I feel so desperately sad.
Had my final session with A. earlier today. And I just want to cry. In fact I have been crying. A lot. It just feels awful. I hate the way things have ended, it doesn’t feel good at all; there are so many loose ends that we were just never able to tie up and we will now never get the opportunity to do so. I feel we came to an impasse at some point last year, and no matter how hard I’ve tried, it’s just not been possible to break it. And that is what is making me feel so terribly sad, what I mourn. I knew that I would have to end therapy with A., that there really was no other path left to take, but, I would have liked to have been able to rebuild at least some of the things I felt got broken in the midst of this therapeutic breakdown of sorts.
I knowingly opted not to write about the last four sessions as they happened, because I wanted to use these few weeks to deal with therapy coming to an end on my own and in my sessions with A., without discussing and analysing it to bits elsewhere beforehand. I just felt that if I spend a lot of time between sessions writing about them, especially about all the things I didn’t say in session, it would somehow dilute something, would make it easier to remain emotionally remote in session, because I would have already felt the initial force of impact when dissecting it in black-on-white writing. And with this very important final phase of my work with A. I wanted to try to avoid that. Especially knowing how good I can be at switching off emotions, even when I’m actively trying not to.
But, now that it is over, I would like to share some of the things that have been going on. I’m not sure that I will be able to write about it all tonight, it all feels so terribly raw still, so there may have to be a few posts on the subject over the next few weeks, but I’ll make a start today, to the best of my ability.
There is this broken record that’s been playing in my head on repeat this whole time: How am I supposed to say goodbye at the end of the final session, walk through the door and never come back..? It’s a thought I have been wanting to share with A. throughout, but I wasn’t able to give voice to it until today, in the very last session.
The idea of never feels so terribly painful and inescapable that I’ve not quite known what to do with it. In the last few weeks, I’ve often found myself suddenly struck with sheer panic about the fact that I would soon not be seeing A. anymore. That she will no longer be my therapist. And – even more painfully – the realisation that, not only will A. not be my therapist anymore, but I won’t be her client. The link will be completely severed. Forever.
And it hurts like hell.
So, I had to come up with a solution to help me deal with that. Something. Anything. And in the end it happened in the shape of two rubber ducks.. I spent some time thinking about whether or not I wanted to make a card for A. for the final session, or even give her a little something. It’s something I’ve never done in all of our years together. You see, my father – The World’s Greatest Psychotherapist – used to get Christmas cards and Easter cards and Happy Midsummer cards and other bits and pieces from his clients, and I always deeply resented this intrusion of his work in our family home. Feeling that he was already so much more involved with his clients than he was with his family, I really didn’t want reminders of his clients dotted around the house.. As a consequence of this, I’ve always felt I can’t quite cope with being That Client, and as a consequence A. has never been sent a card or left a gift or anything like that.
In the end I decided that actually, doing a little project of some sort, while dealing with the ever nearing ending, might be useful. In essence, to put my own needs before any thoughts about what impact this may have on anything or anyone. So, I came up with the rubber duck idea. It seemed fitting, because I have told A. many times that “sometimes a rubber duck really IS just a rubber duck”, meaning that not everything said in session is an echo of the world outside, and even if there is a bigger duck in the outside world, sometimes dealing with the smaller duck inside the therapy room, will be just as effective at resolving something..
Anyway, I bought two ducks to decorate with my trademark nail varnish flowers. [Having never used nail varnish on this material before, I wanted to have a back-up duck should I need to have another go, using different paints.] As it turns out, nail varnish works really well on rubber ducks, and I didn’t need the back-up, spending an hour and a half painting the duck and thinking about my journey with A., allowing the emotions it brought out to just exist. The idea with giving A. the duck – apart from serving as a reminder of what I used to tell her – was that it might make it a little easier to walk out and never come back, if I knew that there would be something of me left behind. No, I don’t really feel that nothing of me would have been left behind, without the duck, but leaving something physically behind, made it less abstract. Then, last night, I decided to paint the second duck as well, because I thought that if I have the twin to A.’s duck still with me, there wouldn’t be such a definite severing of the link between A. and I. A very comforting thought. So, that’s what I did. When I was done, I named A.’s duck Graduation Day Duck [End of Therapy Duck, was a little too negative] and mine Separation Anxiety Duck. [I think we’ll save analysing that for another time..]
I’ve previously written about the things I’ve felt I’ve needed from A., in order to make this parting of ways more manageable. I can’t say that I’ve really had any of those things, at least not packaged the way I had imagined. But, at the same time, some things have been said – tiny little things here and there that have seeped through when A. has been talking about other things, which have made me think you’re really talking about us here, aren’t you? I think therapists sometimes underestimate the amount of time their clients spend analysing them, and the fact that interpreting what is being said is not a magic skill bestowed on their profession alone. Just as they hear echoes of other things in what we say, so do we see shadows and other dimensions in the pictures they paint for us.
