“How are you a grief counselor? Aren’t you sad all the time?”
“I don’t know how you hear all those stories. Don’t you get depressed?”
“ I could never work in death and dying”
These are the things I’ve heard when telling people I am a bereavement counselor.
Let me explain a few things; This is why I love working in bereavement:
Before I was a therapist, I worked in a retirement community for the majority of my time in high school and college.
One day I was with a coworker and we saw a couple walking, a gentleman following a few paces behind a woman. We stopped to talk to the woman, telling her that it seemed like the gentleman was following her. She laughed and said “ Oh honey, that’s my sweetheart, we’ve been together since we were 15.”
Knowing that there had to be more to this story, we stopped and talked; she told us how they met, were married, lived through World War two in Europe, came to America, had a family and created a life together.
Several months later, the woman passed away and I saw a complete change in how her husband behaved. He was completely brokenhearted with the loss of his wife. I remember clearly thinking… “I wish I knew what to say to help him.” This is moment is why I wanted to be a therapist and why I decided I wanted to work with bereaved individuals and families. To this day, I’m always hoping that I say the right thing to help someone.
Usually, when someone says they are grieving, we automatically think there was a death. One thing I have learned is that all loss does not result in death. We go through painful experiences in our lives that also need to be grieved. In these experiences, it’s important to also try to make sense of the loss, adjust to the changes in your life, and move forward with your life following the experience.
So to answer those earlier questions:
“How are you a grief counselor? Aren’t you depressed all the time?” — “No. I’m not”
“I don’t know how you hear all those stories. Don’t you get sad?” — ” It’s actually an honor that people feel comfortable enough to open up to me. Sometimes it’s sad but that is their truth.”
“ I could never work in death and dying”. — ” Every therapist has a niche. This is one of mine.”
Throughout my career, I have worked in Hospice with patients in care and their families, I’ve worked with bereaved families in other contexts as well. And through it all, the people I have worked with have taught me how to value the important things in life. I have learned patience, how to honor the joyful moments, how to allow myself to feel painful feelings, and how boundless love is to those we care about.
I also have met an incredible amount of people who have not only survived their losses, but learn to thrive despite their own pain or build something to keep the memory of their loved one alive.
This is why I love working in the area of bereavement: Because in loss, there is also love.