Loss upon loss

***trigger warning: talk of suicide***

I heard this morning that Ana, Jess’ mum, passed away peacefully last week. She had bowel cancer which had metastasised into her liver and lungs last year. When I saw her in August I knew she didn’t have long to live, but she didn’t know at that point and was still making plans for after her recovery. She told me in November she’d been given less than a year and Jess’ sisters were in touch 9 weeks ago to say their mum had deteriorated rapidly and had days or weeks to live. I was able to send a message that they read to her while she was still lucid and she told them how special I was to her, and to Jess.

It is hard to believe that this link to Jess is gone. I struggled in the relationship due to resonances with my own mum (of course, this is what drew Jess and I together even though we didn’t know back then) but being able to visit and share that connection with Jess was so helpful and healing. I can’t believe I’ve lost that and that Jess’ sisters have lost their dad and sister to suicide and their mum to cancer and neither of them are yet 30. It’s such a heartbreaking situation.

I thought it hadn’t affected me today, hearing the news, since it was not sudden and I have had chance to prepare. I’ve also spent the day mostly in bed, so lethargic I could barely move. And then the waves of grief over Jess hit again and I realised why I’ve felt so heavy and flat and lifeless today, my body struggling under the weight of this unexpressed grief. It is like losing a little more of Jess. And there is no one to tell about this sudden grief I’ve experienced this evening. Suicide is strange like that.

I miss Jess so much. It has been a little over 6 years since she took her life and when the grief hits it still feels so raw like it has only just happened. I remember writing on my blog at the end of 2019 about her, about how there is still so much shock and how, because of the way she died, my psyche remains unable to complete the process of grieving , especially because of how dissociated I am. I don’t think the grief process will ever be complete – it just gets re-activated and then fades away, split off in my psyche like so much trauma is. It just makes no sense that we will never see her again because she was so alive. And having young parts makes it so complicated too, because they really can’t understand where she went or what forever means.

And as I’ve written before, losing Jess is all tied up with shame and disorganised attachment and other losses for me. So hard to hold and untangle and understand. So I am left wishing more than anything I was driving to K’s to see her at 4pm tomorrow, like we did for all those years. We have done so much work around Jess and suicide and Ana and the shame I experience over how I reacted and behaved in the days and weeks and months after she died, in the time before I knew I had dissociation and complex trauma and alters. K would help me hold all this, help me untangle the complicated knot of thoughts and feelings inside me, let me talk and cry and write and whatever was needed. I would leave feeling understood and held and supported. A little more contained. A little more sane.

Instead she is not here either. She is another loss to add to the collection. And I am left with no one who really understands all this complexity or who knows my story with it. And yes – I have myself now, but without a mirror it is hard to make sense of this. The waves will recede again, I know, but now grief over Jess will forever trigger grief over K and that feels desperately sad tonight.

Losing her and finding myself

I never knew what a miracle it was, K and I being able to meet at the same time every week for all those years. For the first 2 and a half years of our work we met at least twice a week. I never thought to really stop and appreciate that or realised how remarkable it was that in this crazy helter skelter world we were able to have those times that were always ours, every Monday and Wednesday. And then every Monday. For 5 whole years. I didn’t know it could be taken away so suddenly. I mean – I did. I was always worried. But I didn’t really take it in as a possibility that could actually happen, beyond attachment anxiety, in the real world. I wish I had soaked her in more. I wish I had been able to. I took being there, being able to do therapy with her, for granted really. And I don’t know if it would make a difference now anyway, but I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had appreciated how lucky I was to be able to do that. Because I will never get it back. It’s over. Even if all the ifs work out and she goes back to in-person work, that time is gone. There is no going back. It has been over for a year, but it is also ending right now, in this present moment, as realisations flood me about how things are and how far away they are from how they should be.

I feel very weird this evening. A huge mixture of thoughts and feelings and a lot of passive influence from parts that I can’t fully access. Stuff around my mum and memories from childhood are very prevalent in a way they haven’t been for a long time. I feel like I could just dissolve into sobs for hours, but also that I’m fine and strong and have come so far. Both are true. There is so much pain about what I’ve been through but I also know I am in a good place. I don’t really know where this stuff has come from. Last week R did a clearing treatment (acupuncture) and he says it probably unfroze me and let this stuff surface. (It certainly brought me back to myself over the weekend which was wonderful – I felt like me again (last year’s me!) and it was so nice to remember that I am that person now, clear to myself in a way I never was before last year).

