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A Letter to a Therapist from a Grieving Parent

 A Letter to a Therapist from a Grieving Parent

I have been working on this blog for weeks. I wanted to write a blog about the stages of grief accompanied by a literature review of the massive amounts of research about the stages of grief.  However, weeks later, I’m still not getting the message across that I want to: that grief can often bring out the worst in our patients.  So, I’m completely scrapping what I did (it wasn’t very good, don’t worry) and approaching this from a different point of view.   

Let me start by reminding you of the stages of grief according to the Kubler-Ross Model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. According to the information on www.grief.com, an amazing website for information on grieving, the stages of grief "are tools to help us frame and identify what we may be feeling. But they are not stops on some linear timeline in grief. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a prescribed order”.  So, that’s a good thing to keep in mind when working with patients or their loved ones.

I decided to compose some letters almost as a synopsis of what the "typical” grieving journey would look like if it was written down. I think a lot of these situations will sound very familiar.  I hope this helps you get through those tough professional moments with grieving parents that perceptually appear as if they’re being difficult.

DENIAL:

Dear Therapist,

I really don’t even understand why the doctor wanted us to come here.  He wants to label my child…shove him further into a mold he already fits into. There is nothing wrong with him and no "test” that you do is going to convince me differently.  Why do you feel the need to label him?  I mean, can’t we just accept that he’s a boy being a boy.  Why do you feel the need to try and make him act like a cookie-cutter child?  You should be ashamed of yourself.

ANGER:

Dear Therapist,

I know you have been working with my child for a few weeks now.  Shouldn’t he be better by now? You aren’t giving this your all.  You are focused on all of the other students.  You need to fix him and fix him now.  The other day he had an outburst in the store. You’re supposed to get these things like this to stop.  You’re supposed to make him normal.  You told me that you had goals to fix things like this and keep them from happening. Keep this up and I will just need a different therapist.

BARGAINING:

Dear Therapist,

My kiddo has been in therapy for a few months now.  I would really like you to see him every day.  I know you told me that you can’t do that, but I really think it’s necessary.  I’m going to talk to your supervisor and try to push to have that done.  You see, if we could just get his attention better then he will be like the rest of the kids.  We just need to get that attention better and then he will fit in, come home with "green” behavior days, and be invited to sleep-overs like a normal kid.  I know you can do it if you just had more time with him. I can’t believe I didn’t think about it before: if he just had more therapy than we could make this all go away.  I hope your supervisor agrees with me!

DEPRESSION:

Dear Therapist,

We have been doing this journey together for a year, so I feel confident in telling you that I’m sad.  I know that in the IEP meeting I was quiet and appeared like I didn’t care. Sorry about that. I just have no will to keep fighting. My child will never be normal.  You carry this beautiful baby for nine months, you experience the joy of holding it in your arms, and you never think that this baby is anything other than perfect.  It has to be my fault, right?  Something I did when I was pregnant…maybe something I ate? I ruined his chance to be normal.  What’s the point of doing therapy? What’s the point of these goals?  Let’s just let him go be who he is and stop trying to push something that will never happen.

ACCEPTANCE:

Dear Therapist,

You should have seen my son’s performance last night.  He put on this hilarious puppet show for me.  I’m sure after two years of working with him that you’ve seen plenty of those performances.  Don’t you think his disorder makes him more creative? I love that about him.  I got his grade card today and I am proud to tell you that he has mastered all his core subjects.  I am so proud of him.  I think we are finally getting the hang of everything.  That schedule you made him is really helping with that. Is every day easy?  No. However, every day is normal…our version of normal…we redefined it.  You helped us redefine it. Thank you for making him "normal”. 

 

I know that it’s hard being a therapist that is on the receiving end of a grieving parent.  Let me tell you from experience, though, that it’s hard being a parent that is trying to deal with his/her child being diagnosed with a disability. As hard as it may be, don’t take those tough moments personally and always know that you will be a part of an amazing journey towards a new normal.

Elise Mitchell, M.S. CCC-SLP
DotCom Therapy

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