Monday, February 15, 2010

"A Lot of Forgiveness Goin’ On!"

As I wrote in my last blog entry, I conducted an extended session with a young man who flew in from the East Coast. He sought my help to resolve issues created by the untimely death of his father when my client was 15. Unfortunately, his father’s dying was not the worst of it. Rather, it was the silence of both of his parents’ before and the continuing virtual silence of the mother afterward. For all of them, there was an elephant in the room that everyone walked around, as the teenage boy withdrew farther into himself.

The young man arrived in Minneapolis on Friday morning ready to get down to brass tacks. The flood of emotions began after about twenty minutes in my office, accompanied by profuse tears.

He had many "ah-ha" moments throughout the 5 hours and 15 minutes we worked together. When I asked his permission to summarize some of the major ones in my blog, his response was immediate and clear. “If it will help somebody, sure!”

First, I should note that it is a relatively simple process, though still painful, to resolve a loss at the time it occurs. That is, if there are no variables that complicate it, such as a family’s conspiracy of silence surrounding the loss, as my client experienced. However, when additional factors become entangled into the loss, resolving it is a painstaking process. It requires coming to terms with a host of often interlocking components that each must be understood.

Furthermore, just intellectually grasping what happened or didn’t isn’t enough. The range of feelings surrounding events must be experienced and expressed, in order for the dark clouds of grief that often turn to depression to lift.

Here is a summary of some of his healing realizations, in his own words.

“I had always felt there was something wrong with me that I felt either sadness or anger about my
father’s death.”

“I always felt a lot of shame because there was so much I couldn’t figure out, and that was
controlling my life.“

“The constant feedback that my feelings were wrong was crippling.”

“No one else in my whole family was [expressing feelings], so something must be wrong with me
that I felt sad and angry. I never knew how anyone felt.”

“[As a result], I became this other person completely, ruled by demons.”

“I always felt I’d been chosen to suffer.”

“I’m finally admitting to myself that I have been suffering. And I feel like I’m getting myself

Even reading that courageous young man’s feelings in isolation on paper is gripping. So many years, he isolated himself and felt isolated. So much pain, much of it unnecessary, if only someone had understood and effectively helped.

What’s important now is that he has chosen to help himself, and that he wants to help others by sharing his lessons from this difficult but maturing experience. I would be proud to have him as my own son any day.