I mean – of course what K has done has brought up so much about how my mum was. She used to disappear and I would come home as a young child and there would be a note saying she was never coming back and then she would call crying and we would spend hours driving around trying to find her. She did that so many times. She left me over and over again. And she ranted and raged at me for hours and then my dad would have to rescue me and take me to his house. Or she would throw me out and send me away and tell me she never wanted to see me again. I’d be scrambling around my room trying to gather as much as I could to take with me, not knowing if and when I’d be back. She’d refuse to see me for weeks. When I was 14 she left me to go and see a man 300 miles away even as I begged her to stay because I needed her, because I was struggling with such intense self-loathing that I couldn’t go to school for 3 months. She drove away and left me in tears, all alone in a house with no thought for how I would cope without her. Cutting and blood were my only comfort then too, because my mum just wasn’t there. Of course there are resonances with what K has done. And K has shown herself not to be all good, just as my mum wasn’t all bad. And that is so fucking confusing to untangle. I can’t figure K out and I know I don’t need to, but of course my mind is trying to so that I can make it okay. Just like my sister and I used to spend hours and hours going round and round in circles talking about mum, trying to make sense of her mind games and manipulations so that it would be okay. It never worked. Obviously.

I have had lots of nightmares and trauma dreams the past few nights. Endless tangles that wake me distressed and drenched in cold sweat. In one I was begging K to meet me in-person outside just to say goodbye and she refused. The pain of that was excruciating. And then the other horrible one was my mum was dying over a six month period and I had to decide at what point to become involved again. A decision I guess I will have to make at some point. R says on some level this is my psyche processing K (my good enough mother obviously) is dying, or rather that she is dying to me – my attachment to her, my trust in her, my reliance on her are all dying. Over.

And this loss is something that should have happened as a really gradual process, as I continued to grow and integrate in the way I already was, like a child and then teen and then older adult does with a healthy parent. I remember last year at regular intervals I could feel that I wouldn’t need therapy forever, wouldn’t need or even want K like that forever. There were times when I resented spending money on therapy and was ready to forge a path alone. But still, the loss of her and our time together was so sudden and none of us were ready. It also feels so fucking protracted and drawn out. It has been a year now of not knowing what is going on or what will happen. A year of losing her a little more each day. “What is going to happen?” I asked R today. “At what point do I go back and do the ending work with her?” And he said ‘or maybe you are doing the ending work now?’ and yeah – I think I am. I don’t want to be, but I think bit-by-bit I am letting her go and finding myself again, like I did last year. I thought I could only integrate our work by reconnecting with her (my internal sense of her) but I don’t think that is true. I am losing her and finding myself and realising I don’t have to reconnect with her to find the self I built with her, which is bittersweet and intensely, gut-wrenchingly painful. Celebration and grief all in one murky muddle inside me tonight.

When I started therapy I thought it would be all about me. It was such a surprise to discover it was all about K, all about the relationship we were building. And now… Now it becomes all about me again. It was all about me all along actually and this is painful but also so real, so true, such an important realisation. And so I know this is a good thing. I know this is how it should be, I know this is the reality, but it is painful because this means the relationship was a vehicle and that is really, really devastating. R said today that it was a vehicle back to me, not just to the pain in me, but to the relationship I have with me. He is absolutely right, of course, and this is really the journey I have been on over the past year that took me to knowing myself and seeing myself and then being brave enough to take a break from something that wasn’t helping me and was instead hurting me. The thing is though, I just wasn’t ready. I feel like the foundations I’ve had to do all this growth on the past 6 months or so just weren’t as strong as they should have been, had K and I been able to continue working as planned.

I wasn’t done with therapy with K. I really wasn’t done. R said how clear that is, that our work really was not done. It is a huge loss, to have to say goodbye to all those possibilities. It used to be so exciting to look at how far I had come and think about where I could get to if things continued as they were. I have lost that process, all those beautiful possibilities, as well as losing what K was to me, as a therapist and as a person. I know I have the choice to return to remote therapy this autumn, but I don’t think I can be me – all of me – on the screen. I’ve noticed with R how easy it is to share my growth and healing and strength and insights when he is next to me. This was what made remote work so difficult for me – the shame that comes up for me around sharing progress and good things (thanks parents!) was intolerable via Zoom. And the work I need to do in future I cannot do online. I can’t do parts work anymore with her. I can’t do the gentle, relational healing I need. I don’t know what is left after that apart from sustaining something that brought me so much support for so long because the absence of it is too much to bear. Is that in my best interests? Who knows?

