… a very good place to start.
Does it sound strange to you (like it does to most of the people I tell) when I say that I feel like my whole life has lead me up to this moment in time where I begin a vocation that focuses on helping people deal with death and loss? Most of the people who hear this say, “that must be such a difficult job.” “I couldn’t do that.” But it’s never felt like that to me. It’s just felt like me.
Why me? What about me?
The first thing I know makes it “me” is how I grew up. My father was (and is) a wills and estates lawyer. I grew up typing at typewriter (carbon paper and all) at a desk in his office, my blonde head bouncing down the hallway and telling people which office they could wait in. My familiarity with death and dying started then, around age 3. It was just something that always was. People always died. And they always needed someone to sort out their estates — their monies and materials. I’ve always known that people die and when they die they have needs. The “observant me” was born in that law office.
The next part of “me” started in high school. I began to be fascinated by history and the stories of how people used to live, especially in difficult times or war time. I remember interviewing my grandparents about WWII and what it was like to have my Grandfather away as a medic in the war. I knew there must be so much that they felt at that time. How did they make it through? I also remember having such strong feelings of wanting to understand what it was like to grow old and to lose people that you love. While this is a natural part of being an adolescent, I really paid attention to these feelings. This was the start of the “feeling me”.
I went to university and double majored in History and Philosophy. History allowed me to explore the past (I even studied mostly social history: daily life and relationships, rather than politics and war). Philosophy allowed me to examine different ideas and perspectives, to see how they change over time, and that there is always more we can know about life and being human. Another part of the “me” was growing here — the “thinking me”.
After university, my husband and I had our three children. I was home during their early years, and there were a lot of years of diapers and lullabies and waking in the middle of the night. What was the “me” growing during this time? I would have to say it was the “compassionate me” and the “vulnerable me”. I learned that it’s hard to be a mom, to raise humans, and to have the energy and strength to care and love well. I had to be compassionate with my kids and their mistakes, and I had to be compassionate with me and my mistakes. You also really begin to recognize just how vulnerable life is when your children are born. The world can become scary, and fears and anxieties can become very real. The stakes seem higher; the losses feel so much greater.
The last piece of “me” — the “listening me” — came along when I decided to study counselling. My husband began attending seminary, working on a Masters of Divinity on the road to becoming a pastor, and since our children were into the preschool and school years by this time, I thought I could slowly start thinking of a career. I decided to study counselling and by the end of my first year I knew I wanted to focus on death, dying, and bereavement.
At that time, I looked back at all of the “me”s of my past and they all began to form a very clear picture of what I valued: helping people walk through their final days understanding who they are, where they find hope, and what will be meaningful for them to do and say in their final days. In fact, the book that started this whole realization was called “Final Gifts“.
That word has become the foundation of my counselling practice. “Storybrook Therapy: Where Your Story Is A Gift.”
And that’s what I believe and what I’ve always valued in my life. I believe that our lives and our stories are gifts. Some days these gifts may appear less like a Martha Stewart special and more like a clay ash tray formed by immature hands and hurriedly wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper. But there is still something beautiful in our stories — the good and the not-so-good.
We are all human and one of the most important things we can do, at any stage in life, is to share who we are. Just that. Simply who we are. Because it’s only in being who we are that we find true hope and real meaning.
And that is why I’ve shared these parts of me today. This work is so important to me. It has always been important to me, even years before I knew what an “end of life counsellor” was.
Our stories matter. And, when it’s time to live out our final chapters, our stories have new value. It takes courage to live them. It takes courage to tell them. And my hope is that Storybrook Therapy will help these stories be told… to help these stories go on.
There’s the STORY, you see: like the tree that has grown and changed over time.
And there’s the BROOK: the water that goes on and on and on, even after it’s left the source.
Storybrook Therapy. Here we go.