They buried an old friend of mine today. We used to sing together. She lost her battle with cancer. I wasn't able to go to the memorial service. Because I had clients. Because it would have been too complicated to try and reschedule. Because people don't die far enough in advance for you to make adjustments to your schedule. Because if I had, I would have lost those precious face-to-face counseling hours that I so desperately need to graduate. So instead of dealing with my own grief and caring for those at the service that needed me, I listened to near-strangers talk about their problems. I can blame no one - I am fully responsible for the choice I made. And it makes me sick to my stomach.
I'm sitting here thinking about other important events that I chose to miss because of school or work. Events that involved family and friends, the very people who have stood by me and loved me when no one else would. I find it incredibly ironic. I sat through lecture after lecture about the importance of the relationship (with the client) and of viewing the client as a human, and each semester we received a document stating that our grade would suffer if we chose a family activity over a class lecture. I even had to take a final exam the morning they buried my North Texas family's daughter. Well, to be fair, I could have chosen to miss the exam. But I wouldn't have passed the class. At $1500 per class, that would have been costly for me.
Working for a social service agency is not so different. We give of ourselves so that those less fortunate can thrive, but there is no one to care for our needs. Case in point - when my brother died a few years ago, even though people knew why I had taken a day off from work (because that was all I was allowed to take), no one expressed their condolences. Not one solitary person. We spend most of our waking lives with our coworkers, but close relationships are somewhat discouraged, lest we allow our friendships to keep us from being productive.
Please forgive me, reader. I'm sure that my melancholy, no make that irritable, mood is at least partly influenced by my grief. But I can't help but wonder if a therapist ever gets to be that aforementioned human.