I don’t know what I will do come September and I think this is something that I will just wax and wane over for the next 5 or 6 months and in many ways that is okay, as long as I can sit with it comfortably and still live my life and heal. In many ways whether I go back or not is not really the point right now. Our work is taking root inside me still, I can feel it, but whereas before I felt I was drawing on our work internally so much of the time to enable this, and so I was sustaining our connection, now it feels like I am healing by growing away from her. And that is painfully real and necessary and sad and beautiful and tragic and hopeful all in one strange place inside me.

Broken

The amount of support I’ve had from people I’ve met through WP in the past few weeks has been something else. Thank to you everyone who’s reached out or written such lovely, wise, thoughtful comments on my posts. It honestly means so much and really helps to be able to process and think this situation through, so I can work out is the right thing for me to do going forwards. I really, really appreciate this place.

I am also editing to add this in: I’ve not emailed K again and probably won’t, for reasons I will explain in another post, but in large part because I have a full on 3 weeks at work coming up and I can’t risk this dragging on and getting further destabilised again. I’ll see how things go…

K said what we have cannot be broken. No matter what. So many times she said we would be doing this work ‘no matter what’ and that when the world turned to shit because of climate and ecological breakdown (which, ultimately, is what has happened) she would be here because we would need her even more than ever. She said if we couldn’t get to each other we would meet halfway and I would come by bike and she would come by pony. She told me that the house she now lives in, that she moved to in September 2019, would be the house she died in. She never put an end date on our work, knowing how important it was for me to have someone who knows ‘all my stuff’ across the years. I thought our work would soften into something else and that one day we would go from meeting every week to meeting every other week and then once a month and then to not really ever at all, but that I could go back if needed.

She told us she was fostering us, giving us some of what our parents couldn’t. She poured so much of herself into all of us. She went above and beyond and helped me reclaim parts of myself that were buried and split off long ago. Scattered shards. She loved all those parts, I’m sure she did. But she has left them behind and I don’t know how to reach them now.

It is a year tomorrow since I last saw her in-person. I got home and late that night the news said people with asthma would soon be asked to stay home for at least 12 weeks. I lay awake all night having panic attacks, knowing in my heart it would be 3 months till we could see K again. We spoke by phone the next day and K told me how committed she was to our work, to me, to us, and making sure we could continue working during this time. We arranged to split my double session across Monday and Friday, move my Friday email to Wednesday, and have text contact on Tuesday and Thursday. She understood that we needed her all the time when everything hit and she did her absolute best to be there and support us. She never shamed us for how much we needed her. Not then or ever. She found out about a local crisis service. She sent photos and videos of lambs playing in the field behind her garden and the dogs and our Miffy in her garden. She posted us a homemade Easter card and a birthday present.

I don’t know when things changed.

I don’t know when she started to want me to take a break because it was too hard to hold my process remotely.

I don’t know when we broke and if we were broken before I knew that’s what had happened.

It feels broken now though, and that is probably the hardest part of all. Perhaps I could have got ready to leave her if we were still intact. But we are broken and I don’t know how to rebuild my life away from her without the foundations we spent 5 years laying.

I am shattered. Scattered. Fragmented. Disintegrated. Dissolved.

She was my internal sense of safety and now there is just an empty space.

At night my only comfort, the only way I can get into bed, is knowing that I can cut to soothe myself and bring sleep. It feels almost cosy to be able to do that and know I will fall asleep comforted by endorphin release and the stinging that distracts from the aching pain inside me. I feel so ashamed that this is how I’m looking after myself, but it is the only thing that helps me stay okay and functioning enough to work.

While I know I will rebuild myself, and probably in days rather than weeks now, I’m not sure what foundations to use because her emails have pulled the floor from under me and left me wondering what was ever real.

It doesn’t even feel sad that she is gone. It only feels unreal that she was ever here at all. I wonder if I made it up. I wonder if she was playing pretend. I look at all the things we made together and that she gave us all, scattered around my home, and I wonder why they are here. I don’t feel as though I ever knew her and she can’t have known me or she wouldn’t have done this. She would have broken the news gently and offered to speak with me to make a plan if she knew who I was. So we never knew each other really and that feels like the saddest thing of all.

