When Mike first died, everyone asked me if I was going to therapy. When I said that I was it was somehow a relief to them. “Good for you,” they’d say. I didn’t get it. I was so fresh into it that I mostly just sat there and cried at my sessions. I mean, it was good to cry and talk and hear an outsider’s perspective but it was still very raw.
Now, just past the two year mark, when and if I ever mention I go to therapy I’m met with the surprised reaction of, “Oh? Do you still need that?” I’d like to be able to say that reaction was a one time thing but that’s the usual reaction I get from many different people. Sometimes also met with their embarrassment or discomfort in the fact that they are now talking to me about the “taboo” subject of therapy. I refuse to succumb to that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the fact that I still go to therapy. Maybe people just don’t understand.
The “do you still need to go to that?” with the implied suggestion that I should be fine by now was the exact question my family doctor asked me when I asked her to sign the papers for my insurance. I replied, “Is my husband still dead?”
I’m not sure who made this grief and therapy timeline but I think it’s all wrong. Therapy has become more useful to me now than in the early days. It’s true, I don’t go as often but I think that’s because I’m getting more out of the sessions now. I don’t spend my time sitting there crying (usually) and trying to piece my words together. Now, I have things to say and issues to bring up. Now, it’s the real deal. Living life after loss and being expected to be “normal” but still carrying pain is the hard work. There’s no more shock or adrenaline to protect me from reality anymore. There’s less people to talk to about it and it’s a bit more complicated as I move forward. I’m left to figure out how to live this new life and still care for the hole in my heart that is invisible to the outside world. 2 years passing by and being in a new relationship didn’t change that I still have pain. If anything, the changes in my life have brought more emotions to the surface. So if I can get help with that then why wouldn’t I? It’s nice to have someone to talk things through with.
I’m really not sure why going to therapy, for any reason, is seen as a secretive or shameful act. Yet, from my experience, it’s not something people openly discuss. It’s kept quiet. Even sitting in the waiting room of my therapist’s office I see people leave with their head down not wanting to be seen or acknowledged. Why? Why is taking care of yourself seen as a secret? You wouldn’t do that at a doctor’s office after breaking your leg or going for immunization shots. Going to therapy takes care of the most important part of you; your mind. That is nothing to be ashamed of. That’s something to be proud of. I think it’s admirable when people have the courage and motivation to take the steps to take care of themselves. It takes effort. The alternative is suffering in silence and I think that is much worse than admitting you go to therapy.
I think people think I should be done with therapy now because I seem fine and like I’m functioning well. I mostly am. But that’s partly because I actually still go to therapy. I deal with my issues, as much as I can. I try to take care of myself. Going to therapy doesn’t necessarily mean I’m doing terribly. It means I’m seeking to keep making progress, better my mental health through addressing my grief, and trying to adjust and function in my new life. It’s part of trying to balance my mind and health for me at this point. I do this so I can live the life I have to the best of my abilities. So yes, I still go to therapy. I still have issues. My husband is still dead. And I’m not ashamed about any of it.