense of having been seriously wronged. She wasn't concerned with helping me to see my contribution to the demise of our marriage at that point, clearly wise and experienced enough to recognise the futility of such an approach while my wounds were so recent, so huge and raw. Tina was there just for me, totally for me, in those initial stages of grief. She "triaged" me, she was my "emergency first aid".

Tina affirmed for me that I hadn't deserved to be treated this way, that even if our marriage hadn't been perfect, even if I had not always been the best wife I could be, my ex-husband had been wrong to walk out without giving us a chance. She "dressed my wounds", she helped me through those first few agonising weeks, to find a shred of confidence, to bring some semblance of order and a helpful rhythm back to my world, to regain a sense that I would be okay. Things would be different, yes, very different, but I would survive this devastating period in my life and there would be light at the end of the tunnel. In time.

Voicing the losses
Eventually, I felt the need to explore my wounds more deeply with a different counsellor. When I was ready, Vikki gave me words for my grief. She asked me questions like "How do you see your heart right now?" I was hesitant at first, unused to this sort of deep and penetrating discussion of my hurts. Tentatively, I gave her words like "trampled", "squashed" and "bruised". She nodded compassionately and encouragingly. I felt bolder. "Smashed", "bloodied" I sobbed. Her gentle, empathic responses let me know that she ached for me in my loss. She was like a warm comforting blanket, mothering me as waves of sadness washed over.

Vikki helped me give voice to my intense grief and enormous loss. She encouraged me to write down my losses, all of them. Not to ignore or diminish any of them. And so I did. There were so many, I was overwhelmed when I looked at my final list. No wonder I was struggling. Vikki validated for me the reality of what I was feeling. She helped to release things in me, and it was cathartic and healing.

Voicing my mistakes
A while later, June was my counsellor of choice. This beautiful woman had been my DivorceCare facilitator; herself a divorced single mum, who had been left by an unfaithful husband. This counselling was for a different purpose, and helped me to see a lot of my mistakes, past and present. With June I also worked through the fallout from one unhealthy relationship choice during my grieving. She helped me find the strength I needed to end this toxic liaison, and to surrender my heart finally to God, allowing Him to resume the healing process that I had hijacked because I thought I knew better what I needed to heal my own heart.

Instruments in the Redeemer's hands
June was the last counsellor I saw. Each of these amazing women was used powerfully by God to provide what He knew I needed at the time, and I am so grateful for each one and their wise and compassionate input into my life.

Because of them, I am an even stronger advocate for counselling these days (and I'm married to one now, so that helps). I know first hand the incredible value of giving grief a healthy voice.

4 comments

  1. It's interesting how each counsellor gave you the right type of help at the right time. I think people lump counsellors into one category and don't necessarily see that they have different strengths and different functions. I'm glad you were able to work through all the pain and come out the other side with a healthy respect for yourself and not to have been turned off relationships because of what went before.

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    1. It was no coincidence though Leanne, I'm quite sure. God has a way of bringing just the right help at just the right time, and I'm super thankful that He was guiding me to each of these women. He is, after all, all-wise and all-powerful, and He used these lovely ladies to speak His truth to my heart.
      Thanks for your comment xx

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  2. Counselling has such a wide variety of expressions, doesn't it. There is the empathy, "sitting with" side, the working-out-what-just-happened side, the exploring feelings side and the advice side. I think it must take great skill to be a truly good and wise counsellor and I'm glad that you had three of them that met you where you were on each occasion.
    I am also reminded of Isaiah's reference to Jesus as "Wonderful Counsellor" (Isaiah 9:6) - I heard a great sermon about this a few years ago and I have come back to it a number of times since (I have a CD copy of it, will have to lend it to you sometime as it's definitely worth a listen). He is our ultimate Counsellor and has all the qualities a good one needs in spades. xox

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    1. I would love to listen to it!!

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