READING a touching and true little compendium of grief reminded me that I had one more chapter to write of my own. To my counsellors…
I adore you, I salute you, I thank God for you. For without you I possibly wouldn’t be here to write this. Without your gentle God-led intervention, I would be a different person, and I’m simply glad today that I am who I am, due in no small part to you. You were God in skin to me at a time in my life when God had to be real.
My deepest grief involved a period of complete mental breakdown, emotional collapse, and physical catatonia. On one such occasion. My counsellors were there. In the most unfathomable pain, I usually hid myself away, alone with God, and wept bitterly. And my counsellors didn’t bang on the door, nor did they harangue me with phone calls. They let me agonize those agonizing hours the way I needed to agonize them. They dignified the need I had to experience pain I could not otherwise escape. The hardest pain, I found, was dealt with alone. Not that my counsellors didn’t witness me at the end — they did. My starkest days were incomprehensibly dark, lonelier than I can even fashion words for today, and bottomless when fear felt like I was constantly falling. My counsellors were there. Through the tortuous minutes and the arduous months. Through the months that strung together to comprise a full year. Through the occasions where pain would return as a thief in the night to torment me. My counsellors were interminably available.
What did my counsellors do? They sat there in their lounge room with me, and, as I repeated the same sad, sullen and hopeless stories, they simply listened, only interjecting when it was respectful to do so. And I did repeat my stories; sometimes day after day after week after month. Not once did they say to me, “Come on, you just keep repeating yourself… it’s no good for you… stop it!” No. They made space for me to say what I needed to say, again and again, over and over, even when I was sick of saying it, and they still kept listening. Not judging others, not giving advice, not attempting to fix the situation, because it couldn’t be fixed, advice was superfluous, and judging was futile.
Who were my counsellors? I can and will name them. They were my mother and my father. In spite of the sheer temerity of that season, we grew closer through the strength they loaned me through a love that gives its all. They gave their all to my support. Not once did I feel unsupported. Not once did their support miss the mark. They travelled the season with me. Sure, I had other mentors and sponsors, but not counsellors like this. See how blessed I have been?
Some might think, “Well, you’re a grown man [at that point, mid-thirties]! Snap out of it and stop being such a Mummy or Daddy’s boy! Toughen up!” I will always see it differently, and am unashamed. Not only did it take guts simply to endure that period of my life, I think it took a special kind of humility to accept help from my parents. Knowing them, they wouldn’t have had it any other way. Love is no burden. It does what needs doing as if what seems an unreasonable sacrifice were no sacrifice at all. For this, I’m so proud of my parents.
So how did my counsellors help me in my deepest grief? They sat and listened to me repeat my laments ad nauseam as much as I needed them to sit and listen. They never tore anyone down, but each time they lifted me up, not through their words, but through their presence.
It is now exactly fourteen years ago since the worst day of my life. Amazingly, until that day, the previous worst day of my life was exactly fourteen years before that — to the day. I am glad today was just a normal day.