Maybe

I might send this to K on Monday. I figure if she responds badly it will mean it is time to let go and move on. And if she responds well then I can try and resolve this fear and splitting and move into the next 6 months feeling more stable.

It is terrifying what she might come back with. But maybe better than what I’m sitting with and all the uncertainty.

Dear K,

Before you read this, please know I am in an extreme disorganised attachment place for the past few weeks. It is the worst it has been for around 3 years. So sending this comes with considerable personal risk because I am braced for hurt and anger from you as I seek connection and some kind of safety.

I am emailing to ask if we could arrange an hour session in the coming weeks. I know you’re currently full but if you have a space that a client cannot make in the next couple of weeks then I can do that. There are only a few times I have firm work commitments in the next few weeks so most likely I could do whenever you are available.

I know we are not working at present and you will likely think I should speak to someone else, but this is about us and this is still a break taken for reasons outside of my control. It is also important for my well-being going forwards that I find some kind of resolution to the position I am currently in. I am really struggling to process your email responses to me and my brain has completely split you so I can’t find any good at all, only the edges. As you can imagine, this is making it hard to contemplate ever returning, but is also meaning I don’t feel I can use this time to integrate our work further. It is a frightening place to be in and I’m really unraveling. A session to reconnect and try and resolve this painful splitting process for me partway through this extended break would be very helpful. I cannot do this alone or with someone else because it is about us, and 6 or more months is a long time to hold it.

We are currently in pandemic and these are unprecedented times and so I ask you to please show compassion for my situation and to do something that you might not agree to in more normal times.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Warm wishes,

CB

Battleground

I wasn’t sure whether to post this picture. It feels like such a betrayal of K. But honestly it contextualises all of the crazy that is going on right now with R and how utterly shit I feel, and she has betrayed me too so why am I protecting her? I can’t move past these words:

Last night and this morning I was stuck in disorganised attachment hell. I feel so in need (pandemic and isolation is really not helping this) and so scared I’ll make R go away and then obviously this triggers my attachment system to seek connection and safety because there is so much fear and so then I want to reach out but I’m scared reaching out will make him go away. I am so afraid he will change, pull back, become overwhelmed with my insatiable needs. And that makes my need even greater because I am distressed and want him to soothe me. And that makes my fear even greater.

And so it continues.

On and on.

Fear without resolution.

It is agonising. It doesn’t matter what he says, I can’t believe him, trust him, take it in when I am like this. I believe his voice note in that moment and then I don’t know if things will be the same even a few minutes later (I know – this is my mum). And then I want more connection to feel safe but that triggers me into a place of fear and unsafety again. And so it goes on. Both biological drives playing out at once. Always braced for rejection, abandonment, abuse, anger from the people who love me and the terror of getting that in response makes me even more desperate for connection with them so that I feel safe.

I know this is my early patterning playing out. But what the fuck has K done also? How could she break the news to me that our 5 years of depth attachment work is basically over with a few harsh, cold sentences like that? I really don’t understand it. I never will.

Her email had two other paragraphs. Both impersonal. The first was about the sunshine and what an extraordinarily difficult time this has been globally. The last was basically saying how far I’ve come on this healing journey and that perhaps it is time for a new way forward with someone who can work face to face with me (body work, she wasn’t suggesting a new psychotherapist). Nothing about us, our work, our time together. Nothing about this being sad or difficult (for either of us) or that she hopes we will be able to pick up again some day. If I’d not followed up and asked about remote work in the autumn she would have left it like that- hanging, open, broken.

Is it any wonder I am absolutely losing my shit, playing out this crazy dance with R, trying to cut him off and push him away whilst also wanting to reach out constantly to know he is still here and nothing has changed? He sent me a voice note this morning and said he understands that I am so in need of connection with him but that this is terrifying for me because of disorganised attachment. He knows how scared I am I’ll make him angry or overwhelmed or that he will just disappear, and how this makes me need him even more and act out behaviours that I then worry even more will make him go away. He knows this is about K and about my depth process. He thinks it will settle and I hope he is right but… how long till he does what K has done? Because I honestly don’t understand how she could do this and why she has done it but the reality is she has. Why didn’t she want to be kind to me? What did she think would happen if she offered some softness, some empathy, some reassurance?

Why has she done this and left me in this dark place where I am in danger of losing R because of what she has triggered in me? It is like she wanted to prove that she can set boundaries and communicate things with no explanation or justification. Where is the humanity? Did she have to fight the desire to be kind to me or is this actually just who she really is?

