People often describe me as the least judgmental person they know. I strive for that. I am fairly good at being therapistish (I think I made up a word there). I wasn’t always this way. It was learned and embedded deeply in me by some wonderful mentors I’ve had over the years.
Many years ago when I was in the middle of divorce, in therapy and on antidepressants for situational depression, I finally had an epiphany. If the situation was the problem, I would change it! So I did, it was a huge leap of faith. I quit my job without another one already lined up, loaded everything into a U-Haul and relocated myself and my then only child back to the north Texas area.
But the other thing I did was start work at LaunchAbility. (It’s an early childhood intervention program, I’ve worked for three different ECI programs over the last 20 years). That was about the same time that the state of Texas decided ECI would be the agency responsible for infant mental health in the state. I was all over that. I had already gone through the nurturing program both as a participant then to be certified to teach it. Then I got my endorsement through the Texas association of infant mental health and I had to work, learn and study for that. Also, that agency did something called reflective supervision, I went through it as an employee then I was trained in reflective practices as a supervisor myself.
Reflective practice is basically the act of constantly learning through reflection. So I would meet with a reflective supervisor in a confidential meeting each week to discuss whatever I needed to discuss about my work and any feelings or issues it brought up. I also learned to employee it with clients, to ask questions and let them talk, to truly listen and reflect back to them what I heard. Then there’s the regular training for dealing with grieving families.
All that is just to say, I went through a ton of training and a ton of workshops that affected me personally and deeply. This contributed greatly to both my personal and professional growth. It’s where I learned to listen without judgment, to hold space for people and in general be a source of comfort.
One thing I learned early on is that you can only take someone as far in life as you yourself have gotten. That was powerful for me and it relieved my guilt of sitting in a session about grieving and forgetting all about my clients as I processed my own unresolved grief. Learning to process my own grief made me better at helping others do the same. So the professional was also personal for me.
One of the most powerful sessions I remember was given by Dr. Michael Trout. You know you’re in trouble when you walk in and there are boxes of tissues on every single table. What? I’m not going to cry, I thought. But I did.
The session was on grieving. He talked about unresolved grief, the grief we don’t let ourselves feel for a myriad of reasons. I can’t begin to duplicate it here, but it was incredibly powerful. For the first time in my life, someone had just given me permission to grieve.
How crazy is it that we often wait for someone to give us permission? To tell us it’s ok to grieve, to be sad, to be angry even. Because in our culture, we are expected to be stoic, to get on with it, don’t look back. But we do look back.
Everyone has a story to tell. Everyone needs support. Everyone is trying to be the best human they can be with the tools they have at hand. Most people just need a little love and support to grow and bloom. I know I did.