I’m moving in a month. My husband, a former Texas Aggie, is returning to the homeland to attend medical school. Which means I will be closing the door…leaving…terminating… the clients I have worked with at the Family Counseling Center.
There really is no word I can say that doesn’t feel like it has “abandonment” written all over it. Is it abandonment? No. I’ve given nearly all of them notice by this point. I’ve planned co-therapy with some clients who want to stay with the agency, to smooth the transition to their new therapists. I’m working on setting up a website or email address to make available to clients who want to contact me in the future. Most of them won’t, but it will make a difference that they can.
We’ve developed a complicated intimacy, my clients and I. Most of them have taken the news of my impending departure rather well; which fills me with mixed emotions: relief and sadness.
Some of you may be quick to pounce on that word, sadness. Boundaries! Yes, those are important. But anyone who tells you there isn’t often some sadness associated with termination needs to go off to see the Wizard, because they don’t have a heart. We get into this job because we care about people. We want to see our clients succeed. But sometimes it’s hard because that takes them away from us. It’s a little like being parents in that way.
Termination and parenting both also require the ability to allow the person under your care not to need you any more. It’s a hard thing, that. I AM ready to start over in a new place and start a new phase of my career. But at the same time, the little selfish part of me wants them still to need me. Not because I want them to be dependent. Good lord, neither of us would do well in that situation. But because selfishly, I want to matter to them as they matter to me.
I have to remind myself mattering can be a present feeling but a past event. Perhaps they never think of me again. Perhaps I never find out if they worked through their issue, healed their marriage, quit that soul-deadening job. But at one point in time, a tiny dot on the map, I got to be a part of their lives.
Counseling both builds up my self-esteem and keeps me humble. I see on a weekly basis how I am able to build people up, and how well they can take care of themselves. I am neither the biggest person in their lives, nor the least significant. I was just there. I “was”.
The feelings are still going to be there. I can’t wrap them up in a few more sentences written here. I still hurt, and I still feel guilty. But, if self-analysis can be trusted, I don’t think these feelings are dangerous. I think maybe termination is something you should just “be with.” Just feel the feeling. You will miss them. But it’s okay. You did your job. You were there.
After all, if you played a part in a person’s life, can the relationship really ever be said to “end”?
Stephanie Ann Adams is a counselor who believes in the ability of the mind to understand and change behaviors, and in each person’s power to create the life they want. Her blog can be found at www.sassynsane.blogspot.com.