How could those 3 sentences be how she chose to tell me that everything we had has gone?

Splitting

My mind has split K and turned her completely bad and it’s honestly devastating. I guess it’s progress I can see this has happened and am aware that it might not reflect reality, but it feels like it is real and I cannot find anything good about her – memories of all the good, connected times have dissolved and I cannot find a single thing that is not scary and threatening about our time together. I cannot remember her at all and she feels cold and hostile and scary.

The waves of grief continued till Saturday evening and then on Sunday there was just this deathlike numbness inside me. No feelings for K at all. No feelings about anything at all. A hollow emptiness that invaded every cell of my body. In the evening I let parts write for the first time in a really long time. Loads of stuff came out about K from lots of different parts, but I couldn’t connect to any of it. It was so disconcerting to have such huge feelings and big process appear on the page from a pen held by me but have no sense of connection to it. And when I went to bed I wrote in my journal and it was so dark and cut off. When I try to find what K and I had all I have access to are her edges – the hardness, the rigidness, the cutting off and pulling back and pushing me away. All I can find is her scary parts, the parts that were cold and inflexible and told me I was tiring and reactive, the parts that took away the Friday email without discussion and refused to see me last summer, the parts that refused to budge and refused to negotiate. She can’t have been like that really but I cannot find anything inside that reassures me otherwise. Her softness and love and warmth are nowhere to be found and I don’t actually think they existed. I think I made all that stuff up. I don’t know what is real.

I keep coming back to the fucking horrible, cold, clinical email she sent me last week, which had some weird attempt to be a human by mentioning sunshine, but really missed the mark. I knew she would respond like that. It was partly why I was braced for being so triggered by her. I knew she would offer me no words of reassurance about me being important to her or her wanting to continue this work with me. R is clear that it actually isn’t okay that she was like that. He says she could have been warm, connected, human. He has promised me he will never send me an email like that, but then I feel guilty for splitting and comparing them. His warmth is an antidote to the cold in me, the cold from K, the coldness that has lived in me forever. His warmth didn’t touch me today though. K has wiped all trace of herself from me and taken R with her. A final fuck you.

It had been 6 months and in that time I had text her once in November when our bunny, Ollie, died very suddenly (and she sent a gorgeous message back almost straightaway), emailed her once at the start of December to say that I was growing and healing but was ready to be back in therapy with her now and hoped she was keeping the light on for us (I said not to worry about replying and she didn’t – but as R said today, how could she not want to when someone she had worked so closely with sent a message like that? I think it made him sad to think of me being ignored like that), and then we text on 6th January to wish her a happy new year and said it was weird not to see her on the first Monday of the year after all these years and she didn’t reply to that which kind of makes sense as it was communication from parts and I guess we are not in therapy with her anymore. But honestly, could she not have wished us a happy new year?

So apart from when I asked if we could do some sessions when I heard about how much my brother was struggling in October, which is a legitimate reason to have emailed her, I’ve contacted her three times in SIX months. What did she think was going to happen if she sent a warm email response to mine, that I would suddenly message her every day? Have I not proved myself this past 6 months? And why on earth wasn’t there some cushioning around her news that she has no plans to return to face-to-face? We were doing depth attachment work when the pandemic hit and she was basically telling me I can’t continue with it, and yet wrote it in the coldest way imaginable. Why not… I know this will be difficult for you but or I’m really sorry that at present I have no plans to return to face-to-face work or I don’t currently have any spaces but if you want to consider remote work I can see when that might be possible. Why did she not feel any responsibility towards me? It was really such an awful, cold, disconnected email. It hurts that she would choose to send that. It hurts that she felt no sense of letting me down or any responsibility for how it might leave me feeling.

I’m scared that’s who she really is though. I’m scared that was the real her. How can I go back to her? How did I ever feel connected to her? I cannot imagine telling her anything ever again. I cannot imagine being met with warmth and understanding again. How did I ever feel connected to her? Were we actually close? I don’t see how we can have been. It feels like there is no warmth in her. She doesn’t and didn’t care. How did I ever dare to contact her via text and share such big feelings with her? How did I ever reach out knowing what might come back?

I feel so disgusting inside. I feel ashamed of myself for having these feelings and ashamed of K and then ashamed of myself for being ashamed of her. I talked stuff through with R today around her and I feel like I’ve betrayed her and our work because I was picking her apart, trying to make sense of what she’s done and why. What does it mean for me? I told R I’d split her and that I shouldn’t be trying to make sense of things while I wasn’t in touch with reality. I don’t know if this will ever change though and I’m not even sure if maybe I wasn’t wrong before and this is real, what’s happening now. I don’t know what is real, maybe this is real and everything before was all in my head?

