Confession. I have a therapist. After a few years of not sitting on his sofa, I’ve gone back to visit for a while. I had my first session three weeks ago, and the sofa is still really comfortable. I’ll go back next week, and we’ll visit a few times per month until…whenever.
I’m not sure why I’m putting this out here. But I feel compelled to.
Maybe it’s to promote more authenticity in my little sphere of influence and to help eliminate the stigma associated with therapy. Because I was listening to a podcast about women and body image the other day. The host of the podcast — the founder of Noonday Collection who was interviewing her own therapist — brought this up. She asked her therapist what resources were available for women who were dealing with body image issues but who were too ashamed to seek professional help.
How tragic is this?
There are women out there who need help (in the area of body image or otherwise) but won’t ask for it because they’re ashamed.
We’re all broken, and we’re all hurting, in the same but different kinds of ways. And I believe there’s not a single person on the planet who couldn’t benefit from therapy. I don’t care what anyone else says. Life is hard, and there are professionals out there to help us do the hard things in healthy ways.
But we’re ashamed to admit we aren’t perfect. We’re ashamed to admit we need help. And we’re ashamed to admit our hurt and pain have become obstacles.
But we shouldn’t be.
We’re all in this perfectly imperfect thing together. What would it look like if we were willing to talk about it?
I also believe we suffer from guilt associated with abundance. Because we have so much abundance in our lives, we are guilt-stricken when “hard things” get us down. As a result, we don’t give ourselves the freedom to hurt. To be broken. To struggle. To need help. To want more out of life.
Undoubtedly, a healthy perspective is good:
Wondering where the next meal is coming from is a really hard thing.
Schlepping buckets of water from the bore hole to the hut is a really hard thing.
Dying of cancer is a really hard thing.
But stuffing our hurt and brokenness out of guilt because we know others have it harder than we do isn’t healthy.
It’s not productive.
And at the end of the day, it’s going to leave us powerless to help those who are hurting more.
So about a month ago, I decided to stop stuffing it. To stop trying to deal with it on my own. And to stop pretending that everything about my life should be “just fine.” Because it’s not.
When I walked into my therapist’s office for my first visit, he asked me in typical style, “What would be good for us to talk about today?”
I didn’t know.
I really had no idea what to talk about.
I just stared back at him blankly. With saucers in my eyes.
I was at a loss for words.
But what I did know was that I was on the brink of water works, and my head was about to come off my shoulders under the pressure.
He read my cues and said, “Just start.”
So I did.
Twenty minutes later, after talking marriage, kids, life season, ministry, job, I came up for air and finished with something like this:
“I know there are so many good things happening in my life. And I know others are dealing with so much more. I feel like I should be doing better. Coping better. Sometimes I think I’m just weak. What’s wrong with me?”
He stared at me — this time with saucers in his eyes — and held up his legal pad, which was filled from top to bottom and front to back with notes.
And then he began to explain.
Yes, my life is filled with lots of good things. He’d made note of them, and he wants me to focus on those things as part of a way forward.
But his legal pad was also chock full of huge of loss I’ve sustained over the last 7 years.
It began in 2009 with some very personal family circumstances I struggled through, it intensified in 2013 when we quite literally laid down a life we loved to embrace a whole new world of unknown. And it continues even today as I struggle to redefine my role as a pastor’s wife in a new context that just doesn’t “need” me as much. I’m also preparing to send my baby off to kindergarten in the fall, and the end of this school year is like a neon orange highlighter on that little detail.
My life is changing in big ways. And it has been for a long time.
Some of it is good.
But a whole lot of it is sad too.
And the sad part has resulted in grief. Lots of grief. Which is presenting itself not just with sadness, but also with anger and resentment towards the parts of my life and the people I love the most. This is making things really hard for me. And for them.
“No wonder,” he said over and over again. “No wonder you feel like you’re treading water with a weight tied to your ankle. No wonder.”
Oh, the gift of permission to be. To feel. To grieve.
It’s a beautiful thing that my therapist gave me. And I think this must be the first step towards my healing. Because I’m always inclined to focus on what’s wrong with me.
Where do I need to be stronger?
The list of the things I need to be “more” or “less” of goes on and on.
Rarely do I view things from the perspective of what’s happened to me. Rarely do I view things from the perspective of my own pain. Rarely do I view things from the perspective of the girl whose life has been turned upside down and inside out.
No, I don’t view my life from that perspective very often. Instead, I view it from the outside, looking in, and from that place, I’m my own worst critic.
So there are three things I need to say to you today.
First, a thing on grief. I’m certainly not an expert. But I’ve been learning this since 2009, and it’s a slow lesson for me. Grief isn’t always associated with physical death. But I think a lot of us fail to label “grief” as “grief” in any other form.
Grief results from any loss.
The loss of jobs.
Seasons of life.
And so many other things.
And the thing about grief is this. It’s debilitating. But knowing we’re suffering from it helps us lean into it and work through it.
If you’ve suffered a loss of any kind — and if you’re struggling to move forward in life — I beg you, please be kind to yourself and consider the fact that you may be grieving.
If you are grieving, then I’m going to press in. I hope you don’t mind.
If you’re struggling in your grief, and if you need help, would you please consider seeing a therapist?
There’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’ve got nothing to lose. And there’s so much to gain. Find a good therapist — preferably a Christian therapist if you are a person of faith — and dive in. It will be worth the work. I know from my own experience.
And third. I want to leave you with what my therapist left me during our first session. He said that the last stage of grief is “realistic hope.” It comes after acceptance, when we begin to see what we can create with God in the midst of a new normal. He encouraged me to begin finding this realistic hope by considering what brings me true joy.
Writing to you is one of those things. So after over two months of not doing so, I finally picked up my “pen.”
It’s good to see you again.
But I will confess.
This post was ready to publish three weeks ago, and I didn’t have the courage to press the button. Even now, I’m holding my breath and closing my eyes.
We all have to start somewhere, right?
So now it’s your turn.
Are you grieving?
If so, what brings you joy today?
How can you use this source of joy to create something beautiful with God?