Monday, March 22, 2021

In Grief: Is This Counselor Safe For Me?

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear  ~ Zen Proverb

A reader writes: I hope it's okay to ask you this question, I have no one else to ask. I am seeing a hospice bereavement counselor, my Mom passed away two months ago, I have seen this lady about 5 times at the most, anyway, I saw her this past Friday and I finally told her that I was fighting with suicidal thoughts, she really said nothing but "they are not equipped to deal with this."

She did not ask me if  I had a plan, or anything, I did tell her that the only reason why I am still here is because of a dear very shy dog I have, That my dog would not have anywhere to go where she would be happy, and that I could not do in my own dog . This lady also told me that "our time is up because they are so busy." Is this lady safe for me???

My response: I'm so very sorry to learn of the death of your mother; please accept my sincere condolences for your loss.  I'm also horrified to think that any hospice bereavement counselor would make such an insensitive statement in response to your sharing thoughts of suicide.  I cannot imagine what courage it must have taken for you to share such thoughts in the first place, and then to hear such an inappropriate response from someone supposedly in a helping role ~ how awful for you! 

First, I must agree with your assessment that, for whatever reason, this person is not a good fit for you, and I strongly encourage you to find another counselor.  I don't know where you live, so I don't know what bereavement resources are available to you in your community, but you might try calling other hospices and hospitals that may be near you. Ask to speak with the Bereavement Coordinator, Social Worker, or Chaplain's Office to get a grief referral, and ask either for individual counseling or for a support group. (Some hospices offer special groups specifically aimed at daughters who've lost their mothers.) The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization maintains a database of hospices for each state in the United States. You can also call your telephone operator or public library and ask for the numbers for your local mental health association or your local suicide prevention center. Either agency will have good grief referral lists. You need not be suicidal to get a grief referral from a suicide prevention center.

That said, I want to address your concerns about having suicidal thoughts.  It's important to know that thoughts of suicide are not unusual when we’re grieving. We may have the pessimistic belief that things will never get any better, as if life and living are useless. It is difficult for us to imagine life without our loved one, and we may feel a compelling need to join or to be with the person who has died. Nevertheless, there is a vast difference between thinking about suicide and acting upon such thoughts. In grief, thoughts of suicide are usually fleeting and reflect how desperately we want the pain of loss to end.  

It’s also important to note that the sorrow of grief is not the same as clinical depression. A griever looks outside and sees the world as poor and empty, while a depressed person looks inward and sees the self that way. Depression is a treatable illness. If you’re concerned that you may be clinically depressed, I urge you to consult with your primary care physician. You may need medication, or you may need only to be reassured that your feelings are within the normal limits of grieving.  At the very least, please check out this Web site: If you are thinking of suicide, read this first.

I don't know what you've read about normal grief, but arming yourself with reliable information is very important, and I cannot emphasize enough how helpful it can be. The more you know about what is normal and predictable in grief, the better prepared you are to manage your own reactions. I hope you will spend some time exploring the pages of my Grief Healing website, which offer lots of information, comfort and support. See also Marty's Articles, which cover many different aspects of grief. Consider joining our online Grief Healing Discussion Groups, too, where you'll find a forum for those who have lost a parent. This service is available to you 24 hours a day, seven days a week ~ and at no cost.  

The point is that you need not settle for help that is not helping you, my dear. You managed to find me, and you owe it to yourself to explore some of these other resources, too. I hope this information proves helpful to you, and when you feel ready to do so, I hope you will let me know how you are doing.

Afterword: Hi Marty. Thank You so very much for writing back to me, and for showing me kindness and understanding. I have joined your Grief Healing Discussion Group, I have read as many posts as I can right now, and it does help that there are others with similar feelings, sad to say that is. Also I've been reading your book, Finding Your Way Through Grief, I have to already say thank you for writing this, as I will never be able to tell you how it helped me get thru last night. I thought I was so prepared to losing my Mom, I have been her sole caregiver for 11 years (wish I had known about groups for that) and I had to watch her as she went down, one thing after another, she was only 72. I lost my Dad on my b-day in 2005, heart attack, shock, but never got to grieve for him. In 1994 I had a stillborn baby, they would not let me see "it" or tell me what "it" was. I have always felt that it was  a she. Could never talk about this one, still have a hard time.

Thank You for telling me that I had courage for telling the hospice lady, oh yes it was very hard, It was scary, I was so afraid that she would get me locked away, that cant happen. I told her that I did try in 1997, that was a terrible year, lost my beloved horse, my best friend to cancer (she begged me to kill her I could not) than my peke to the same kind of cancer so I took a massive overdose. So this time I knew the signs, I don't want to go down that road again. so I am fighting hard.

I am so sad as I really like the hospice lady, she is a kind person, maybe I triggered her or something. She always gave me a hug, that is what I will miss the most.

My old therapist moved to another state a few years back, I had been with her for years, and I wish that she was here.

Thanks again, I am looking forward to your writings, as I do want to heal.

My response: Bless your sweet heart! I am so touched by your message and your story, and I so hope that you will continue doing whatever you can to take good care of yourself.  Now that I know a bit more of your story, I want to recommend to you an absolutely fabulous book that I think you will find very helpful. I have met the author, Terry Wise, and she is truly a remarkable, wonderful person. Her book is called Waking Up: Climbing through the Darkness. (If you click on the book title, you can read Amazon's description and review of the book.) She tells of her near-fatal suicide attempt following her young husband's death from Lou Gehrig's Disease and what she learned about herself in the aftermath, with a detailed account of the work she did with her therapist to understand and heal from her depression. I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough, and I hope you'll consider ordering it. At the very least, I hope you'll click on the title and read what others have to say about it.

In any event, please know that I am thinking of you and holding you in my heart.

Afterword 2: Dear Marty, I gave the hospice lady your website when she was here today. I let her come as I was going to tell her how I felt about what happened the last time I saw her. I did like her, as I saw something about her that she cared. I told her that I wrote to you online, that I ordered your book, and that you have been such a support to me, and I showed her the books Waking Up, Empty Arms, and Suicide the Forever Decision. She then shared with me that when she came to hospice (she is new) she asked for resources and was told they had none, so that is when I shared with her about you, and your books, and your oh so helpful website. She was excited, seems to me that she is willing to and wants to learn. I told her that I have ordered 4 more copies of your book, and I will give her one. She is looking forward to this.

I found this interesting, when I told her that by reading the Waking Up book that sexual abuse does play a role in grief loss, she wanted to say more and she then said sorry we are not allowed to go into other areas besides loss. This is what she is being taught. I would not let it go, so I just flat out told her that sexual abuse is a loss, a loss of childhood, a loss of trust, that the cause and effect comes back into play when a person you loved dies. Then she tells me that she is learning from me!!! I also told her that I also learned from the Waking Up book, that for me the 11 years of taking care of my parents was a safety for me, it allowed me to withdraw from the world. I have not finished the book yet, am about halfway thru, I will let you know when I am done. She also told me that she could/would Baker Act me, if she really felt that I was in danger, I told her that would be a huge mistake, that I must deep down inside really want to live or I would not be here now. I told her I have the helpline numbers ready if I should have to call.

I really thank you from the depths of my being for helping me and for writing to me, and making me feel okay!!!! 

Your feedback is welcome! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question, or share a tip, a related article or a resource of your own in the Comments section below. If you’d like Grief Healing Blog updates delivered right to your inbox, you’re cordially invited to subscribe to our weekly Grief Healing Newsletter. Sign up here.


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
© by Marty Tousley, RN, MS, FT, BC-TMH 

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