I recently had two referrals for grief counseling. One was male, one female. Both lost their spouses recently (three months or less). And both told me their spouse was their soul mate.
I think the older I get, the less I know what that means. I used to think it meant that person that could finish your sentences because they think pretty much the same way you do. Sometimes now I wonder if your soul mate is that person that just never goes away. If you know someone’s dark side/sides, all of their imperfections, and you just love the heck out of them anyway, maybe that is your soul mate.
Anyhow, I don’t think I’ve ever met mine. Tim and I loved each other. We worked very hard at becoming excellent partners to each other. I think we definitely achieved that. But I wouldn’t have called us soul mates. I don’t think he would have either, not that I ever remember talking about it.
I digressed. The point is being an observer of grief, I found these two people who approached their losses very differently. I honestly think part of it is due to gender. I’m not sure all of it comes down to that one factor though. The guy came in and expressed his grief verbally, but outwardly seemed incredibly together. He didn’t cry, although he said he did often. He felt he mostly came because his kids and doctor worry about him. He said he understood grief and seemed to be able to articulate his emotions and the whole painful process. After a few days I got a polite text that said he would not be returning to therapy. I found myself torn between knowing that people express grief differently and we yell all the time about how there is no formula to grieve the “right” way. But part of me wondered if he was keeping it all on the head level. You can talk about grief without letting it into your depths. I suspect that is why Dr. Grace referred him, that maybe she was wondering if there was more beneath the surface. But it looks like I won’t find out.
The woman was entirely different. She continues to come in every week and wonders if she has lost herself. She has panic attacks at times, and usually cries through most of session. She thinks she is doing terribly. I keep reassuring her she is just fine. She is simply in great pain. Tremendous, horrific pain. It may never leave her, but it will change. It will lessen, it will morph. She has already seen some shifts in herself and credits that to the new medication Dr. Grace put her on and the sessions she has had with me. In particular, she has found breathing techniques immeasurably helpful. She can’t believe something so simple can be so powerful.
Again, perhaps this is just the difference between male and female grief. Perhaps this is grief embraced and grief denied. But it doesn’t matter. I know it sounds corny, but I truly mean this: I count it an honor and sacred responsibility when anyone walks in my office and allows me to see their grief, in whatever form it is. It heals little pieces of me as well. So thanks to both of you, and all those clients over the last 20 years that have enriched my life!