My mom was so excited when I would tell her about my counseling sessions. Often I would call her on my way back (it was about a 40 minute drive) to give her the highlights. She celebrated with me and often identified with my brokenness.
The truth is, my mom had hurts and baggage in her life. She openly shared her struggles with me and together we would process and dissect them. I would pass along the truth I was absorbing and the freedom I was experiencing as she clung to every word. She had been emotionally wounded as a child and then betrayed in her marriage. She had been scarred from things that had happened in their decades of working in full-time ministry. I saw her as a spiritual warrior who had been strengthened by the battles she had fought. She had some war wounds and battle scars but her spirit couldn’t have been stronger. She had learned to war for justice, truth and her convictions.
I realized early on what a special relationship I had with my counselor, Erin. I wondered if everyone had that kind of connection with their therapist and I answered my own question as I reflected back on the two previous counselors I had seen. Neither one of them were a fit for me…every week I would bring my circular peg and try to fit it into their square hole. If I would have been stronger, I would have taken the time to search for a better fit. But as I mentioned last week, sometimes the gifts are found in the waiting. My second counselor introduced me to Erin and I would have NEVER met her had I (in frustration) jumped ship.
As I’ve been walking through the death of my mama and the void I feel in my heart, I have been embracing and writing about the tools Erin gave me all those years ago. And today, I realized that the biggest gift she gave me also happens to be the thing that makes her an incredible counselor. For someone in her field of work who might be insecure or unsure of themselves, this gift would be seen as self-sabotaging or even self-destructive. It would be viewed as an unintentional road to early retirement. But the gift is so beautiful in that it is life-giving in two ways: it allows someone like me to heal and get back on my feet, but it also allows someone else the space to do the same.
Erin gave me the ability to think on my own, the resources needed to process various trials as they come, and the confidence of loving myself enough to reach out to those in my own circle when I need help. The gift she gave me was this: she patiently walked me to a safe place where she could release me back into the world and I could actually function and survive there. I know that may sound a little dramatic but some of you can relate to this, even if in a small way. A lack of confidence in one area can result in a full shut-down of that zone. And then what do we do? We tip-toe around it and then we get upset or more wounded when someone bumps into the bruise.
But God has a better plan for us. He probes to help us find those emotional injuries that are bruised and tender to the touch. I remember sessions where Erin would gently take me to those broken places…my tears would be so heavy she didn’t even know what I was saying. I went through boxes of Kleenex in her office and wondered if I would ever be able to float to the surface where I could catch my breath.
And you know what I realized? When I got healthy and learned to function on my own, I made space for another human to take my place in Erin’s office. I gave up my spot on the leather couch so that someone else who is broken and hurting and completely debilitated emotionally can have a seat there.
Healing isn’t just for us, it’s a gift to those around us. It’s not selfish to get help, in fact it’s selfish not to. When you choose to stay in the brokenness, the people around you suffer. In my marriage my FH (former husband) would often tell me that he had married a confident woman and wondered what had happened to her. The greatest gift I could give my children, my FH and my family and friends was the gift of fighting for the restoration of my soul. It’s a gift with a ripple effect.
I know this because I saw it in my own family. My mom put her discomfort, her “I deserve this” and her short-term pain behind what she saw as a long-term gift.
When I first discovered my mom wasn’t doing well physically, I used a lifeline and phoned a friend. Not just any friend, one who had been in my life since the 80’s and someone I knew I could trust fully with my mom. In the past, I would have run to Erin because she held the tools. But on my final day of counseling, I loaded up my car with every emotional tool you could imagine and drove away. And now I own those tools, too. So I called a dear friend of my mom’s that God had put on my heart when I first realized something was wrong. And let me tell you, Sandy was the exact right person to walk me through those two weeks.
Erin taught me that I am loved and in that process I discovered that I am surrounded by people who are there to help when needed—in fact, they WANT to help. I wouldn’t have hesitated for a minute to contact Erin had I needed her, but she ultimately gave me the gift of not needing her anymore in a counselor capacity. And now someone else nestles up in that space near the Kleenex box, next to the window in her office.
Every night I write a special memory about my mom. I don’t know how long I’ll do this, but for now it’s an important part of my healing. Last night I wrote about my gratitude for Sandy as she walked us through the hardest days and that while we were walking together, someone else had a seat on Erin’s couch. I was able to function at a high level at the hospital and lend strength and courage when my mom needed it most because I once sat in that sacred space. And just as I felt my mom cheering me on back then, I still feel her love and encouragement today. When I close my eyes, I picture her pumping her fist in the air, saying, “You can do this.” And so I keep going, in her honor….until we meet again.
If you know someone who could benefit from this post, please share. God carved out a path of intense healing for me and I would like to share it with as many people who need or want to hear.