Every once in a while, I have a client whose struggle or pain reflects my own struggle. For example, about 24 hours after I had to put my cat to sleep, a client called requesting an immediate session because she had to put her dog to sleep.
This week, I have a patient whose father has leukemia and has entered hospice. Their relationship has been a difficult one and she hasn’t felt connected in a long time. At the same time, my uncle had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia, entered hospice and died on Sunday.
It is tough when this happens, trying to maintain a poker face, holding back tears in session. But it also is an opportunity to take my own advice.
Grief is complicated and sometimes confusing. Grief evokes a mixture of many different feelings happening almost simultaneously.
In both of these cases of loss, I counseled my clients to let their feeling flow.
Let them happen without trying to change them or repress them.
It’s a strange to have a private relationship with a public figure.
My uncle was an incredibly talented artist, a local celebrity, and a charmer. Whenever I meet someone from Louisville (my home town), they say they know him.
Throughout my childhood, we had a special relationship. He favored me because he thought I was like him, a future artist. Because of him, I grew up surrounded by art and understand its value. Art can be beautiful but its purpose is to communicate something, to evoke feeling.
My uncle certainly evoked a great deal of feeling from the hundreds of people who came to his funeral. Fellow artists, who he collaborated with, inspired or mentored. Long time friends who actually remember my sister and me from our childhood. People who considered him to be father figure and yet were surprised to learn that he actually had a family—since he denied our existence
I’m trying to allow my feelings to flow. Initially, I was numb, denying that he was important to me because we have been out of contact for ten years. I have been angry for so long at the way he treated my mother, who ran his business for over 20 years. I am sad for my mother’s loss.
And I’m confused. I found a photo of me as a child that he pinned up in his workspace. It would have been in his direct line of vision. He must have looked at it everyday and yet did not want to have a relationship with me. That really hurts.
The strange and wonderful thing about his death is that I suddenly feel free to be proud of his talent without the pain of his abandonment. I can explore his incredible body of work. I can appreciate all the work he did for non-profit organizations and causes he believed in. I can even display his work my home, which I never wanted to do until now because I was so angry at him.
If you’d like to learn who he was or see his incredible work, click here.