It feels like K’s emails last week have changed everything that came before. It feels as though she has erased us. After 5 years she just let me go. If I’d not followed up and asked about returning to remote work in the autumn after I got her first email she would literally have let me walk away forever without even an ending. She has let me go. Just like that. She has cut me off and pretended we were nothing and the worst part is she has left me believing her. We are broken and she has taken away from me what we had and left me in this black, dark, cut off place where everyone is dangerous and I am so full of black filth that I make them all go away. I feel completely insane and broken this evening. I feel as though I twist and break everything pure. I will break R too and he will leave me like K has.

I carried her with me

I made you my temple, my mural, my sky,

Now I’m begging for footnotes in the story of your life.

Drawing hearts in the byline,

Always taking up too much space and time.

Taylor Swift, Tolerate It

This loss is so much bigger than I think I had really allowed myself to take in when I was preparing for K not going back to in-person work. I knew it was coming, and I think somehow I thought that would soften the blow, but it really didn’t. Or maybe it did – I’m not signed off work, I’m eating, I’m mostly managing to work – but the waves of grief and attachment pain when they hit are huge and terrifying and I find it hard to believe that this is really how things are and that this K-shaped hole is something I will have to learn to live my life around. I know her words only imply ‘never’ and that it may not turn out to be that way, in a year or two, but I have to face the reality that my time of working in the room with her is likely over, and with it the intimate, cosy, depth healing we were doing together. I have to mourn this loss and accept it. I cannot even contemplate returning to online therapy in the autumn if these torches of hope or fires of resentment and rage are still burning bright inside me. I have to let go of that time and move forward or I will push her too far when I try to return and then I really will lose her forever.

Even if I go back to remote therapy in the autumn and manage to make it work, it is still at least 6 more months without her. It has been so long already and I miss her so much. The smallest, most unexpected things reduce me to tears – looking at the bookshelf by my bed and seeing books she gave me as gifts, books I bought because she lent them to me and I needed my own, books I bought and we both read and talked about, books I told her about, books I lent her; opening a kitchen cupboard and seeing the tea tin she gave me full of chai tea before a break one year; the glittery silver rabbit hutch and fimo bunnies on my windowsill that we made together last January; the tarot card I pulled in the autumn that told me to hold in my heart we will be together again and that has stayed propped on my desk lamp ever since – a beacon of hope and certainty that I’m not sure has a place in my life anymore. The children’s book Little Rabbit Waits for the Moon has been under my pillow since we got back from her house for the last time in March last year – she read it to us and said how this is your story for now, you have to be like that little rabbit. We posted her a card where we’d drawn the rabbit sleeping under the moon and said we were determined to be patient like that rabbit and draw on her safety during this time apart. We had no idea then that it would be so long.

I think this is the part that is breaking my heart the most – it was the end of that part of our work when I drove away from her for the last time on March 23rd, clutching a collage young parts had made with pictures she cut out for them in our session, and feeling like if this was the last time we could meet for a while then at least it was a good session to end on and we had not had a repeat of the screaming session where I gouged a hole in my forehead because she made me sit far away from her in a different room. It was the end and neither of us knew. We both thought it was temporary and it really, really wasn’t. K told us to count down 12 weeks and even that felt unbearable at the start. And then towards the end of May it became apparent that she wasn’t making plans to return to in-person work and wasn’t going to let me come to see the dogs and work outside, and that it was going to be much, much longer. I remember sitting on my bed shouting and howling down the phone, demanding to know how much longer and insisting that I couldn’t live in this amount of pain. I told her animals are euthanised when they are in this much pain and that I should be too.

And now, as we approach a year since the start of this crisis, I can’t quite believe the turn things have taken. I can’t believe it was the end and neither of us knew. I remember when her reassurances turned from ‘I’m sure we’ll see each other again’ to ‘I hope so’. I noticed this and called her on it and she had no words of reassurance. She said she didn’t know. I spent so long utterly terrified she would never return to face to face work and in some twisted way it’s kind of a relief to know what I’m dealing with now. The world has changed and K saw that long before I did.

