Welcome back to today’s post, The Shrink and Me but firstly, if you’re new to my blog, you’ll probably want to start here, and spoiler alert, if you haven’t guessed already, he passes away and you can read about his last day in this post.
So, 6 months after Nick had died, I was still in the whirl of getting used to the idea of being alone and being a single, independent mum, whilst dealing with solicitors, probate and the bank sorting stuff, when I got a call from an old work friend. He was asking if i’d be interested in coming back a couple of days a week to assist on a short term project.
Well, I was more than happy at home and my days were filled with all the running around that’s necessary when someone dies (honestly, I was not prepared for that!!) while still sorting through my own thoughts and taking care of our then 1 year old, but I felt a little obligated to my workplace, as they’d been so amazing during Nick’s illness and time thereafter, so I said yes.
It was decided, I would return to work two days a week, flexible days and hours, depending on mine and Claudia’s needs.
Sure, it was a little soon maybe, but I was coping so well anyway, that I didn’t think anything of it really. Besides I had more than enough babysitters so that was never a deterrent to returning.
I’ve written previously about my work place and how supportive they were, even inviting me to an awards night after Nick’s death, that you can read about here, which didn’t exactly go to plan as i’d imagined it would. So, I guess getting the call wasn’t completely strange!
And so I started, just a few weeks before what was my first birthday as a widow, but I digress, back to the story…
Obviously everyone was happy to see me back, lots of sympathetic glances, quick flag down chats in corridors and strangely enough, the bathroom wasn’t out of bounds either. But, it was all well meaning and ‘good to see you back’ type conversations.
My general manager, had remained in contact throughout Nick’s illness and phoned often for updates. He was so supportive when Nick actually passed away, catching up with me a couple of times for coffee chats to see how I was going, so he was happy to see me back at work again, apparently, it was his suggestion that they call me.
But, his one gripe that came up every time I saw him, was that he wanted me to have a session with a counsellor. Just to check in and make sure I was functioning right. He couldn’t quite believe that I was OK with what had happened, suggesting that maybe I was putting up a front.
I don’t know how I could possibly be putting up a fake side for so long, but as i’ve said previously, I just wasn’t handling my loss, the way people expected, so therefore, I must be on the verge of cracking! Right!
We were fortunate enough at our workplace to be offered free confidential counselling sessions if needed, which I guess is why he keep pushing and so at his insistence, I finally booked an appointment.
I remember in the lead up to my appointment, telling friends and family that I had one and they all seemed so happy for me, like it was just what I needed.
They’d set me right, they’d get all my emotions out!
And I do want to begin this by saying, I totally believe in getting help and having someone to talk things out with, I also think we’ve come a long way in removing the stigma attached to seeing a cousellor, therapist etc.
I just felt at the time, I was doing such a swell job of getting through it alone, that I didn’t feel the need to see anyone about it.
The day of the appointment arrived and I nervously made my way there. I was seated in the waiting room and was asked to fill in my personal information form. As I begun writing all my details down, I remember the receptionist telling me the counsellor was running a little late with a previous client, being all flustered, I remember telling her (like she cared!) that it was fine, I wasn’t an emergency or anything, I was just sent by my work.
Not sounding crazy at all, i’m sure.
She told me to just relax and that I should be pleased, I had the head counsellor seeing me today.
I couldn’t relax after knowing that, did it mean they thought I was really that screwed up, that I needed someone with the most experience to talk me off the ledge, that I didn’t even know I was on!
And after what felt like a wait of 1000 years, I was finally called in, and I mustered up my brightest, most sane smile and walked in.
Disappointingly, there was no plush couch to lie on, just two chairs in front of each other.
I took one, and the counsellor sat directly in front of me on the other. He was a middle aged guy, friendly looking with a calm soothing voice you’d expect of someone in his field. I felt at ease instantly.
He’d read my notes, so obviously knew why I was there, but began with, ‘Tell me a bit about you and your story Michela.’
And I started, I told him everything. About Nick, his illness, our relationship, Claudia, his passing, the aftermath.
In the same way i’ve written my posts, I spoke honestly and openly about it all.
I laughed, I cried, I reminisced.
He passed me tissues, but barely said a word. He wrote a few things down on his notepad.
I went on about being positive, knowing I still had a bright future ahead of me, not letting his death define me and our daughter, how I came to accept his passing and not letting it depress or get the better of me.
How we had more love in 10 years than some people can have in 40, and how I will always be thankful for that.
How amazing Nick had been throughout his illness, that it had given me a new perspective on life and no reason to complain about anything petty again.
That I was lucky to have had Nick in my life, that he had changed me for the better and i’d always be grateful for the life we shared together.
Telling him how I didn’t want sympathy for my daughter for having lost her Father, because she will always know how loved she is by him. How I planned on keeping his memory alive etc etc.
I felt like I talk for almost the full hour, it was all from the heart, honest and raw. The words were just spilling out of me.
When I was done, most likely because i’d ran out of breath, the counsellor began talking.
I’ve never forgot his words, he said, ‘Michela, you’re a remarkable woman. You have handled this better than most people handle life.’
I blushed, it was the highest compliment i’d heard following Nick’s death. He went on, telling me I had a gift, a way of seeing things differently to most. That my way of thinking positively about something so tragic had indeed been what pulled me through the worst of it.
He said I had to do something with it.
Write a book, he suggested, or start a young widow support group, or better still, look into becoming a grief counsellor.
At the time, let me tell you, I was far from ready to write a book, thinking no one would really want to read anything i’d have to write and the thought of having 10 young widows in a room, who didn’t necessarily share my thoughts on their partners death would be difficult and more study, I wasn’t so sure about, it had been years since I left uni.
But still, I was touched that he thought I had the ability to do those things. It was the nicest compliment i’d heard in a long while.
Obviously there was no follow up appointment needed.
I left his office walking on air, he had validated that I was OK, that I had handled Nick’s passing well and wasn’t in need of fixing. That I wasn’t a cold, callous widow, that I was normal and coping in the way I knew how.
Even I had begun to think something was wrong with me and the way I was dealing, after hearing it from others, but after my session, it all clicked, I was doing just fine, in fact, better than expected!
I was exceeding expectations on how to cope with loss and that didn’t make me a bad person and it just took a stranger, to help me see it and stop making excuses for my behaviour.
I made the calls to my doubters, I was fine, the therapist had said so. I wasn’t in danger of cracking or having a breakdown. I was doing a great job, and just because it didn’t fit the ‘norm’ of being a widow, it didn’t make it the wrong way.
When I returned to work the next week, my general manager, pulled me aside and discreetly asked me how it went. I told him, but he didn’t quite believe me. I suggested he call and confirm himself, gave him the name of the head counsellor i’d seen, he couldn’t shake the thought that there was no follow up appointment.
How could I lose my husband and be ok?
Well, I was OK and I knew I’d only go from strength to strength from there on, and I did.
Thank you so much, as always, for reading, sharing and commenting, I love hearing from you!
And thank you for the love on Facebook, appreciate it so much!
Til next week, Michela x
Also, quick shout out to Poppy from Light of Eva for sending Claudia a beautiful candle from her range, to light in honour of her Dad. Ours is in the beautiful coconut lime punch scent, but check her out on Facebook, she has a beautiful range of hand poured, soy candles with a 35 hour burn time, I highly recommend them!!! Thank you Poppy, we love our candle and burn it daily!