In one session A. said something along the lines of how it is really important for me to hear her say that I am special. I can’t remember if I replied directly to that, at the time, but I remember thinking that, actually, it isn’t so much about being special to her, as it is about feeling validated in the fact that I am unique, that even if she sees a million other clients, every single one with a similar background, our work is unique, because our relationship is unique – that our relationship can’t be replicated or duplicated, because of who we each are as individuals, and the unique combination that creates.
At times, the refusal to allow me to have this validation has felt very harsh and has been experienced as exceptionally rejecting, regardless of the intellectual understanding that this was not the intention. In the midst of therapy, I can to some degree see the value in not always providing automatic gratification, to instead look at what this need is really about. But, at the end of nearer to five years, when there soon would be no next session in which to analyse things, I don’t really understand this withholding of validation. In fact, even if it really was just about needing to be told that you’re special, what is the cost in doing that? When there is no further analysis to be done within that particular relationship? I have talked to A. about how the fact that both D. and Z. in their final sessions with me made sure I could really feel that the work we had been doing had meant something to them, too, has been really helpful. To be told that I – simply through being the unique person that I am – have had an impact on them, has had a definite positive effect on me. That is not to say that I am unable to feel good about myself without someone else reassuring me of my value, BUT – a little positive reinforcement from someone you respect can go a long way and create rings on the water that reach very far, indeed. Just look at children who grow up with parents who validate them, and then at children whose parents actively invalidate them, and the benefit of the former becomes obvious. It is human nature to continue to grow in a healthier way as a person, if we feel valued for simply being ourselves.
Today the dreaded final session finally came. At the beginning of it I used the duck to talk about the ending, and the process the duck had been part of [and – yes – I did a little analysing of the names I’d given them], and that part of it felt good. But then I sort of side-tracked myself and talked about something entirely different – something which, had this been a normal mid-therapy session, would have been very useful – but, which in the context of this being the final session felt very much like something that wouldn’t really be nearly as helpful as talking about the fact that after 429 sessions and 21,450 minutes spent together, A.’s and my relationship was about to end. At one point I tried to get back to talking about the ending by stopping myself mid-sentence and stating that ‘No, I don’t actually want to talk about that’, but as A. encouraged me to carry on, and not feeling particularly brave, I ended up using all of the precious remaining time on this side-track.
And all of a sudden, without any warning at all, A. announced that “Our time has come to an end”. Not ten minutes before actual end of session, in order to leave time and space for a proper goodbye, but at the actual end of session, with no time to spare. It’s a bad habit of A.’s, this lack of signalling that time is nearly up, and it was particularly deeply felt today.
So, I left feeling somewhat robbed of the chance to say a proper goodbye, because, really, this session was ended much like any other session, with me putting my shoes on and quickly gathering my things, ready to vacate the room for The Next Client.
Yes, I was able to look A. in the eye and say “Thank you”, and A., in turn, said that she wished me all the best, but, even though she more than likely genuinely does wish me all the best, it sounded awkwardly formal. She tacked a “Thank you for my duck” on after that, with a little more feeling, and that helped some, but I could without a shadow of a doubt have done with another five minutes spent truly acknowledging that what has been an incredibly important relationship for me was coming to an end.
Instead, I said goodbye and walked through the door.
Knowing that I would never be coming back.
And that’s when the tears began falling.
Kram till dig, min vän.
I’m very sorry to hear that it didn’t go as you hoped. But, really, there are no adequate words, usually, to express condolences…
Stor kram till dig, min alldeles speciella unika vän!
How are things going?
Hi. I first discovered your blog when I joined WordPress about 10 mos ago; however, I don’t recall really having such a feel for it (or you) until last night, when I read quite a few of your blogs in one sitting. Your words really speak to me. We actually have quite a bit in common, too, which makes the familiarity even more compelling. I’m concerned about you after reading these posts about terminating with A. Honestly, it sounds heart-wrenching, devastating even. I’m terrified of T-day with my own analyst (who I’ve been seeing almost four yrs), so what you went through with A. really sounds excruciating to me. Please post something so we know you are still out there. I pray you are.
Thanks for your very thoughtful comment. I’m still here. Just needed to give myself a time out from It All, post very painful therapy ending.
That said, I just posted an update. Not the best I’ve ever written, as I feel somewhat emotionally numb just now, but hopefully it will at least answer a few questions about what’s been going on lately.
Once again, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. It makes such a difference to me.
Be kind to yourself,
Oh thank God. I will read your post as soon as I have a quiet moment.
I’m still hanging in there, but finding it hard. Just posted an update, in case you haven’t seen it.
Once again, thanks for reminding me that I have not been forgotten.
Massor med kramar.
Thanks. I think I am still coming to terms with it all. It’s a grieving process in many ways, so it may take a long time, I suspect. By the way, I read your post about therapy endings. Thanks for the link.
Take good care,
Ibland önskar jag verkligen att du och mina andra Sverige-vänner inte bodde så himla långt bort..