I sobbed and sobbed on R on Wednesday. I’d been kind of okay all morning and then in the car it hit again and it was a relief to cuddle into him on the couch and let the tears flow. No one in my real life knows I’m deep in grief and abandonment annihilation this week. What am I grieving for after all? She is still alive and it is not the end. But so much is over, so much is lost. Things are lost that so few could understand, because the depth of our relationship isn’t needed for most people. I will never know Nina as intimately and deeply as K knows me – it won’t be necessary. It is a different and unique closeness we have, of course, but it is not what K and I have. It is such a secret thing, our relationship, and I know most people would think I was hurting this much because K got it wrong, let me get too close, encouraged me to see her as something she could never be. Of course it was not like that though, and we are all hurting like this because we have lost someone with whom we did truly transformational work. R understands this and tells me what an intimate relationship it was and how much evidence there is of just how much effort and care K put into our work. Talking to him about her brought it all to life. It was truly some magical alchemy we created in the room this week. Her emails were so cold and clinical and it was hard to believe she had ever cared at all, let alone done so much to make us all feel safe, loved, secure, wanted, held. Talking to R brought it to life again, made it feel real, which is the thing I am struggling with the most. And then when it hits how real it was, the grief and loss tear me open again, but at least that part feels real, human, authentic.

I told a friend I met online and who does understand that I feel like I’ve lost the closest thing I’ve ever had to a mum. And she replied to say that is exactly what I have lost. And she is right – K always will be the closest I’ve had to that experience. I will never have a relationship like I’ve had with her again – it wouldn’t be needed because I don’t think that depth of healing will be needed again.

I was telling R on Wednesday how, because I had to learn to see myself through her eyes before I could see myself through my own eyes, because I’d only ever seen myself through my mum’s distorted lens, it means that things that have had nothing to do with her remind me of her. For so long I took her with me everywhere. I looked through her eyes to see myself and my experiences. I carried her with me. So she has been everywhere with me and memories that should be mine alone, from places we’ve never even been together, remind me of her. Things I love and that make me feel safe feel like K. She is everywhere. R said this is like growing up, leaving home; our parents are everywhere and give us a sense of safety in the world (ideally) even when we leave them. But now I have lost her and I have nowhere to take this grief.

I am still not sure I will be able to return in the autumn, but I do want to try. Even if it is my intention to work in that way though, online therapy may be too hard or ineffectual. A fifty minute session once a week may be too difficult – I’ve never been able to do short sessions. Even for TRE last year I needed 90 minutes so we could settle first and feel safe enough to do the work. With R it is never just an hour and often nearly two. I honestly don’t know how 50 minutes once a week on a screen will work. And there will be no between session contact, no emailing, no text messages and emojis. There will be no parts work, no making things, no stories, no film night at Christmas, no walks or time in the garden. No sand tray, cups of tea in ‘my’ owl cup, no hugs or K moving to sit beside me. It’s the hugest loss. It will be different. It will be adult. It may still be connected and I may receive proof that K knows me, remembers me, but I’m honestly not sure I can do the work I want to do via a screen. And of course parts won’t have disappeared, haven’t disappeared. I am much more integrated than I was, but integration was the end point of K and I’s work and I am not sure how that will work now. I guess I will find out when I return if it will work and at least if it won’t we can have a proper ending. And yes, she may go back to in-person one day, when she feels safe enough, but I cannot hope for that. I can only accept how things are.

Do I blame K? Am I angry with her? I think maybe I am angry with her as a professional but not as a person. I don’t know if that makes sense, but I think professionally she owed me more – I don’t think it is okay really that psychotherapists have been in this uniquely privileged position of being ‘able’ to work remotely, when most people in similar professions cannot. I am not angry with her on a personal level, because I do understand, but it is still so hard that she shut down and retreated and even I did not mean enough to her for her to risk seeing me. It is not straightforward, and from an adult place I can understand her reasoning and know I would have done the same for Nina as she has done for her son, but I also feel deeply hurt. And of course there are parts, mostly teen and young parts, who just cannot comprehend how she could do this. She could have seen just us, because we couldn’t work online and it wasn’t safe. I said to R this week that in K’s position I would have seen me, especially last summer, but how can I know if that is true. I can’t. I only have to seek to understand her and trust it is not about me, only about her.

