When I was born there were three Warren Corson’s in the same town; my Grampy moved away a few years later leaving two in town and one in Maine. When I was a teen my son was born, making four Warren’s, three of which lived in the same house for about a decade; now there are only two. Grampy died a few years ago, I keep one of the brass bullet cases from his military funeral. My dad passed last September a matter of days before his birthday. He never saw retirement age. I remember reading Grampy’s obituary. It was surreal seeing our name on the headline. As the third, my name is his name exactly with only a Roman numeral at the end that makes a distinction. Roman numerals are typically ignored so in print we are the same person. None of us even have middle names; I guess when you have a ton of kids as Grampy’s parents did you tend to run out of name ideas, which can lead to having two brothers with names that sounded so close, Warren had a younger brother named Orrin. I was the first Warren not born in Maine, my son was the second, he was born in the same hospital that I was and grew up at the same address that I have been since I was five. Other than serving in the military and going off to war, we Warren’s are not known as world travelers. My son now lives a little over a mile down the road and is preparing to start grad school in hopes of getting his MA and becoming an LPC and working with me. Doc Warren and Counselor Warren I guess will distinguish us. Maybe he will go by his last name, who can say as he is no more formal than I. Going to Grampy’s grave site, listening to the bugler with his electronic horn, saluting as the guards gave his military honors and collecting the brass to share with kin was done in a sense of fog. Seeing my name on the headstone was eerie to say the least. It was me, but it was not. It was my future colliding with my present. One day I would be the “guest of honor” at just such an event only instead of a military funeral I would have a Masonic one; members of the Blue lodge, York, Scottish and Knights Templar would perform the ceremony. Instead of brass perhaps a sprig of acacia would do… When dad died he made his wishes clear. No head stone, no funeral, no services, just a death notice (obit) to make it “legal.” His wife would collect his ashes from the parlor and “do whatever the F**k you want, what do I give a sh*t, I will be dead by then…” was about how elegantly he put it. His obit was emailed to me as I did not go to Maine; there was no point as there was no family get together, just people mourning alone. He died just as I was regaining my strength from a long term (many months) illness. Emotionally I was numb, stunted, lost. I mourned over not just what was lost and what would now never be, but also for what never was but that I had always longed for. I had to realize that the relationship I always craved from my dad would never be. I had to accept that which I could not change… The above could have been part of a grieving exercise given to clients to help them process, reflect and recover from the loss of a loved one or loved ones. I am not sure we ever truly recover however, perhaps we just accept and continue on? I used it to illustrate a point, the point is that we all experience loss differently, even if we both have lost a parent, we may grieve the same way or we may grieve in an entirely different way. There are so many variables that we should never assume how a client is feeling, nor should we ever tell them that we understand. The closest we may come to that is after they have told us how they are, how they are feeling and what they are doing that we say, “I think I understand.” I have used “help me to understand” or something to that effect but never take the power from the client to educate us on where they are at that moment. Death is a stage of life, depending on what are beliefs are it is the last stage or perhaps the last stage of a series of cycles: no one truly knows, but many know what they believe. Some embrace death, others fight it to the end, many fear it. No two people are likely to feel the same way about death; let your client teach you how they feel.
Warren Corson III (Doc Warren) is a counselor and the clinical & executive director of a community counseling agency in central CT (www.docwarren.org).