I met her in 2001 right after I returned from Germany. A mutual friend introduced us with a simple nod of the head and a quick phrase, “you two need to know each other”. And we did.
I learned a great deal from her over the short nine years I knew her. In the counseling field she was brilliant. She knew her stuff. She was a great teacher. She was very confident about the material she presented. And she cared.
When I sold my counseling center she asked if she could take it over. It felt right letting her because I knew there was a difference in selling it to a large company than to a person who was working in the field everyday.
She wasn’t my best friend. And frankly, there were times we didn’t see eye to eye. I think we were both similar in speaking our minds more often than was good for us. But we had respect for one another. And I considered her a friend as well as a colleague. She helped me through some challenging times. She would lend an ear and words of advice and encouragement when I asked….and sometimes when I didn’t.
When I received the news that she was gone I was shocked. That was only 48 hours ago and I think I still am. I am very sad. Losing her is a loss to the field and to the world. I have gone to her Facebook page a dozen times since and read the beautiful messages left by so many who loved her. I wonder if she knew? I wonder if she had any idea how many people would miss her? How many people she helped throughout her sobriety and her career? And I wonder if that would have made a difference to her? If she had known would she have made the same decisions?
I have talked out loud about it with others. I have had many people tell me they can’t understand why she decided she couldn’t bear the pain long enough to get to the other side. Sadly, I completely understand. In the last year of my life I have understood that more than I ever openly admitted. I get it. Sometimes it is too much. Sometimes it feels that it will never end. I have walked in that valley of hopelessness believing there was no end.
I think of that similarity between us. Typically smiling and telling everyone things were “a little crazy” but “I will be just fine”. Inside desperately wishing to reach out but fearing the rejection from those who judge. I am not sure if that is a trait of those in the counseling field or just a characteristic some of us carry, but either way, this might be a wake up call.
The counseling field is tight knit. It seems everyone knows everyone and knows what everyone does. And we work so hard to help clients overcome their deficits that an outsider might imagine we allow other counselors and ourselves the same. But, it doesn’t always feel that way. It seems we hold ourselves to a higher standard. Even in the greatest depression I experienced I asked only a handful of other professionals for help and I asked most often as if it was for another person.
I wonder if she was afraid of asking for help? For being vulnerable or being judged? How sad, if so. How incredibly disheartening the thought that we don’t love our fellow helping professional enough to allow them to express the same things we encourage clients. That we don’t allow them time to be sad, to breakdown, to be weak a moment, to ask for help.
What a great loss. What a great sadness. What questions left that may never be answered. I pray she has found peace. I pray that her spirit is full. I pray that her family, her friends, and the entire counseling community are comforted and find value in having been part of her journey.
Rest in peace, my friend.