Unexpected Grief

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

My client died. Suddenly, unexpectedly. She was young, a year older than I am. She left a voicemail while I was on vacation saying it was important. She never calls so I knew it was. She didn't return my call. I called the next day and her daughter answered her phone and gave me the news that my client was terminally ill, had had a major brain surgery and had not yet regained consciousness, and that the prognosis was poor. I was shocked, and I still am. Not only by her death, but by the depth of my reaction.


I had known her for a little over a year. She had come in to get help with coping after a sudden illness and all of it's consequences. But no one knew that the underlying cause was terminal. She was remarkable, but when I describe her, there's nothing overtly actually 'remarkable'. At least not in the terms of our culture would recognize. She hadn't accomplished anything outwardly big or grand. No book, no company, no huge fortune, no fame. She had a large extended family, a husband and an adult daughter. And a dog. And a beautiful smile. She loved her job and all the people there. She worked hard and did everything with integrity. Did she have struggles and conflicts, doubts and insecurities?......of course, she was human. Her life was not without it's difficulties. But she was always genuine and true to herself.


We connected. She talked about her struggles, she cried and I cried with her because I am a crier. Don't get me wrong, I have very good boundaries. Solid, but flexible, professional boundaries, practiced for decades. But I also connect with my clients, and sometimes that connection is meaningful and profound. I often learn from my clients, and I learned from this one too. I am reminded that simply connecting with people, sometimes at their darkest moments, and equally at their best times, brings great gifts. Not the ones you can see, or even put into words all the time. Gifts of connection that enrich our lives. And the grief and sense of loss at her unexpected death is a reminder of just how meaningful those human connections are. And how grateful I am to have known her in the way that I did. And how grateful I am to do this work.

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