|David Schnarch Anxiety Ethics Gender Issues Mind/Body Mary Jo Barrett Linda Bacon Etienne Wenger Clinical Mastery Future of Psychotherapy Attachment Alan Sroufe Couples William Doherty Trauma Attachment Theory The Future of Psychotherapy Brain Science Narcissistic Clients Symposium 2012 Mindfulness Challenging Cases Diets Great Attachment Debate Couples Therapy CE Comments Clinical Excellence Men in Therapy Wendy Behary Community of Excellence|
|A Day in the Life - Day in Life 2|
A few moments later, I heard a mother and baby chuckling and cooing in the waiting room. I laughed out loud at the contrast between my dark thoughts and these small explosions of joy. "Sitter cancelled at the last minute," Nancy grinned, bouncing her year-old son on her lap as I greeted her. I always enjoyed seeing Matthew. But after sitting with Stella, Suzanne, and Alan, I took extra pleasure in his liveliness. Over the past few years, Nancy had endured much: fertility treatments, a hard-won pregnancy, a difficult labor, and then, when she should have been breast feeding, a double mastectomy. Years ago, Matthew wouldn't have been born, and Nancy wouldn't have survived cancer. But here they were, mother and child, laughing together.
We sat on the floor, Matthew busily exploring while Nancy talked of the quiet pleasure she was finding in her baby and her life, touching her soft, new curls as she spoke. I reminded her of how far she'd come in recent years: she'd found a boyfriend, married, borne a child, recovered her health—all blessings she'd once thought were beyond her reach. I offered a toast to life—"L'chaim!"—and we laughed, clinking together glasses of cold water. Yet after she left, I wondered: had Nancy come here today to look back and celebrate her successes? or had I led her there, my own soul struggling to grasp life over death? I'm not sure. But when I glimpsed my face in the small mirror on my office wall, I radiated joy.
Next hour: a session with Joel, a successful businessman changing careers in his fifties. He was doing well with this transition; I expected no heavy drama. But as he sat down, he surprised me by reaching for a tissue. "I saw a baby in the elevator," he began, his eyes bright with tears. "I haven't talked about this before, but I'm afraid of never getting close to my new grandson. I'm afraid my son will keep him away because he's so angry with me." For the next hour, Joel used tissue after tissue as he spoke of his estrangement from his own father, his yearning for family closeness, and his terror of dying alone as his father had.
Please, day, be done! Even the joyous presence of a baby had triggered an exploration of loss and death. But why was I so discombobulated by this topic today? I'm no stranger to death. As an 11-year-old, I babysat a 6-year-old neighbor who had leukemia. I can still see David, skin over bones, propped up on pillows in his plastic oxygen tent. I'd unzip the tent door and slip my hands through to color with him, or to turn the pages of a book we'd read together. Then one day, my mother told me she had something sad to tell me. David was gone.
Since then, I'd weathered plenty of "Sit down; I have something to tell you" moments. Grandma's death, of course. I'd grieved my father's passing, and had said final good-byes to several other relatives and two close friends. Currently, I was seeing clients who were struggling with the deaths of elderly parents, sisters, friends, and their own mortality in the abstract. But today was different, in a way I still didn't understand.