27 May 2013

Mental Health Monday: Boundaries, Relationships, and Loss

Today's topic is a Mental Health Monday topic.

Therapists are taught the importance of boundaries when we develop therapeutic relationships. A therapeutic relationships is not like any other. We share in the joys and sorrows of the individuals with whom we work, but it's fairly one-sided. Our role is to reflect empathy and provide an environment of validation and provide a framework within which the person is able to build on his or her own strengths. Typically, that means very little of our own experiences are shared with these individuals, unless it provides a therapeutic benefit.

Having said all of that, we become attached to these individuals. We are gifted with the opportunity to see them grow - through their own strength and choices - and we are fortunate enough to support them in these endeavors. So when one of these individuals passes, we mourn.

Last week, an individual with whom I was fortunate to work, over the course of multiple stays over many years, passed away. She had a sweet disposition, a quiet smile, and a strong love for animals. She was tormented by her illness, but had a good support network. Her primary treatment team had worked for a very long time to get her into a group home and, after a week there, she passed away from medical complications.

We grieve when one of these individuals, who has left their own indelible stamp on our lives and experiences, leaves this world. Whether by natural causes or by an individual's choice, the passing of a former client leaves a different kind of mark. There is a sadness that we won't see them again, hear how they've accomplished something else or tried something new. There's, in some cases, a sense of quiet acceptance or even relief that the individual is no longer in pain (whether physical, emotional, or mental, or some combination of the three). And there's a reflection on the gifts that the individual gave us through the therapeutic relationship, which we'll cherish always.

I hope you find peace. I hope there was little pain. I hope you know that your loved ones will be supported. I hope you know that you will be missed. Thank you for the opportunity to work with you. Bright Blessings.

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