There are many moments in my work that I am moved beyond words; humbled to witness a client’s success in releasing antiquated beliefs or behaviors that no longer serve them. But as all things have an opposite, may I also share my experience of bearing witness to a client’s pain.
There is no “How To” manual or graduate course that can truly prepare a therapist for the experience of holding the space for someone who is grieving from a loss, a tragedy or trauma. There is no amount of credentials behind one’s name, that can prepare them for remaining steady while their client recounts the exact moment they learned their son or daughter took their last breath and observed their lifeless body. Or the moment they come to grips with the reality that they will never be able to hold the hand of their partner again.
As a therapist, it is assumed we are the teachers, the guides; assisting our clients to develop strategies for managing their life in a more positive and productive manner.
But I have learned, it is not just my clients that are learning; I am also learning. I have been taught some of the most powerful lessons, about courage, strength and resiliency.
I have come to understand the fragility of life in a way that I may not have before. Although I have had my own experiences with loss and events I experienced as traumatic, I have been rendered speechless at times; no words of insight to share, no effective coping strategy, that could ever alleviate some of the pain people have experienced. A pain that is all encompassing, debilitating and raw.
All I’m able to do in those moment is to listen. Create and hold a space where they can feel comfortable being vulnerable and courageous enough to let go. Most of my clients don’t recognize the capacity of their own strength and bravery. The very nerve it takes to share the depths of their sorrow and open those spaces hidden from light and from love. Instead of running from their pain, they come to recognize the importance of standing still in it. And it’s in this stillness, I am humbled to stay fully present, witnessing their passing through the pain, instead of staying stuck in it.
Thank you for your fearlessness.