Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Grief Over the Death of a Client

One of my clients died and I feel incredibly sad about it.

She was a very special woman.  She was sadistically abused from the age of three and had tremendous strength, courage and  an unshakeable faith, despite all the trauma she endured. 

I worked with her for eleven years helping her to heal from all the neglect and abuse she had suffered as a child.  It was a shared journey.  I felt her pain when she suffered and felt her joy when the suffering was transformed.  I shared my reactions so she would know the impact she had on me.  She needed to know she touched my heart and soul, that it wasn't just a job to me. That is what made it possible for her to feel safe enough to reveal her pain to me.

I learned so much from her.  She was one of the most traumatized clients I have ever worked with and I kept having to expand my toolkit to be able to help her.  I was grateful for her willingness to try new things with me.

At one point in our work together I was feeling stuck about how to help her overcome a particular obstacle and was searching for new approaches to try.  She was desperate for relief from her suffering but was trapped in her self-blame and shame.  That is what motivated me to go for EMDR training seven years ago.  I will always be grateful to her for her role in that. 

This amazing survivor had just recently stopped having flashbacks and was looking forward to the next chapter in her life.  Then she was diagnosed with brain cancer.  It seemed so incredibly unfair.  Yet she faced this new obstacle with such grace, accepting whatever God had planned for her.

First she fought to survive, then when her chance of survival was so low and her ability to function was deteriorating, she chose to go into hospice and die with dignity. I learned another important lesson as I struggled to catch up with her and accept her decision so that I could be there for her and say goodbye.

She wanted others to learn from her experience overcoming childhood trauma and had wanted to write about it, but the brain cancer made that impossible.  So she asked me to tell her story. This is one way of honoring her request.