Grief Recovery Success Story
To honor our confidentiality commitment to our clients, the story below uses the fictional name of “Amelia.” Amelia worked with counselor Christa Wright, licensed associate marriage and family therapist (MS, AMFT), at Catherine J. Hunter & Associates.
What initiated counseling?
Amelia lost her mother to cancer only a few weeks after having her first baby. After a time, she started having some medical issues and attended physical therapy as a treatment. As she told her story to the physical therapist, the therapist wondered if any issues were related to grief. Amelia sought counseling to understand what was happening to her.
What did Amelia discover?
Amelia discovered that she had not taken time to grieve because she was so busy being a new mom and helping her father adjust to life without her mother. In addition, she realized the need for boundaries with her father, who was requiring more and more of her time.
Underlying all of this, Amelia also felt a loss of her sense of direction about what she wanted to accomplish in life.
How did the counseling sessions work?
Christa and Amelia first worked on finding ways and time for Amelia to grieve. An important step was drawing boundaries in her life so she could take care of herself. “Christa practiced with me. What was I going to do if my dad called 13 times a day and the kids also had needs?” explained Amelia. “We identified specific things that my dad was doing which added stress and came up with solutions. “
As she worked through different scenarios, Amelia learned that her grief was for more than her mother. “I was sad for the loss of my Dad as he formerly was,” said Amelia. “I was angry for the loss of time with my baby as I was balancing everything from doing my dad’s laundry to visiting my mom in the hospital. With a new baby, it should have been a time of people helping me and not the other way around.” Through her work with Christa, Amelia gave herself permission to fully grieve for all of her losses.
Through counseling, Amelia also realized that she was holding on to her mom’s memory by carrying on some of her mom’s unhealthy traits. Christa helped Amelia release the self-destructive ways of remembering her mom and deliberately choose to carry on the best parts of her mom. For example, she wrote a letter to her mom as an exercise outside of the sessions, which helped her both let go and honor her mom.
Exercises like the letter helped tremendously with her recovery. “You need to take the time to work on your goals,” stresses Amelia. “I would go to McDonald’s immediately after the sessions and complete follow-up work from the session. It made all the difference.”
“Throughout all of this, Christa was there for only me and a gift to myself,” said Amelia. “I loved the Christian-based counseling, which was very low key and completely my choice. She also just really understood what I experienced since she is a mom, too.”
How did counseling help you with the most difficult changes?
Amelia had to change her way of thinking—that neglecting herself to help others was not really helping anyone. “I always had it together and was in control,” said Amelia. “I now needed to let go. It was hard to give myself permission to both let go and let it all out…be mad, be sad.”
She remembers a day where it all came out. “I was getting in the car after an appointment and it started pouring rain,” Amelia explains. “The rain just unleashed the tears. It was a very physical and emotional moment.”
Amelia strongly feels that you need to view therapy as a gift to yourself. “You need to truly make a commitment and maximize your time in whatever way works for you,” she said. “It will make all the difference.”
How has counseling changed her life?
Amelia feels that counseling gave her a springboard to transform her life. She changed unhealthy patterns while continuing loving behavior toward others. She also used a book called Longing For More: A Woman’s Path to Transformation in Christby Ruth Haley Barton to reconnect with herself, explore her identity, and reclaim a passion for photography. “I learned that it was ok to do stuff for me,” said Amelia. “I found joy again.”