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Diane Learns She Needs To Get Out Of Her Own Way

Last article, we met Diane, a recent widow whose call led to a good hour’s worth of telephone labor. She planned to call for an appointment. She was crying miserably. Her call was well-timed. I had an hour before my last client of the day. The severity of her introductory call meant a re-focus, rather than nap, meditate, read or to contemplate my novel. Diane’s call went much further than making an appointment.

I found myself quickly realizing that this woman needed a listening ear. An appointment followed by a courtesy goodbye wasn’t a viable option. Her doctor had given her my name. Looking back, I didn’t inquire about her doctor and his or her rationale for referring Diane for counseling. Between sobs, she apologized for her crying stating that she does this all the time. Taking a brief moment whilst she cried, I gathered her name.  A first person exchange offer carries more weight and influence than “ma’am.” I realized she didn’t call merely for an appointment. She was reaching out.

During approximately an hour long conversation, she provided useful information. Her husband of 45 years recently passed. Her adult children had left for their respective homes out of state. Her brother lived nearby. They, however, we’re not close. Diane had a dog that provided comfort. She had curtailed church attendance. I wondered about a reach-out to the priest whose sermons she once enjoyed. Her husband’s body was cremated and his ashes were kept in an urn. She hadn’t yet fulfilled his wishes to be scattered at a favorite country spot they often visited on Sunday drives. Diane briefly described Claude as a carpenter whose skill superseded his work. He was described as a loving and kind man. Diane had been isolating and socially withdrawing. COVID-19 scares her. I offered Diane some solace and attempted to normalize her response to Claude’s passing as grieving. Of course she’d be crying, upset, and withdrawn; 45 years of memories lay ahead for Diane to face. We made an appointment once I sensed Diane gaining some control.

Hi Diane, nice to hear your voice. Did you get much sleep last night? How do you feel right now? “I haven’t been able to sleep. My husband and I slept together every night. Then we got our dog and Claude let the dog sleep with us. For some reason, the dog slept close to Claude. Since he died, the dog won’t come into bed. Charlie whines when I get into bed. Charlie sleeps on the floor. Do you think Charlie misses my husband?” Well, the way you describe the experience, yes. Dogs do miss their deceased human family members. How much sleep do you get lately? How much do you require, Diane?

“I toss and turn. I wake up from bad dreams. Sometimes I cry when I get up. Oh, I miss my husband so much. My doctor was greatly concerned that my lack of sleep may be a sign of depression. That’s why he wanted me to call you. I feel so alone. He’s a good doctor. He calls me to check up on me but I know he can only do so much. He started me on an anti-depressant. I take it. I don’t feel any less depressed.” You know, Diane, please allow me a most difficult question. Do you ever feel so badly that you want to die?

“I don’t want to die like taking my life but after 45 years with Claude, I feel so alone. I feel helpless. Sometimes I feel like God is punishing me. I don’t know what to do. Claude did everything. I took care of housekeeping, making food, and taking care of our children while Claude worked. My children are doing well because of Claude’s dedication. He worked long hours to keep us going, you know what I mean?” I hear you, Diane. I think your love and respect for Claude shines through. I wonder, Diane, if you ever credit yourself for your intricate part in your family?

“Wow, you know, I always complemented Claude for his work for our family. I never considered my work to equal Claude’s.” You both, Diane, had a role that perhaps you consciously chose in the collective upbringing of your children. Now you are alone. You get to decide upon your future. Yes…alone. No one can say it will be easy. You can ask for help. You can learn at your pace to grow. I wonder if you trust your own instincts, your own woman’s intuition to help guide you day to day.

Diane begins to cry. “Oh, sorry, there I go again. Can I tell you something I’ve never shared before?” Most certainly, Diane. “When you talk about trusting me, I don’t. You see I learn to trust Claude. Our bills were paid, our home was kept up, and he never stopped loving me. I was the oldest of four kids. My dad was an alcoholic who beat up our mother and me when he got drunk. My mom tried to protect us kids. Dad was verbally abusive. I never got any love like a father is supposed to love his kids. He put me down, called me names I’d rather not repeat. Today, I have a little self-confidence. I get down on myself a lot. I think Claude had a better influence on our children. They all seem well put together. That’s part of what I miss. Claude never spoke down to me. He respected me. He complemented what I did. When we were together, I used to think what a lucky gal I am. Now that he’s gone, I don’t feel so lucky.” (Tears flow and we allow several minutes without talking.) How do you feel now, Diane? You let out and released a good size piece of information.

“I know that I’ve been isolating and keeping to myself. Guess my doctor did me a good service. I needed a royal kick in the butt.” Sounds like you’ve gone inward since Claude’s passing. Grieving a major loss can be healthy in the long run. The long run can mean anything. Diane, sometimes you might find out something new about yourself.

“I’ve got to get out of my own way, you know? Just thinking, I don’t believe I’ve dealt with my husband’s death. I’ve lived this long (laugh) surviving. Yes…I’ve got to decide how I want my future to look like.” You know, Diane, sometimes folks set small goals, small achievable goals. As you achieve the small goals, no one says you can’t feel good. You decide what your goals will be daily and weekly, and what you want them to look like. I wonder if Claude, in all due respect Diane, would be proud of you. Getting on in your life can boost your self-confidence and self-esteem. How about we talk weekly and you decide to call me as needed to talk? We set a new appointment. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

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