In 2019, I started a clinical placement at a community health center in a city near where I live. This upcoming May, I will end my time there and my relationships with the clients I have worked with for over a year. Because I feel that people in helping professions should practice consistent self-reflection and because I enjoy
over-disclosing about my various emotional experiences on the internet writing, I want to process what it feels like to say goodbye from my perspective, the clinician’s perspective. When I soak in my emotions about my impending goodbyes with my clients, I first think about the goodbye I experienced four years ago, with the first therapist I saw long-term, L.
When I reflect on my goodbye with L now, I feel a sense of calmness and serenity, that even though our work together felt difficult, I processed my PTSD and grew a lot as a result. However, when I reread the post I wrote four years ago right after our relationship ended, I remember all the emotions I experienced then. I woke up many mornings feeling an aching sadness about it, I sometimes wondered whether he would miss me like I would miss him, and at my worst I would go back to doubting if he had cared about me at all. Looking back at it now, I recognize that it made sense to feel grief about losing someone I trusted with my deepest fears and emotions and joys, that he definitely would miss me, and that he had cared about me a lot, enough to play Ariana Grande in his waiting room before my sessions, back then when I still obsessed about Ariana’s music. Still, all of my feelings of grief and sadness felt so immense four years ago. Even though I still functioned well in the days and weeks after our relationship ended, I sometimes struggled to envision exactly what my life would look like after my relationship with L came to a close.
As I type out this blog post sitting on the couch in my east coast apartment, I think about how so much has happened since I said goodbye to L four years ago. Since May of 2017, I made two new close friends, one of whom I broke up with and the other who I still talk to and contort with pretty often and in the best possible way. I have maintained and strengthened bonds with two of my closest friends, both of whom I met in college, one of whom I talk with twice a week and burned a man’s essay over a grill with while listening to Ariana Grande, the other whom I also speak with often and once visited in Seattle where we enjoyed quite the scandalous weekend together pre-COVID. I’ve gone on some dates most of which have bored me, and I developed a crush on an emotionally unavailable former labor organizer and then got over him
I also have a crush on a different attractive Asian man right now but that’s another story lolol okay bye. I discovered BlackPink and have spent hundreds of hours jogging and dancing to “As If It’s Your Last,” “How You Like That,” and “Lovesick Girls.” I’ve published over ten peer-reviewed research articles, have obtained over 600 clinical hours, and I’ve kept blogging on a consistent basis. I colored my hair red for three years and then shifted to pink.
I share all of that to say: life happened after my relationship with L came to a close. At the same time, the skills I gained and the healthy – though at times tumultuous – attachment I formed with L influenced my life afterward in several positive ways. Through learning more skills to regulate my emotions, I process my feelings in more effective, complex, and intelligent ways which benefits my own clinical work. Instead of trying to be nice all the time and not communicating my boundaries or wants, I now speak directly and assertively which eliminates unnecessary conflict in my relationships. I imagine that if I do ever date a man, the secure attachment that L role modeled with me will help me eventually trust my future romantic partner.
In a recent clinical supervision session, one of my supervisors reminded me that I have done great, deep work with my clients. I am taking time to honor that, that even in some small way I have helped some people help themselves live more healthful and meaningful lives. All I ever wanted to accomplish from a young age was to help others and to honor my grandmother’s spirit through providing empathic and compassionate support. I’m happy that that’s happened and I’m letting myself feel sad too, because goodbyes are hard, even goodbyes that are healthy and planned and caring. In reflecting upon my own experiences, I feel more confident acknowledging, though, that my clients will continue to live their lives and will encounter more pain and more joy. All I hope is that I’ve helped them help themselves make their journeys a little easier, just like L did for me.
How have you coped with the ending of therapeutic or nontherapeutic relationships? General reactions to this post? I feel proud of myself for still finding time to write on here even with my immense amount of work. Until next post!