By Carol Preisler
I’d watch my little boy play on the lawn and knew I could never leave him. Even though those thoughts sometimes entered my mind, he kept me alive.
I had lost a baby and my dad in less than two years. I felt empty and alone in my sorrow.
We were a family that didn’t talk much about grief. It was all-consuming to me, with no outlet or support. I recall attending a New Year’s Eve party with friends that I really didn’t want to be at. When it came time to toast I said, “Don’t walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead.”
To which everyone seemed puzzled and annoyed since it was a bit downtrodden. It was my plea for someone to “simply walk beside me and be my friend.” It didn’t happen.
Months went by and I felt drawn to those little yellow pills in my drawer. I’d look out the window once again and see that little boy who I would never leave. And then, gratefully my salvation arrived.
He was a pastor at a little neighborhood church. He was also a psychotherapist who would walk beside me. For seven months his counseling challenged me. I later wrote that when we met I wore seven coats and one by one I left them at his door.
He asked me to read the book “I’m OK — You’re OK.” At first it was just words that I didn’t comprehend. He explained the three ego states in simplistic terms and my life started to make sense.
Jeter resided in my head, compliments of my mother, father, teachers, priests, nuns and anyone else who contributed opinions to my “child.” Upon examination, my “adult” was almost non-existent. I was a mess.
While I thought my grief was about losing my newly born baby and my sweet father, I learned I was also grieving a marriage. Therapy took a turn and my husband wound up joining me.
For many years the lessons we learned kept us from repeating old mistakes. We fell in love again. We moved past our loss and into a refreshing new life, until we didn’t. You can change yourself but you can’t control anyone else.
Growing emotionally and being able to accept comfort was a huge part of my recovery. I realized that shying away from a hug was my mind denying weakness. Being protective of my feelings had become a way of life. My therapist provided endless support and gave me a new perspective on trust.
In the early days of therapy he asked me what I would write on my tombstone. Probably a typical therapist question. I answered, “She wasn’t so bad after all.” A truly defeatist response.
At the end of my treatment he inquired once again. My reply was simply, “Alive with pleasure.”
I drive by that little church occasionally and wonder how my old therapist has been. He moved on and out of this area. I wish he hadn't. I’ve needed him many times since but his messages remain deep within. I am worth more than I ever used to believe.
In your worst moments, believe tomorrow offers promise. My hope is to remain my own guardian, as well as a friend to anyone who may be suffering. I wish I had more answers. My simple advice is to continue knocking on doors for as long as it takes. And, be ready if you hear a rap on your own.
Carol Preisler, of North Tonawanda, tries to be a friend to anyone who may be suffering.