I think in the year of therapy before the pandemic K fell from her idealised position and became a human being in my eyes. It is this that enables me to understand. I know she is just another person, imperfect, scarred by her own childhood, doing her best to walk this path beside me, deeply impacted both by me and by life circumstances. For so long I saw her as more than this, idolised her and thought she never felt the things that we feel. It has been disconcerting but also deeply healing to accept she has her blind spots, her struggles, her physical manifestations of developmental trauma, that she has likely screwed up her own children to varying extents, has a tendency to shut down and withdraw under stress, takes too much on sometimes and then pulls back, and all these other things that make me love her more because she is human and she chose to meet me in my humanness, week after week, month after month, for 5 whole years. The years when we were so close are intensely painful to think about, both because they brought so much pain but also because they fell into past tense without either of us realising, but they are also full of magic and I hope through R and writing and being in nature I can capture that magic over the coming months and be in as good a place as possible to take in what is on offer in September.

Not an ending

Wow. The past 24 hours have been a rollercoaster. K replied this morning to my email from yesterday asking if this was now an ending even though in August we’d said it definitely wasn’t the end, just a break. I’d said in it I had thought of returning to weekly online therapy in the autumn if she wasn’t back to in-person by then, and that I thought this would be helpful for various reasons which I’m too exhausted to write about now. I was so scared she was going to come back with a firm refusal to ever work remotely with me again and would say it was time for me to move on. She didn’t.

She thinks my idea of possibly returning to online work in the autumn is a good one and she says to keep her updated on my thoughts over the coming months. (By then I will actually be debt-free at last, and I’ll be able to see her weekly for an hour (bloody fifty minute hour ffs!) as well as see R fortnightly in-person, if that is what I choose, so it feels less of an investment and means therapy could be something I can just add in to my support network rather than it consuming me emotionally and financially as it once did). I don’t know what I will do in September or how my life will be by then, but at least it is my decision now – she has handed me the power back and I know she will agree to work with me online again in the autumn based on what I’ve told her about the work I’d like (need!) to do, and why I can see it working remotely at that time of year.

This whole thing still feels pretty dire, and there is still so much loss to process because so much of the work that we did over the first 5 years is over – those close, intimate, connected years of gentle work with young parts where she held me so close and so tightly and was so invested in our work is over. That time of films and stories and making things together and spending time outside, alongside all the horrible trauma work of course, is over and I need to process that loss, that grief, that end that came last March without either of us knowing it was the end of so much that we had shared.

I think also that my suspicions all along have been right. I knew really looking at the news last week she wouldn’t be going back to in-person once she’s vaccinated. It’s not game over then. Far from it. I know she is not saying she’ll never return to in-person work, she is just saying that right now she cannot foresee a time when she will do face-to-face again, but I have to be okay with remote work indefinitely if I choose to go back. So that is the decision I have to make. But not now. For now I just need to breathe and remember who I am without her.

There is so much to say, so much pain and loss and grief to metabolise. I will write but for now I want to just settle. I am seeing R tomorrow and he will hold me and I will cry again, more tears for K. More tears for the loss of someone who has been and always will be such a huge part of me, but who was never really mine to lose.

Over

K emailed me. She has no plans to return to face-to-face work. She is working uniquely online, 50 minute sessions, daytime only, two days a week. She has no spaces. Online working was unhelpful for me she says, and she thinks I should find someone else who can work face-to-face with me.

So five years of work over and not even an ending. She says I’ve come so far and that perhaps a different way forward is now due and that I should see how things go over the coming months.

Turning comments off on this post as I don’t want to talk about this.

Still waiting

Thanks for all the support and understanding on my last post. K didn’t reply this morning so I’ve text her just now to find out if she received my email. It has been 6 days. Maybe she is unwell or the email got lost. Does this even happen? In 5 years of at least one email a week one never went missing so it’s hard to believe she’s not received it. It’s also hard to believe she’s not just angry with me for asking her about returning to in-person work given the current situation. Or ghosting me. R says it was a valid question and she won’t be angry. Who knows? At least she has an iphone too and has read receipts on so I will know when she’s actually read it this time.

I don’t really have much else to say, I just needed this in writing somewhere. I managed to ground and settle over the weekend and spent time with friends and at the beach and on my bike. It did strike me how I come back from triggers much more quickly now and also that I naturally do things that are caring and soothing a lot of the time without even noticing. Proof of new neural pathways even when things feel immensely difficult. Obviously things are escalating again today and I didn’t sleep well last night, but I am managing to work and hold on to some sense of being okay whatever happens, while also trusting that things will work out as they need to for my highest good and that K and I were certain it wasn’t the end back in August.