10 December 2005

Death of a former counselling client

(I am mindful of confidentiality.) A former counselling client died a few days ago. I feel sad. Our formal relationship ended a year ago, so I have had plenty of time to break the bonds of attachment that had held the relationship together. I do not feel distraught or disturbed, but some quiet pity for the waste of the years that will not be lived, and sadness that the client's life was never easy.

I feel bad that I shall not go to the funeral. Were I to attend, my presence, if understood, would compromise relatives because of what I know about them. My presence would offer them no comfort, and I fear that my involvement would be seen as having contributed to the problems the client experienced. I said my goodbyes a year ago and have no need to perform the public ritual at the local crematorium. Instead, I shall hold the client's life in my thoughts periodically.

Two years later: I find myself often thinking of the client. I think about our work together; the compromises we each made; my care and compassion for you; and your likely respect for me. I often wonder what it was like to live your life, and to endure your pain, loneliness and suffering. In truth, I frequently wonder what it is like to live the life of many of the people I see for counselling. As a counsellor, I probably understand more about some aspects of a person's life than anyone else they know, and yet I am humbled by how little I know or understand about them. From Ginza to Grainger Town, we are each a mystery to each other, and often even to ourselves.

I hope that you felt supported and encouraged by me. I hope that, although I could not possibly understand you better than yourself, I helped you to understand yourself better.

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