Grief and loss even impacts us therapists. On July 26, 2019 I lost my grandfather Robert Resendez who passed away at the age of 89. Sadly, I knew this day was coming for some time after he had a brain tumor removed in late 2018 which nearly took his life at the time of the procedure. I also knew I would have to grieve his eventual death which is an often painful but very cathartic process to endure. However, I had no idea his passing would impact me as it has in weeks past. Memories have been recalled, photos have been looked at, and tears have been shed. During his memorial I shared anecdotes of how his stoicism and cynical demeanor often hid a warmth and empathy that only his closest family members were privy to. In being a business owner and entrepreneur, I often see traits of my grandfather via interactions I have with non-client business associates. I’ve accepted my grandfather’s passing, yet weeks later I’m still in an state of shock that someone whom I viewed as practically immortal would no longer be a part of the lives of my family and I.
I recall receiving mixed messages from professors in grad school about a therapist’s use self-disclosure to clients. Self-disclosure refers to the practice of a clinician sharing personal experiences that relate to those that a client is enduring that in turn part of the reason why he/she comes to therapy in the first place. I recall hearing from some professors that it was taboo for a therapist to self-disclose, while others stated it was ok as long as it was to the client’s benefit. Over my ten years of practice as a clinician, I have become comfortable in self-disclosing things about my personal life and experiences if I have indeed felt they’d benefit clients with respect to seeing the “human” side of me. The inability for many people (often potential clients) to see therapy as a human experience is often what keeps many away from this undertaking this challenging yet healing journey. Societal and cultural stigmas about mental health also do further damage at making the process less about human interaction and growth while sadly conveying a message that those who seek therapy do so because of their failure to harness their predisposed resilience that would otherwise help them overcome emotional adversity. On that I call BS. We are human beings and we feel…..that’s what we are predisposed to do.
It is completely human for people (including yours truly) to experience the pain that grieving the loss of a loved one brings. Especially when we think about how our lives will continue without someone who had such as profound impact and influence on us. I can honestly say that I am proud of myself for being able to grieve the loss of my
grandfather, and will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. As tough as it is to admit, I know this won’t be the last time I will grieve over losing someone, as it is something we all will encounter until the day when those around us will do the same when we are no longer around to impact their lives.
I will miss my grandpa dearly, and can honestly say I am honored to have had him play such a profound role in my life.