Within four months, two hugely influential women in my life passed away. Both women taught me life lessons that I will always carry with me. Both women taught me how to manage difficult situations. Both women taught me how to look past misconceptions and see the woman herself. Both women taught me how to stand up for what and who I believed in. However, I can only talk to you about one of those women.
Audrey was my supervisor, my friend, and one of the women in my life that was an example of strength, ferocity, and passion. She laughed with me, cried with me, pushed me, and inspired me to make changes in not only my world, but the world of mental health, suicide, and law enforcement as a whole. I can reach out to our mutual friends when I am missing her more than usual. I can reach out to her husband to check in and see how he is doing. I can share with the world how much she inspired me to “give ‘em hell little one”.
I can not tell you about the other influential woman that I lost. I can’t tell you how she challenged me weekly over the four years that I worked with her. I can’t tell you how her progress and growth inspired me to continue working with consumers that others deemed too difficult. I can’t tell you about how her resilience and strength inspired me to never give up on an individual. I can’t share with you how her humor and unorthodox affection changed the way that I viewed what a relationship between clinician and consumer can be.
Both of these women shaped me into not only the woman that I am but also the clinician that I am. I am able to see past barriers and challenges and instead of shying away from them; rather, I stare directly at them and push through. I routinely remember her statement of being an “iron fist in a velvet glove” when I am pushing another consumer to acknowledge some of their unhealthy thinking or behaviors. I still cry when I want to share good news with either of them. It is difficult when it is her regular appointment time or when I want to run upstairs to share something with Audrey.
With one of these women, I am supported and encouraged to grieve and share my stories about our life together. With the other woman, I am not. Our life is over. The tears, the laughter, the growth, and the relationship are expected to just end. Be done. Move on.
The grief I feel over the loss of both of these women is equally as powerful yet in some ways the grief that I experience from one these women is at times way more difficult. I can’t share our stories. I can’t share who she was to me. I can’t tell the world how much she meant to me. In fact, my grief over losing her can be seen as a hindrance and as a weakness. This is the reality of clinician grief. We are encouraged to create and nurture relationships that create change yet when those relationships are ended by death, we are expected to just move on.
I am not dismissing either of those influential women. Each of them taught me so much about who I am, personally and professionally. I refuse to forget what each of them taught me. I will continue to draw from our relationship and the strength that each of them taught me. I remember you. I see you.