Hi. My name is Hannah. I’m 20 years old. This past Monday my therapist announced she accepted a new job in a different state. I have about a month left with her. I’m absolutely devastated. I just wanted to say, reading this validated so many things I’m experiencing right now. It was painfully beautiful and spot on. I just wanted you to know that with everything going on right now, reading this was something I needed. I’m grateful I came across this.
I can feel how painful the news of your therapist leaving is to you. A month seems such a very short time to prepare for an ending.. I do hope you will be able to use your time to explore all the different feelings this must be triggering for you.
I am very touched by your kind words and I truly wish you all the very best.
Thank you so much. I am truly devastated. I looked over your blog some more, and I feel like we have a lot in common. I find comfort in your writing.
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I admire your strength in finding your own way, even through tears to deal with the separation…the ducks . I am disappointed in your therapist. A may have been a good therapist. Not disputing that but something was lacking at the end and this is a very important moment in therapy. A little too formal for my liking. I feel your pain in that moment. I hope your pain and loss continues to subside over time. Therapist can remind us of the professional link but we are all human and this is a human relationship, not one of labs and chemicals. I wish you the best.
Thank you so much for your very kind words. It is interesting that you should comment on this post in the same week that I actually brought Separation Anxiety Duck in to session with my new therapist. It has been a few months now since I ended therapy with A., and it really has been a bit like going through the stages of grief. Also, I think that it is very clear that what happened with A. has had an impact on the relationship I am now forming with P. [my new therapist]. There are many parts of me that work hard at ‘daring to trust’ and acknowledging that things are going quite well, but there is also a part of me that is terribly suspicious, because – well – that’s how it felt with A., too, at this stage. And who’s to say this relationship won’t end in exactly the same way? I do feel that I learned a lot from my work with A. [incidentally, I think that she, too, learned a lot], but the way it ended has also left its mark. It’s like having a top notch meal but having a really horrible dessert at the end of it: it doesn’t change what you have already had, but it will also be something that will stay with you, because it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. And it may stop you wanting to go back to that restaurant, or even another one in the same chain.. Thankfully, I have been able to start over with a new therapist, but I can’t deny that I’m still dealing with the echoes of my precious therapy in this one.
Once again, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I really do appreciate it.
All the very best,
Hi – I discovered your blog just tonight. You see I’m terminating with my therapist of 3 years tomorrow. It’s the last of 4 sessions we spent on saying goodbye. I’ve been crying straight through in all of them- basically acting like the child that is within me. She wants me to see a DBT therapist because of my anger and emotional issues. Also issues with attachment and boundaries. She says she doesn’t have the skill set to help me anymore. Your comment about NEVER seeing her again is also the hardest thing for me. And it definitely like going through the stages of grief. It hurts so much.
I just hope I can keep it together enough to not cry again. I want to be the adult walking out. Not the wounded child.
Thank you so much. No one would understand without going through it themselves. I look forward to reading more.
Thank you for your comment. Ending therapy is a very difficult thing to deal with. It brings out so many feelings and so much fear in us. – I can understand wanting to be able to walk out as an adult rather than as the lost, frightened, wounded child, but if that’s not what happens at the end of that painful last session, it is probably because that little child in you needed that space more than the adult did. I really do wish you all the best on your continuing journey. As hard as this ending is you are also moving on to something else, something different, which may turn out to be really good. I really hated how things ended with A., and yes it does have an impact on my relationship with P. (my new therapist), but now that a few months have past I do feel that ultimately this is a better fit for me. Also, I’ve got the space with P. to work through the grief about ending with A., and that’s really helpful.
Again, I wish you all the best.
Do be gentle with yourself,
I’m wondering how you are doing now. I am ending an 8 year relationship with L and don’t really know how I can do it. Are you ok now?
Hello and thank you for your question.
In terms of ending my therapy with A., I suppose you could say that I am OK. I am working with a ‘new’ therapist now [P.], and we are a very good match, but of course what happened with A., and especially the way it ended has had [and still has] a huge impact. I have been working with P. for a year and seven months by now, and I can still see the effects of what happened with A. in my relationship with P. It took me a terribly long time to even begin to dare believe that maybe P. could be trusted stand by me – and in times of crisis that fear of ‘being too much’ for P. still crops up now, and I worry that she is going to end our therapy. [Then, again, it would be unfair to say that ALL of my fear of being too much comes from how things ended with A. – there are echoes to other experiences of being abandoned in my life, which also affect me hugely].
I don’t at all regret ending my therapy with A. – as horrendously difficult and frightening as that was at the time – and I am very very happy to be working with P. now, – our relationship is on a whole other level of intimacy than I ever got to with A. – but it has taken a lot of hard work to get to where we are now, and I would be lying if I said that there aren’t times when what happened with A. makes it extremely difficult to trust that P. won’t suddenly abandon me if I get too suicidal.
I hope this rather long winded reply answers your question, and I wish you all the very best on your therapy journey. As hard as ending a relationship is, it does get better. It just takes time.