By: Kelly Daugherty, LCSW-R, GC-C, BC-TMH
This is the first in a blog series on grief and loss. The first blog will share my story about grief shaped the woman I am today.
Twenty-five years ago, my Mom, Eileen Barry, died from breast cancer. I was 14 years old at the time. My Mom was sick for about 2.5 years, and during that time, I never thought she was going to die, I think I was in total denial. Unfortunately, in July of 1994, my Father sat my sisters and myself down at the kitchen table to tell us that the doctors had given my Mom less than a week to live and we needed to decide on signing a DNR. I didn't want to believe this, but it was the truth. My Mom died about eight days after this conversation. It was the worst time of my life. The next year of my life is quite blurry, I remember bits and pieces, mostly the bad stuff and the stupid things people said to me, but I can't remember much about the school including anything I learned that year.
I remember crying myself to sleep most nights and feeling so alone, and I had no idea how to handle these intense feelings I was experiencing. Fortunately, my Dad recognized how much I was struggling and forced me to go to a grief support group at the local Hospice. I was reluctant to go, but my Dad told me that there would be boys there. As a 15-year-old girl who went to an all-girls catholic high school, I was boy crazy and went in the hopes of being around some boys. Well, of course, there were no boys there, but that group changed my life. I met three other girls who had experienced the death of their Father's, and I finally felt like I wasn't alone. Renee was the social worker that facilitated that group and helped me through this challenging time in my life. After the group was over, I still wanted more, and Renee invited me to start volunteering with the little kid's group. This was when I knew I wanted to be a social worker like Renee and to be able to help grieving kids. As a social worker for the last 18 years, I have worked at two different Hospices as grief counselors, and I continue to volunteer at local grief camps. Throughout my career, I have had the opportunities to work with survivors of sex abuse, homeless women, sex abuse prevention programs, and mentally ill children and adults. As much as I learned and enjoyed all of those opportunities, my true passion still is grief and loss. I am fortunate to now be in private practice, and many of my current clients are coping with dealing with the death of a loved one.
As I reflect on the last twenty-five years without my Mom, I am amazed at how much that experience shaped who I am today. Even this many years later, I still miss my Mom and at times wonder how different my life would be if my Mom were still alive. I also reflect on the fact that I was fortunate enough to have my Mom in my life for those 14 years and all that she taught me. My Mom was a kind, generous, friendly woman, and I believe I have some of those traits in me. I also think that if I hadn't gone through that experience, I would have never become a Social Worker and not even sure what I would be doing with my life. I am grateful for what I have learned through my personal experiences and think it makes me a better grief counselor.
I regularly hear from my clients the stories of other therapists they went to and how unhelpful they were. Clients report that the other therapists they went to have said cliched responses that aren't helpful didn't say anything at all or minimized their feelings and wouldn't discuss the death or the person that died. I have decided to take my years of personal experience with my grief and my professional experience to share what I have learned about grief and loss. I will be writing a series of blogs on topics related to grief and loss. Most of what I will share I have learned over the years from research, books, or first-hand experience with clients as well as my personal experience. I am hoping that some therapists and hypnotists that are uncomfortable working or even talking about grief and loss will read this and learn how to help their clients better.
My plan for this series of blogs is to share some general grief knowledge, help the readers understand grief better and what is normal, and when you may need to seek professional help. I plan to provide ways to help someone that you may know that is grieving as well as techniques to help your clients by utilizing hypnosis, principles of grief counseling, and other interventions. I understand that you may not agree with everything I will say, but I hope that you find this helpful.