Is Counselling Useful? Part One

When Lentil died everyone told us that we needed to have counselling.  People were outraged that it wasn’t easy for us to access and everyone felt that it should be part of the care package given upon leaving hospital.  A while ago I managed to organise some counselling through my work.  We had eventually been offered some through our doctor but we had been told that we had to have counselling separately.  When I explained that my husband and I really wanted to have sessions together I was told that we should try going to Relate.  We couldn’t have counselling together because of confidentiality issues.  I find this bewildering.  We made Lentil together, we cared for him together, we lost him together, we grieve for him together.  We talk about what we’re feeling.  We are open and honest with each other.  We both wanted counselling together but it wasn’t allowed because of confidentiality.  

We accepted the counselling through my work as we could attend together and we were given six sessions.  So far we have attended two of these sessions and at the moment I find myself unconvinced of their value.  Session one was quite good, we spoke briefly about why we were there but covered Lentil really quite quickly and moved on to the lasting effects of the experience of losing Lentil.  I have been having some anxiety issues since losing Lentil. I don’t like leaving the house on my own and I get quite panicked at the thought of going somewhere without Paul.  The counsellor taught me a breathing technique to help me to calm down and we talked about parts of the brain and what they do.  We talked about fight or flight and the primitive part of the brain.  It does help to go over the science of what I’m feeling although I still have a way to go in conquering my anxiety.

This week we looked at a ‘relaxation’ technique.  It may be the least relaxing thing I’ve ever done.  I had to think of a time before Lentil, when I was really happy and looking forward to the future.  I chose our wedding day.  I then had to choose a time after Lentil when I felt hopeful and happier again.  I chose the evening that Paul and I went out to celebrate Lentil’s short life.  I then had to close my eyes and visualise walking in a wood.  I had to imagine that I was sitting in a wood watching a DVD which began on our wedding day and ended when we went out for dinner.  I had to visualise sitting and fast forwarding and rewinding through the film, imagine it in black and white, watching it again and again.  I then had to imagine taking the DVD and putting it away in a safe place. I cried.  I almost asked her to stop.  It was horrible.

Our wedding was joyful, my pregnancy with Lentil was joyful, the dinner when we celebrated Lentil’s short life was joyful.  Lentil died and that is so sad and so unfair but that doesn’t mean that I want to put all of the memories of him away.  I felt like the counsellor was lumping Lentil together with the awful thing that happened to him rather than seeing him as a wonderful part of my life that I will always cherish.  She suggested that I need to give myself some time (she suggested a few minutes) each day where I think about Lentil so that he doesn’t take over my thoughts every moment of every day.  He’s my son, I will always hold him in my heart and in my thoughts.  I can’t, and don’t want to timetable my thoughts of him.  I walk past Nando’s and think of how he liked to dance to the music in there.  I see his photo and think of how soft his skin was, I look at Paul and I see Lentil.  He’s my boy and I adore him.  I always will.  I hate the fact that he died.  I hate the fact that he isn’t here but that doesn’t mean that I can’t find joy in him.  

I’m going to continue with the counselling, maybe she knows something I don’t, maybe this is good for me?  It didn’t feel good though.  I’m hoping that next time I can find my voice and tell her why I don’t feel that the last session was helpful.  I think she realised it wasn’t quite right as I don’t think she expected me to be as upset as I was.  I’ve heard that counselling is quite reliant on finding the right person, maybe I haven’t.  Or maybe I’m coping differently to others?  I don’t know.  I’m not sure that someone who hasn’t experienced the loss of a child will ever be able to understand.

8 thoughts on “Is Counselling Useful? Part One

  1. Sometimes saying the words out loud can be much harder. Maybe you need to print this blog and show the counsellor how it made you feel.
    I think you need to follow your instincts though a if the counselling or counsellor are not for you then you can’t say you haven’t tried. Anxiety is a very difficult thing to overcome and won’t go away overnight. Are you seeing someone specifically for child bereavement? Xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No, she mainly seems to deal with veterans which isn’t quite the same! We had trouble finding anyone who would see us together though never mind a specialist! I have considered printing this, or just directing her to my blog as she has a laptop with her, we’ll see! I think the last session may have made her reassess her methods anyway! Xx

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  2. That all sounds pretty gruelling so I hope it helps in the long term, that the techniques help you with your anxiety symptoms at least.

    We did not look into counselling. I am not sure how I would have accessed it given how remotely we lived and having three (at that point) kids to factor in. Maybe it would have benefitted us but maybe we would have got to this same point with our healing and recovery regardless.

    I do think it is ridiculous to timetable thinking about Lentil. I find my thoughts flit to my son at times I cannot predict. The idea that I would usher those thoughts away because they had come to me at the “wrong” time is preposterous. For a good few years now, I have been able to think about my baby at such odd moments and actually feel happy. It keeps him present. Obviously there are other times when my thoughts and memories are difficult, times when a sudden jolt knocks the wind out of me. I can’t imagine that will ever end. That is just what my life is now. So I guess my advice is to be open-minded about the counsellor’s techniques and try the ones you feel comfortable with and be assertive about the ones you aren’t comfortable with.

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    1. I think that’s just it, I don’t find it upsetting to think about the happy memories of Lentil, I find it comforting and I can’t decide when I will think about him, it just happens! I’m just not convinced that it’s possible to understand without having been through it. I find the people who I’ve met through blogging and through the SANDS online forums have much better advice and coping strategies but I’m going to continue with the anxiety side of counselling for now. I do need to be more assertive though, it’s something that I wish I was better at.

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      1. I went to counseling many moon ago for something different and it did absolutely nothing for me. In fact, I was told I was “therapy resistant”. On the other hand, I have friends who have been transformed by counseling. It makes me think that the quality of counseling probably fluctuates greatly with little parity of experience.

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      2. I really think it depends on your relationship with the counsellor, you can have very different experiences. I’m not holding my breath for counselling to make any huge difference but will keep an open mind xx

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  3. I had a great counsellor and needed her. She helped me.
    It’s important to find a person you mesh well with. And absolutely if smth doesn’t feel right, you should speak up.

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  4. Our hearts is the home of those we love and not even death can change that. I believe time heals, and I also believe Lentil is smiling over you knowing how much you love him and still cherish the memories you shared together as a family. Counseling is good but allowing time take its cause is better. While you continue your session, have in mind to do and be what Lentil would have loved you do if he was here.

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